Photo by Xtian Lozañes

Calle 101: How Iloilo’s Streets Got Their Names

By Harren Fegarido

The streets of Iloilo are witnesses to its old grandeur and serves as testimonies to its modern progress. Even the concrete pavements, potholes and uneven surfaces of the streets are parts of the city’s history.

There are many interesting things to see from this Most Noble City. I believe the city’s street names—almost unchanged, largely unnoticed—are part of it since it reflects the history and progress of city and the people living here right now.

So, because school starts in a few weeks, please get out your pens and paper and let’s discuss our new lesson for this moment: Calle 101.

1. Calle Sto. Rosario

Santo Rosario Street is the oldest street in Iloilo, and it certainly shows: the old Spanish-era houses lining the street gives you a feel of the old city’s charm.

The street was originally constructed to connect Plaza Alfonso XII (now Plaza Libertad) to Fuerza del Santo Rosario (now Fort San Pedro). It was where the grand procession took place when the Spaniards carried the image of Santo Rosario in celebration of their victory over the Dutch in 1616.

2. Calle Iznart

Iznart Street is named after Gov. Manuel Iznart, a former Capitan del Barrio of Iloilo in the 1860s. Currently, Iznart is home to the city’s Filipino-Chinese community, which has since established small, family-owned businesses ranging from hardware stores to general merchandise outlets.

For those unfamiliar with the location, Iznart Street starts from Plazoleta Gay to the Maria Clara intersection (which is now more famously known as Iloilo’s ‘Chinatown’). Curiously though, the street from Provincial Capitol to Plazoleta Gay was changed to another name by virtue of City Ordinance No. 6, Series of 1971, and it is now called…

3. Calle Dr. Fermin Caram

Caram Street stretches from Provincial Capitol to Plazoleta Gay, and the name change was completely warranted: Dr. Fermin Caram, a medical doctor who later served as governor of Iloilo during the Japanese occupation of the city when World War II broke out in the Pacific, famously saved Iloilo City from imminent bombing by the Americans in 1945 when he, along with Lt. Oscar Nava, signaled the pilot flying over them to cease bombing by writing “NO MORE JAPS” in bold letters across his terrace.

4. Calle JM Basa

“JM” stands for Jose Maria Basa and was a well-known merchant, revolutionary and friend of Jose Rizal. Jose Maria Basa was a reformer and propagandist responsible for funding and smuggling Rizal’s novels and La Solidaridad into the Philippines in 1898.

Nowadays, JM Basa is more famous for its other name, ‘Calle Real’ or Royal Street, and is now being built up as the shopping area and entertainment center of downtown Iloilo; many 19th century cinemas, after all, were located there at one point in time.

5. Calle Ledesma

The street is said to be named after Don Anastacio Lopez Ledesma, part-owner of the land where the street was supposed to be built on. He donated the land for public use and, in return, was named after him in his honor.

Some sources claim that Calle Ledesma is named after Gen. Pascual Ledesma, a former merchant ship chief who later served as captain in the Katipunan.

Ledesma Street spans from Plazoleta Gay to Rizal Elementary School. During the 1940s, this place was the fiscal artery of Iloilo City: parlors, tailoring shops, and printing presses were all located here back then.

6. Calle De Leon

The street is named after famed revolutionary and municipal president, Juan De Leon. After the establishment of the Estado Federal de Visayas and the Fall of Manila in 1898 shortly thereafter, De Leon relocated from Iloilo to Northern Negros to serve as councilor.

Today, De Leon Street is commonly known for being the location of the Iloilo Terminal Market aka ‘Super’, where jeepneys bound to the south of Iloilo are to be found. Hardware and upholstery shops, many of which are several generations old, are also located there.

7. Calle Delgado

Delgado Street is perhaps one of the more famous calles in the city, so it should come as no surprise that it is named after an equally famous man: Gen. Martin Delgado, an Ilonggo revolutionary who fought against the Spanish regime in 1898 by leading the uprising in Sta. Barbara, a town which also holds the distinction of being the first place outside Manila where the Philippine flag was raised on October 28, 1898. He eventually served as Governor of Panay Island until March 1904.

For anyone who has lived a significant amount of time in Iloilo City, Delgado Street is really hard to miss. It is a road that intersects with four streets in downtown Iloilo, and it has served as a commercial artery for many establishments like banks and malls. Of course, the occasional small-time shops are also located there.

8. Calle Heneral Luna

Named after Gen. Antonio Luna, a national hero and a military strategist during the Spanish and American occupation, the street itself is one of the oldest in the city dating back from the 18th century. More notably though, this was where the “modernization” of Iloilo took root during the American occupation; the first sets of electric and telephone wires were installed in said street.

General Luna is a bustling avenue lined with commercial establishments like hotels, banks, and convenience stores. It also hosts local universities like UP of the Visayas, University of San Agustin, St. Paul’s University, and several primary and secondary schools. It directly connects between Benigno Aquino Avenue (now popularly known as Diversion Road) to the Provincial Capitol building.

9. Calle Guanco

Named after Espiridion Guanco, a Molo native, he was one of the first senators of the country during the American Occupation. Guanco Street is part of the old business district where the first pawnshops, jewelry stores, and money exchange services were established. Of course, who can forget the old Gaisano Guanco shopping center there?

10. Calle Muelle Loney

The street is named after Nicholas Loney, a British consul who is dubbed as the ‘Father of The Philippine Sugar Industry’. Part-owner of Loney & Ker Co., the pioneering British lending business based in Iloilo during that time, he was responsible for jumpstarting the local sugar industry by giving loans and financial aid to land barons and farmers which they used to avail cutting-edge machineries and tools that enabled them to speed up production of the “sweet stuff”.

Today, Muelle Loney Street sits adjacent to the Iloilo River Wharf and houses the Aduana Building (the present-day Iloilo Customs House). The city government built a monument of Loney facing the river in tribute to his contribution to Iloilo’s trade and commerce.

11. Calle Valeria

Valeria Street holds the distinction of being the only street carrying a first name; that of Valeria Ledesma, the daughter of Anastacio Lopez Ledesma and Clara Jalandoni Lopez.

Valeria is one of the oldest streets in the city. In one of the quirkier stories of its kind you’ll hear, Don Anastacio planned to donate an area of his lot to the city in honor of his daughter; however, since ‘Calle Ledesma’ was already taken as a street name (see item number 5 above), he simply chose to name it instead as ‘Valeria’. What a father’s love can do, indeed.

12. Calle Santos Chiu Kim She

Whatever you may think, no, Kim Chiu is not magically related to any of us here in Iloilo. However, it is more popularly known by its “unofficial” street name nowadays: Valeria Extension.

The street is named after a merchant from China who settled in Iloilo in 1914 and established a business selling native products and crops. Similar to several Chinese migrants who made their mark in the local community, Santos became one of the most respected Chinese businessmen in the city because of his spirit for volunteerism and humanitarian acts. A frequent example of his deeds back then were the fundraising drives and charities he conducted for citizens affected by natural calamities and disasters.

La Muy Leal y Noble Ciudad de Iloilo—The Most Loyal and Noble City of Iloilo—has an interesting history etched in its old buildings and hidden in its streets and avenues. These names above are not just words written in signs; these are the names that helped put Iloilo in its current place of history and culture. Is all of that clear now?

Good. Class dismissed. Did we miss any other local street names? You can share it with us in the comments section below!

Update: This article erroneously credited La Solidaridad as Jose Rizal’s publication; Project Iloilo has since corrected the mistake. It has also been revised to include Anastacio Ledesma’s role in the creation of ‘Calle Ledesma’. Research for this piece is derived from the writings of Dr. Henry F. Funtecha and Rex Salvilla.

Harren Fegarido is a wanderer