By Tara Yap

SANTA BARBARA, Iloilo—The more than 300 years of Spanish rule in the country ended in Iloilo, a noted historian said as the Philippines celebrated Independence Day Wednesday.

FREEDOM WON—With the statue of revolutionary hero Gen. Martin Delgado in the foreground, the Philippine flag flies proudly in Sta. Barbara town, Iloilo province during the 121st Independence Day. Santa Barbara is believed to be where the flag was first flown outside of Luzon. (Tara Yap)

“Philippine Independence was declared in Kawit, Cavite. But the actual realization of our independence happened here in Iloilo,” said Iloilo Provincial Board Member Demy Sonza.

A recognized historian, Sonza was referring to the surrender of Spanish Governor-General Diego de los Ríos on Christmas Day of 1898 in Iloilo City, considered as the last Spanish capital in the country.

The surrender of De los Rios came more than six months after Emilio Aguinaldo declared independence at the balcony of his house in Kawit.

Sonza noted how the majority of Filipinos have forgotten the dual roles played by Iloilo in the country’s road to independence.

“When history is taught, it seems that Iloilo or the Visayas is not part of it. But we had participation,” Sonza told Manila Bulletin.
Iloilo’s role in the road to independence has two sides.

Sonza, who has authored several historical books, noted how the Ilonggo elite was quick to defend the Spaniards when the revolution started in 1896. The elite even sent a battalion to Luzon to fight alongside Spaniards against Aguinaldo’s troops.

For Sonza, the Ilonggos’ initial loyalty to Spanish colonial masters was symbolic of Iloilo’s stature late in the 19th century. At that time, Iloilo was second to Manila as an economic and cultural center.

“The Ilonggo elite enjoyed much prosperity at that time,” Sonza pointed out.

The town of Santa Barbara played also a pivotal role in the revolutionary movement.

It was in Santa Barbara where Gen. Martin Delgado, the Ilonggo revolutionary leader who later became the first Filipino governor of Iloilo, proclaimed the Provisional Revolutionary Government of the Visayas on Nov.18, 1898.

The occasion is also believed to be the first time the Philippine flag was raised outside of Luzon, although there were also accounts that neighboring New Lucena town also had its own movement.

Sonza added there are also other Ilonggos who played pivotal roles in the revolution. They include Graciano Lopez Jaena, Adriano Hernandez, Teresa Magbanua, Patrocinio Gamboa, Quintin Salas, Juan Araneta, and Aniceto Lacson.

“Filipinos should also recognize the role played by these Ilonggos and other Visayans,” Sonza said.