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ILOILO CITY: The return of the Queen

via: jedpatrickmabilog

The return of the Queen
A P25-billion development is seen to revitalize the lifestyle and economic landscape of Iloilo

Iloilo Convention Center
In 1896, ‘La Muy Leal Y Noble Ciudad de Iloilo’ or the ‘Most Loyal and Noble City of Iloilo’ moniker was bestowed by Queen Regent Maria Cristina of Spain to Iloilo to describe the city’s prominence and grandeur.

During the Spanish colonization, what was then a small fishermen’s village along the drawn out Iloilo River quickly became the most economically, historically and politically significant region outside Manila owing to its thriving sugar industry. It opened the first international port in the Philippines, shipping sugar products from neighboring provinces to countries all over the world.

At the turn of the 20th Century, Iloilo was already a highly urbanized city and the second major seat of power with all governmental functions channeling from Iloilo and Manila only. In the national papers, the Manila Daily Bulletin (now known as the Manila Bulletin) cited Iloilo as “the metropolis of the Visayan Islands, second city importance in the archipelago and the greatest market for sugar in this part of the world”.

At that time, people referred to Iloilo as the ‘Queen City of the South’; until the sugar industry suffered a decline as world prices of sugar collapsed after World War II. The esteemed title was then snatched by the vastly progressive Cebu City. Now, Iloilo’s queenly stature is scarcely evident in history books and the city’s well-preserved neo-classical edifices, art deco designs, old churches and ancestral houses.

However, when the sprawling Iloilo international airport opened in 2007 -- to replace the old Mundarrio airport – tourism and trade began to boom again in the city. More so when the airport started operating direct international flights to and from Hong Kong and Singapore in 2012.

“Tourism is a new thing for Ilonggos,” shares Iloilo City Tourism officer Benito Jimena. “Before we launched our international flights, all we had to offer were city tours of heritage houses and churches. But with the renewed interest in Iloilo by business and leisure travelers alike, tourism is starting to take off smoothly for the ‘sleeping Queen’.”

Last year, Iloilo had a total of 27,784 foreign visitor arrivals and 499,182 domestic tourists. According to Jimena, peak seasons for travel are during summer and January to February, when Ilonggos celebrate the Dinagyang Festival and the Iloilo Paraw Regatta.

“Dinagyang Festival started out as a religious festivity to honor Sto. NiƱo until the city government adopted it as a tourism street dance parade activity that attracts spectators from all over the country as well as other countries. Last year’s Dinagyang saw a record 1.5 million spectator turnout, a truly remarkable feat for tourism in Iloilo,” Jimena says.

But for a destination to truly succeed, tourism activity must thrive year-long. And as part of Iloilo’s intensified efforts to attract more tourists in the city, it’s now tapping on MICE (Meetings, Incentives, Conventions and Exhibitions) tourism to fill the lull.

“Our tourists’ profiles are usually balikbayans and business travelers. So we try to develop our facilities so we can host MICE events and people can come here, meet, have conventions and enjoy the laidback, peaceful urban setting of Iloilo,” Jimena said.

In fact, last February, Iloilo has officially bid for the hosting of Asia Pacific Economic Conference (APEC) Ministerial Meeting seen to be held at the P450-million Iloilo Convention Center, a joint venture between Megaworld and the Iloilo provincial government.

Built on a 1.7-hectare lot, it will be funded collectively by Senator Franklin M. Drilon’s annual priority development assistance fund, the Department of Tourism and Tourism Infrastracture and the Enterprise Zone Authority. The convention center, touted as Iloilo’s largest, is designed for big conferences, exhibitions, and trade fairs. Target completion is 2014.

The convention center, with a total seating capacity of 3,500, is located at the heart of Iloilo Business Park in the Mandurriao district. Megaworld’s biggest investment project in Western Visayas, the Business Park is a 54-hectare township development that will feature a boutique hotel and commercial district, subdivision lots, a lifestyle mall, BPO office buildings and two luxury hotels.

“Iloilo Business Park didn’t just address our convention facility requirements with the Iloilo Convention Center, it also made the city look forward to a bigger prospect of high-end accommodations for our tourists – something Iloilo has been lacking for the longest time,” Jimena said.

With deluxe hotels like Richmonde Hotel opening up, together with the leasable lots for boutique hotels, Iloilo expects additional 2,000 rooms by 2015. “The future is very bright for Iloilo tourism we’re actually starting to line up activities for 2015. I’m positive we’ll get more tourists coming in and with the new hotels and high-end establishments opening in Iloilo Business Park, we’ll be ready to accommodate all of them,” Jimena added.

But tourism isn’t the only industry to benefit from the development, Megaworld eyes over 30,000 new jobs from the business park’s BPO buildings and BPO tower. And more job opportunities from the retail and hospitality establishments.

“Iloilo has been a well-kept secret,” says Jericho Go, Megaworld’s first vice president for Business Leasing and Development. “It’s the regional center of Western Visayas, it has rich history and culture, it has the infrastructure and its labor poll is world-class. So when Megaworld found the opportunity to buy the old Mandurrio airport, we knew that Iloilo is the perfect location for our next project.”

Like Megaworld’s other townships, the business park will be based on the company’s pioneering ‘live-work-play’ concept. This winning formula has propelled its Manila projects--Eastwood City, Forbestown Center, McKinley Hill, and Newport City--to success.

For more inquiries on the Iloilo Business Park, call (0917) 548-9096 or e-mail iloilobusinesspark@megaworldcorp.com.

Source: https://www.facebook.com/jedpatrickmabilog

MANILA BULLETIN | April 23, 2013
By Jacky Lynne A. Oiga
Published: April 23, 2013
Photo from Skyscrapercity -Iloilo

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