The town plaza of Alimodian, Iloílo is in grave danger

Last week, I was explaining to my son Mómay the importance of the Spanish language to us Filipinos by using this latest irritating news from Alimodian, Iloílo…

Alimodian mayor tells NHCP town plaza not a historical site

Published 

By Tara Yap

Iloílo City— Mayor Geefre Alonsabe of Alimodian town challenged members of the National Historical Commission of the Philippines (NHCP) to reconsider their decision questioning the municipal government’s decision to build a multi-purpose project in the town plaza because the site is a heritage property.

The plaza of Alimodian town in Iloilo province is the controversial site for the construction of a multi-purpose hall.  The plaza has been declared as an Important Cultural Property. (Tara Yap/ MANILA BULLETIN)

The plaza of Alimodian town in Iloílo province is the controversial site for the construction of a multi-purpose hall. The plaza has been declared as an Important Cultural Property. (Tara Yap/ MANILA BULLETIN)

“I challenge them. They should come and check,” Alonsabe said.

The NHCP earlier advised the municipal government of Alimodian to find a different site for the multi-purpose building and not build it inside the town’s plaza, which has been declared as an Important Cultural Property (ICP). The commission’s decision came after a group wrote to NHCP chairman René Escalante that the project site is within the town plaza, which they consider to be part of their heritage.

Due to the complaint, the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH)-Iloilo 4th District Engineering Office) temporarily halted the project to coordinate with NHCP and other agencies.

Despite being told to find another local, Alonsabe is firm that majority of Alimodian residents want the multi-purpose hall to be constructed within the plaza. He also reiterated the General Welfare clause of the Local Government Code. “We need a covered court for our activities. This will benefit our people,” Alonsabe said.

Alimodian official are not fully aware of how the plaza is an ICP. “On behalf of the LGU, we do not have papers declaring the plaza as heritage property,” Alonsabe said.

Alonsabe added that the marker of the then National Historical Institute (NHI) does not indicate the ICP status. Alonsabe also reiterated that the current plaza is not 50 years old.

Mayor Alonsabe wants to construct a multi-purpose hall right within the town plaza. If he does that, the town plaza will be transformed beyond recognition. There might not even be a town plaza anymore. Thankfully, the NHCP is blocking the project because the plaza is a heritage property. But the mayor insists that it isn’t, even saying that the plaza is not yet 50 years old!

To students of history, it is common knowledge that all Spanish-era towns (then called poblaciones) include plazas. Whenever a parish church was built during that era, it was almost unthinkable not to construct a plaza right in front of it.

We then consulted an old book, the “Diccionario Geográfico, Estadístico, Histórico de las Islas Filipinas” (Volume 1), published in 1850 by Fr. Manuel Buzeta and Fr. Felipe Bravo, to check if Alimodian is a Spanish-era town. On pages 287 to 288, we found what we’re looking for…

Alimodian was founded in 1784 with only 1,602 houses. Its church, dedicated to Santo Tomás de Villanueva, was under the diocese of Cebú. Aside from the church, the town already had a convent, a public cemetery, a court (of justice), and even a jailhouse. In short, it was already a completely functioning town.

Could you just imagine a completely functioning town during those days without a plaza?

It’s pure tomfoolery on the part of Mayor Alonsabe to say that the plaza is not even 50 years old in order to justify his dimwitted plan of setting up his multi-purpose grotesquerie within a heritage site. But then again, he might make another excuse saying that he doesn’t know Spanish, that’s why he’s ignorant of his own town’s history.

What a shame. Because of the Spanish language, my 14-year-old son and I now know more about Alimodian’s history compared to its own mayor. And since we now know its historical background, we have come to appreciate it as well. And to think that we haven’t even been to that beautiful historic town of his that he wishes to desecrate in the name of… what?… contracts?

Sin vergüenza.