THE Iloilo Provincial Government officially turned over to the National Museum of the Philippines the old provincial jail, which was retrofitted and designed for adaptive re-use as a museum to be called as the Iloilo and Western Visayas Regional Museum.
The turnover ceremony Wednesday, April 11, coincided with the 117th founding anniversary of Iloilo province, which is marked by a four-day celebration dubbed as “Semana sang Iloilo.”
Governor Arthur Defensor Sr. envisioned the transformation of the old jail into a museum to serve as a landmark and as a reflection of the province’s glorious past.
The old provincial jail was built in 1911 and served its purpose until 2006 after the prisoners were transferred to the new provincial jail in Barangay Nanga, Pototan, Iloilo.
The province partnered with the National Museum of the Philippines in order to preserve the historic structure.
On September 25, 2014, the province of Iloilo signed a deed of usufruct turning over to the National Museum of the Philippines the Provincial Jail of Iloilo, pursuant of Resolution 2014-311 approved by the Provincial Board on September 2, 2014. The usufruct has a life span of 50 years.
Defensor tasked Architect Guillermo Hisancha, former vice mayor of Pavia, Iloilo, to design the conversion of the jail into a museum with the help of the architects from the National Museum.
The province funded P20 million for the first phase of the project which included the retrofitting of the old structure.
The National Museum, on the other hand, spent P80 million for the second phase of the project which included the construction of a dome and landscaping, among others.
National Museum Executive Director Jeremy Barnes and other officials came over to be part of the momentous event.
“This is part of our dream to transform this whole area into a park in the middle of the city,” Defensor said, referring to his ambitious P400 million provincial capitol complex re-development project.
Jose Nereo Lujan, chief of the province’s Public Information and Community Affairs Office, said the museum is not yet open to the public as the National Museum staff would still prepare the exhibits.
He, however, said the centerpiece of the exhibit would be the “Oton Death Mask,” a pre-Hispanic gold mask found in a grave site in Barangay San Antonio, Oton, Iloilo, which is kept in the National Museum in Manila.
Lujan added that based on the curatorial masterplan, the museum will house five other galleries consisting of archeology, ethnography, fine arts, natural history and textile.
The regional museum will showcase the rich cultural, historical and natural heritage of Western Visayas, displaying artefacts not only from Iloilo but from the provinces of Aklan, Antique, Capiz, Guimaras and Negros Occidental as well, for the purpose of education and enjoyment of the public. (PR)