According to oral tradition, ten Datus left the island of Borneo to escape a tryrant ruler Datu Makatunao. They arrived in Panay in Sirawagan River where native aetas or ati are living. The aetas are led by their Chieftain Marikudo and his wife Maniwan-tiwan.

Datu Puti, one of the datus, expressed their desire to settle in the lowlands. They offered to barter the lowlands for a golden “Sadok” or a long brimmed hat and a long golden necklace. Marikudo agreed to the barter and they settled in the mountains. The Datus divided the lowlands among themselves. Datu Paiburong was known to have settled at a village called Irong-irong.


There are two ethnic groups inhabiting Panay Island before the conquest of Spain. These are the Negritos or Atis and the Visayans. The Negritos lived in the mountains and are nomadic. They are half-naked and wore a piece of bark to cover their genitals. They are hunter and gatherer in nature and move from one place to another in search of food.

The Visayans on the other hand lived along the coasts and rivers. The Boxer Codex and other early Spanish documents, noted that Visayans adorned their bodies with tattoos and sometime referred as Pintados. They wore cotton with colored stripes, silk and cloth made of banana leaves. They also known decorated themselves with Gold and other ornaments.

An Illustration of Visayans from the Boxer Codex

Initially, the Visayans only referred to the inhabitants of the Panay Island but eventually referred to other inhabitants in the nearby islands.


In 1566, Miguel Lopez de Legaspi sent scouts from Cebu to Panay Island to look for food sources. Some forces settled near the river called Araut or Araud. But in 1572, the Spaniards established a settlement in the town of Ogtong or present day Oton. It was where the officials governed Panay Island. Gonzalo Ronquillo was the first encomiendero of the town.

In 1581, Gonzalo Ronquillo now a Governor General, built a bigger settlement in Arevalo. It was categorized as Villa under the name La Nueva Villa de Arevalo after his hometown in Spain. The settlement was noted for the shipbuilding and built ships for Spanish expeditions. It was one of the important settlements and it eventually became La Villa Rica de Arevalo.

The town was razed by the invading Dutch forces in 1614. The Spanish officials build another settlement in an Islet in the Batiano Estuary called Catalman. It means something pointed in Visayan. The place was also called Irong-irong or Ilong-ilong, which means nose like. The Spanish initially called it La Punta. The local name stuck. Eventually, it was hispanized and is now referred to as Iloilo.


In 1602, a small wooden fortress was built in La Punta by Pedro Bravo de Acuña. It defended the shores against raids by Moro pirates.

In September 28, 1616, Dutch again invaded and launched an attack against the Spaniards. The Spaniards gathered in La Punta and were led by Diego Quiñones. He built redoubts and trenches and covered them with sawali.

The Dutch proved to be a difficult force to reckon and fighting ensued for days. One night, Quiñones stumbled upon a wooden box in a pit he fell into. When they opened the box, they saw an image of Mary holding a Child Jesus. They took the image to the fortress in procession and prayed for protection. On the nightfall of the 30th day, the Dutch for some unknown reasons fled leaving their dead and injured soldiers. The victory was considered miraculous and this started the devotion of the locals to Our Lady of the Holy Rosary.

The Spanish officials made a bigger fortress on the same site in La Punta. It was made of stone and improved it through the years. It continued to protect the islands from raiding pirates. The fortification is known as Fort San Pedro.


Local economy in the province of Iloilo continue to thrive in the 1700s and early 1800s. Agricultural products abound and there are large production of textiles. Queen Isabela II on September 5, 1855, opened the Port of Iloilo to foreign trade through a Royal Order. Iloilo was exporting jusi, sinamay and cotton fabrics as well as tobacco, abaca, dyewood, and sugar. This started the development of Iloilo and brought a lot of foreign businessmen in to town.

One such businessman is Nicholas Loney, who was appointed as British Vice Consul in Iloilo in 1856. Loney saw an opportunity. At that time, Ilonggo farmers were using very primitive methods of cultivation and milling. Loney decided that if the Port of Iloilo was to have direct trade with other countries, sugar production must be expanded. To do this, he offered to sell iron plows and milling machineries on credit, without interest. Ker & Co. and other British firms in Manila agreed to supply the machineries. This proved to be a success and by 1885, Iloilo was exporting 100,000 tons of sugar.


In 1888, Governor Valerio Weyler recommended the establishment of Ayuntamiento or City Halls in the Provinces to better manage the progress and industry. In October 5, 1855, Queen Regent Maria Christina elevated Iloilo to a city through a Royal Decree. The declaration noted the growing development in industry and commerce in the capital of Iloilo Province, the second most important after the City of Manila.

In November 12, 1899, the overseas minister Manuel Bacerra, promulgated the law establishing the City Hall of Iloilo which was created by a Superior Decree on January 31, 1890. The Ayuntamiento of Iloilo was established on February 7, 1890, a year later that of Jaro was also established. Don Tirso Lizarraga became the Mayor with Don Sabino Ordaz and Don Isidro de la Rama as Vice Mayors. Nine other were appointed as council members together with a treasurer.


Prosperity came among Ilonggos due to the increased production and exportation of sugar. The standard of living improved at least for the middle class and the elite (illustrado and principalia) and they are living a comfortable lives.

On the onset of revolt in Manila on August 30, 1896, the Ilonggo elite were caught by surprise. The Ilonggos through the Ayuntamiento of Iloilo and Jaro condemned the uprising. Nearby provinces of Antique, Capiz and Negros also followed suit.

The Ilonggo elite also showed support to Spain by organizing volunteers to help quell the rebellion in Manila. Five hundred Ilonggo troops volunteered and an Ilonggo Volunteer Batallion was formed under the leadership of mostly Spanish officials. The battalion was divided into two companies and fought the revolutionary forces of Emilio Aguinaldo in Cavite and Pampanga in 1897. The Ilonggo Volunteers were successful in their campaign where they had a string of victories.

The Pact of Biak na Bato was signed in April 1898 and the Ilonggo Battalion went home. The support of Ilonggos was unnoticed by the Spanish crown. On March 1, 1898, Queen Regent Maria Christina granted a special royal decree. It awarded the perpetual title of La Muy Noble Ciudad or the Most Noble City.

The Royal Decree granting to Iloilo City the title “Muy Noble” or Most Noble


By March 18, 1898, Comite de Conspiradores was organized by Roque Lopez and Pablo Araneta in the town of Molo. They plotted against the Spanish Government. It was later renamed as Comite de Visayas.

After the fall of Manila, the provisional government of Spain moved the Capital to Iloilo and was headed by Governor General Diego de los Rios. He tried to persuade the locals not to revolt by forming a Council of Reforms with an all Ilonggo members. However, the reforms were doomed to fail from the beginning. The fall of Manila has already ignited the revolutionary movements across the Philippine Islands.

On November 17, 1898, the Phillippine flag was raised in Santa Barbara, Iloilo. The revolutionary forces occupied the surrounding towns of Iloilo.  By the time of the Treaty of Paris, General de los Rios held only the city and port of Iloilo. Negotiations for surrender were sent. Finally, on the morning of December 25, 1898, Military Provincial Governor Ricardo Monet, who was representing Governor General de los Rios, together with Lt. Col. Agustín Solís, formally handed over Plaza Alfonso XII to General Martin Delgado. The Philippine flag was raised in triumph in Plaza Libertad, the last Capital of Spain in Asia.

Calle Real (JM Basa St.) in 1898


The Treaty of Paris was not accepted by Ilonggo revolutionary government and opposed the occupation of Iloilo by the Americans. The forces of General Martin Delgado tried to hold Iloilo City. On February 11, 1899, the city was razed to the ground by the bombardment of American forces and was burned by the retreating revolutionary forces.

Feb. 2, 1901: General Martin Delgado formally surrenders to Brig. Gen. Robert P. Hughes with 30 officers and 140 men at Jaro, Iloilo.

The hostilities continued until the establishment of the local governments in some town on April 11, 1901. Jose Maria N. Gay was appointed Alcalde of Iloilo, Matias Hibiernas was Teniente alcalde of Iloilo; Jose Yusay was President of Molo; Pablo Borromeo was President of Arevalo; Ruperto Montinola was the lone representative of Jaro, but was not its President. The City was also reduced to a town as the rest of the Philipine Islands. Two years later, on April 4, 1903, Act 719 reduced the towns of Iloilo Province from 50 to 17. The measure merged the towns of Molo, Mandurriao, Jaro and Lapaz to the town of Iloilo. By 1908 and 1920, Jaro and Lapaz were declared  separate towns respectively.


In Iloilo, the American Period brought about further economic development through road networks and the building of the railroad across Panay. Trading was enhanced as goods can reach the seaport at Muelle Loney faster.

On August 28, 1910, this American Baldwin locomotive pulled the inaugural Philippine Railway train with U. S. Secretary of War Dickinson and other dignitaries over the route of the Iloilo-Capiz Line on the Island of Panay.

The sugar industry continued to improve and many Ilonggos who earned their wealth started building huge houses and mansions. These Ilonggos are referred to as the Sugar Barons, thus, the rise of Sugar Baron mansions. They also built commercial buildings in the business district Calle Real. Different architectural styles flourished like Art Deco, Art Nouveau and Neo Classical during this period.

Cacho Building along Calle Real, 1920s

The local economy did not only prosper but Ilonggos gained became prominent members of the National Government. Nicholas Jalandoni at the age of 24 became the youngest member of the first Philippine legislature and became the inaugural speaker. Victorino Mapa and Ramon Avanceña became Chief Justices of the Supreme Court. Several senators also rose to prominence like Ruperto Montinola and Jose Ma. Arroyo. Ilongga women Pura Villanueva and Sofia Reyes de Veyra also led the feminist movement for suffrage.


Congressman Cresenciano Lozano authored the bill for the elevation of Iloilo to a City. The Commonwealth Act No. 57 known as the Charter of Iloilo City was enacted into law on October 20, 1936. It established the City Government of Iloilo with the Mayor as an appointed position by the President. The territory comprises the then the town of Iloilo, which incorporated the towns of Molo and Mandurriao in 1903.

A few weeks later, the Charter was amended as Commonwealth Act No. 158 on November 9, 1936. The amended charter now includes the territories of the Municipalities of Lapaz and Arevalo to Iloilo City. It was noted that the town of Iloilo in 1936 has not reached the required population of 50,000 and the charter was amended later to include the two towns.

The Commonwealth Act No. 158 Article XI Section 2 specifies that the City of Iloilo shall begin to exist on either two conditions. One is after the elected provincial and municipal officials of the province of Iloilo has assumed office after a general election. Secondly, if the elections were postponed on a date later than 1937, the inauguration date in set on July 16, 1937 with the appointment of city officials by the President and concurrence of the Commission of Appointments of the National Assembly.

There were no scheduled general elections in 1937, thus, Proclaimation No. 133, series of 1937 was signed on January 23, 1937. It set aside the inauguration of the City of Iloilo on July 16, 1937. However, no inauguration occurred on July 16, 1937, as there was still no city official that has been appointed.  Hence, the provision of Article XI of the Commonwealth Act No. 158 has not been satisfied.

On August 20, 1937, Proclaimation No. 172 was signed by President Manuel L. Quezon after the appointment of a City Mayor. It sets August 25, 1937 as the inauguration of the City of Iloilo and declared it a public holiday.

Finally, on August 25, 1937, Secretary of the Interior Elpidio Quirino swore Dr. Ramon J. Campos to office as the first City Mayor. He succeeded Eulogio Garganera who was the last Municipal President. President Manuel L. Quezon then inaugurated the City of Iloilo.  August 25 was the day that the charter took effect with the inauguration of the City Mayor.

On August 22, 1940, Commonwealth Act No. 604 was approved expanding the city’s territory to include the town of Jaro. The town was annexed with Proclaimation No. 663 issued by President Manuel Quezon on January 7, 1941.


Iloilo City was occupied by the Japanese forces in April 1942. Several Ilonggos joined the guerilla and fought against the Japanese. Governor Fermin Caram was authorized by Governor Tomas Confesor, who joined the guerilla, to accept the governor position offered by the Japanese government. There was no city official during the Japanese occupation. The city was managed by the Japanese through the governor.

Later in 1945, at the end of the war, Americans planned to bomb Iloilo City upon the orders of General Robert Shoe to drive away the Japanese. Governor Fermin Caram heard about the plan but knew that the Japanese already left the city. He devised a plan to save the city. As the Americans bomber planes flew past the city, they saw the message “NO JAPS HERE” spelled on the ground with linen and lime. The pilots dropped a sandbag with a note – “message received, notified headquarters”. The plan was aborted which saved a lot of lives and properties.

Aerial View of Iloilo City in 1945.

On March 18, 1945, American forces landed in Tigbauan, Iloilo and liberated Iloilo and Panay Island. Three days later, people gathered together with American and Filipino forces to celebrate the victory at Plaza de Aduana (Customs House Plaza) in Iloilo City. The plaza was later known as Sunburst Park, the name of the American Army Division who liberated Panay.

Mariano Benedicto was appointed Mayor during the transition period.

Crowd during the Liberation of Panay celebration at Plaza Aduana, 1945.


World War II brought heavy devastation in infrastructures and businesses. Most government efforts was on rebuilding these infrastructures.

The City Hall of Iloilo was finished just about the same time the Charter of Iloilo was approved. The building designed by Juan Arellano was started in 1934 along Calle Carlos or present day General Luna Street. The building was completed and inaugurated on December 19, 1936.

City Hall of Iloilo Underconstruction, 1930s

In 1947, Mayor Fernando Lopez through the city council passed a resolution donating the structure for use of the University of the Philippines. On May 1947, the City Government vacated the building, and a month later, the UP College in Iloilo opened. The city offices then transferred to Rizal Elemental School in front of Tanza Church. Meanwhile, City officials negotiated for the house of Fernando Reguera (Spanish Consul) at the corner of Blumentritt and de la Rama Streets, which they used for almost a year. By 1948, the City Hall has transferred to Javellana Building in front of Plaza Libertad where it remained until the late 1990s.


The positions of the city government under Commonwealth Act. 158 are all appointed position by the President of the Philippines. Congress Rodolfo Ganzon filed a bill that enabled the position of Mayor, Vice Mayor and City Councilors as elected positions. The bill was approved as Republic Act 1209 on April 29, 1955. The law was known as Iloilo City Freedom Law. A year later, Congressman Ganzon run for City Mayor and became the first elected city mayor.

Oath-taking of Rodolfo Ganzon


            Batas Pambansa Bilang 337 or the Local Government Code of 1983 elevated the status of Iloilo to a Highly Urbanized City. Under BP 337, a city that had at least 150,000 inhabitants and an income of at least ₱30 million was to be declared highly urbanized by the Minister of Local Government. Iloilo City satisfied these requirements and was declared as highly urbanized city.

JM Basa Street in 1980s.


Iloilo City experienced several problems from 1990s to 2000s which hindered it from moving forward. Among of these are annual flooding, frequent brownouts, and congestion in the downtown area due to rapid urban development. New infrastructures and private investments were poured in to the city to address these problems.

The opening of a new mall at the Diversion Road in 1999 moved the development towards the Mandurriao area from the old business district. Businesses opened along the area. Even more businesses came, when the old airport in Mandurriao was transferred in Cabatuan in 2007. The transfer allowed the area to be developed into a business park.

Furthermore, to address the congestion and traffic, provincial public utility vehicles were regulated in 2004. The Perimeter Boundary Ordinance limited the entrance of Jeepneys and buses with a Car Pass System. Terminals were also built near city boundaries that serve the public from the provinces.

The yearly monsoon rains caused the Jaro River to swell and flood nearby areas. It caused millions in damages to properties and businesses annually. A flood control project was built and completed in 2008, which diverted excess water from river and alleviated the flooding.

Another persistent problem are the brown outs. The growing city has a high demand for electricity for residential, commercial and construction use. The supply from the Diesel Power Plants in the island cannot satisfy the high demand. A private company built a 150MW coal-fired in 2010. It provided the City of Iloilo its stable supply of electricity.

In 2008, Lapuz was made a separate district and was cut from the district of Lapaz. The City Ordinance 894 was approved in December 17, 2008, creating the Lapuz District.


In the late 1990s, the city hall located along Plaza Libertad was determined as unsafe as an old structure and also it cannot meet the demand of a growing city. The two floors of the old city hall and even the adjoining public library building cannot accommodate all the city government offices. The city government transferred to a rented space at Marymart Mall Annex where it stayed for a few years. Upon the completion of the new Terminal Market, the operations were transferred there. Later, the City Mayor’s Office and few offices were moved to Robinson’s Place Iloilo.

In 2009, Mayor Jerry Treñas with the approval of the city council built a New City Hall building at the former site in Plaza Libertad.  The New Building with eight floors was completed in 2012 during the term of Mayor Jed Patrick Mabilog. President Benigno Aquino III inaugurated the new city hall on June 1, 2012.


The New Iloilo City Hall.


Iloilo City celebrated its 80th Charter Day Anniversary on August 25, 2017 with the theme “Celebrating 80 years of Ilonggo Culture and Pride”. The event honored the culture, achievements and transformation of the city though out the 80 years.

In 2017, Iloilo City set its new vision for the future and for development. It envisions Iloilo City to be A Premier SMART City of Excellence.  SMART here refers to the industries that city aims to develop to achieve its vision. SMARTS means Services, Manufacturing & Agribusiness, Arts & Culture, Research & Technology and Tourism.

Mayor Jose S. Espinosa is currently the City Mayor. His program of PAGULIKID is centered on human capital development where services are made available and more accessible to the citizens of the city.


1900-1901 Hon. Jose N. Gay Municipal President
1901-1902 Hon. Matias Ybiernas Municipal President
1903-1904 Hon. Rosauro Jocson Municipal President
1904-1905 Hon. Juan de Leon Municipal President
1906-1908 Hon. Rosauro Jocson Municipal President
1909 Hon. Rosauro Jocson Municipal President
1910-1912 Hon. Quirino Abeto Municipal President
1913-1916 Hon. Quirino Abeto Municipal President
1917-1919 Hon. Gerardo Hervas Municipal President
1920-1921 Hon. Vicente Ybiernas Municipal President
1921-1922 Hon. Vicente Ybiernas Municipal President
1923-1925 Hon. Serapio N. Torre Municipal President
1926-1928 Hon. Eulogio Garganera Municipal President
1929-1931 Hon. Eulogio Garganera Municipal President
1932-1934 Hon. Leopoldo Ganzon Municipal President
1935-1936 Hon. Eulogio Garganera Municipal President
1936-1941 Hon. Ramon Campos City Mayor (Appointed by virtue of RA 365/ Commonwealth Act # 158
1941-1944 Hon. Vicente Ybiernas City Mayor (Appointed by virtue of RA 365/ Commonwealth Act # 158
1945 Hon. Mariano Benedicto City Mayor (Appointed by virtue of RA 365/ Commonwealth Act # 158
1945-1947 Hon. Fernando Lopez City Mayor (Appointed by virtue of RA 365/ Commonwealth Act # 158
1947-1949 Hon. Vicente Ybiernas City Mayor (Appointed by virtue of RA 365/ Commonwealth Act # 158
1950-1952 Hon. Rafael Jalandoni City Mayor (Appointed by virtue of RA 365/ Commonwealth Act # 158
1953 Hon. Juan Borja City Mayor (Appointed by virtue of RA 365/ Commonwealth Act # 158
1954 Hon. Dominador Jover City Mayor (Appointed by virtue of RA 365/ Commonwealth Act # 158
1955-1959 Hon. Rodolfo T. Ganzon First Elected City Mayor (RA 1209)
1960-1961 Hon. Rodolfo T. Ganzon City Mayor (Elected)
1962-1963 Hon. Reinerio Ticao City Mayor (Elected)
1964-1967 Hon. Reinerio Ticao City Mayor (Elected)
1968-1971 Hon. Reinerio Ticao City Mayor (Elected)
1972 Hon. Rodolfo T. Ganzon City Mayor (Elected)
1972 (Oct.) – 1976 (Apr) Hon. Francisco Garganera Acting Mayor by virtue of succession
1976 (May) –1979 (Apr) Hon. T.S. Zafiro Ledesma City Mayor (Appointed)
1979 (May) –1986 (Mar Hon. Luis C. Herrera City Mayor (Appointed)
1986 (April) – 1987(Nov.) Hon. Rosa O. Caram City Mayor (Appointed)
1987 (Dec.) – 1988(Jan.) Hon. Antonio Hechanova City Mayor (Appointed)
1988 (Feb.) – 1991(June) Hon. Rodolfo T. Ganzon City Mayor (Elected)
1991 (July) – 1992(Mar.) Hon. Masueto A. Malabor Acting City Mayor
1992 (Apr) – 1992 (Jun 30) Hon. Jerry P. Treñas City Mayor (By Succession)
1992 (June 30) PM

1995 (June 30) NN

Hon. Masueto A. Malabor City Mayor (Elected)
1995 (June 30) PM

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Hon. Masueto A. Malabor City Mayor (Elected)
1998 (June 30)PM

2001 (June 30)NN

Hon. Masueto A. Malabor City Mayor (Elected)
2001 (June 30) PM

2004 (June 30)NN

Hon. Jerry P. Treñas City Mayor (Elected)
2004 (June 30)PM

2007 (June 30)NN

Hon. Jerry P. Treñas City Mayor (Elected)
2007 (Jun3 ) PM

2010 (June 30) NN

Hon. Jerry P. Treñas City Mayor (Elected)
2010 (June 30)PM

2013 (June 30) NN

Hon. Jed Patrick E. Mabilog City Mayor (Elected)
2013 (June 30)PM
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Hon. Jed Patrick E. Mabilog City Mayor (Elected)
2016 (June 30)PM
2017 (October 20) PM
Hon. Jed Patrick E. Mabilog City Mayor (Elected)
2017 (October 20) PM
Hon. Jose S. Espinosa III City Mayor (By Succession)

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