Sitting across the street opposite to one of Iloilo City’s oldest hotels, Casa Plaza, is The Old Provincial Capitol of Iloilo known during the Spanish colonial period as Casa Real. Built in 1840, it was originally made of wood and stones. It officially became the capitol when the civil government of the province of Iloilo was established in April 11, 1901 with Martin T. Delgado as the first governor. It was used as a military garrison by the Japanese Imperial Forces in World War II. It was repaired in the 1960’s and underwent another renovation after almost half of the building was brought down by fire last November 4, 1998. Since 1901 it has become the centre of governance for the province until the six-storey New Capitol Building was completed after the unfortunate fire incident.
On March 24, 2010, The Old Provincial Capitol was declared as a National Historical Site by the National Historical Commission (NHC) and in April 2012, spearheaded by Gov. Arthur Defensor Sr., the groundbreaking of the project Old Provincial Capitol Restoration was initiated. The NHC welcomed Governor Defensor’s plan to bring back the original look of the capitol. As a matter of fact, NHC offered technical assistance to the provincial government on what strategies to be used.
An initial amount of P20 million has been allotted for the first phase of the project. Architect Guillermo Hisancha, appointed to design the plan, with the guidance of NHC Executive Director Ludovico Badoy and Historic and Preservation Division chief, Architect Rey Inovero, are the brains behind the restoration which has almost reach its completion.
As advised by Director Badoy, they have retained the façade of the capitol. The architectural style of the old capitol patterns that of Eclecticism, a combination of elements from various sources. The front colonnade follows a Greek-Roman Doric order. It has a balanced façade giving it a monumental and formal appearance. As for the interior, according to the proposal, it will have marble flooring with medallions as centre pieces, there will be Tuscan columns and smooth plastered walls, and projecting from the mouldings are rectangular blocks popularly used during the colonial period, on top of the doors are fanlights and the lighting will be more sophisticated and will be having chandeliers to add more glamour to this historical site.
Gov. Defensor visualizes and hopes that the restored old Provincial Capitol will become an emblem of Iloilo’s triumphs and as a major tourist destination. A bridge at the back of the old Capitol connecting it to the New Provincial Capitol is part of the final touches of the restoration. The old capitol once re-opened for the public, will become a function room for special events and grand occasions.
Facing the old capitol, in the middle of the intersection of three streets, there used to be a semi-circle garden with a flagpole. In 1927, it gave way to one of Iloilo City’s landmark, the Arroyo Fountain, which is a point of reference in measuring distances in the city and province of Iloilo, the site is also known as “kilometer zero.”