THE Iloilo City Government has successfully restored the once deteriorating district plazas, where people are now enjoying the open spaces as they relax, bond, and hold get-together activities.
Tourists love it, too, as must-try Ilonggo foods such as La Paz Batchoy and Pancit Molo and native coffee are just around the corner, waiting to be a gastronomic treat.
The plazas are now attracting crowds, particularly from late afternoon to late evening, as they have become a favorite hangout place for both locals and visitors alike.
Statues of Ilonggo heroes and history icons were also installed to instill a sense of pride and for the young generation to know the city’s rich heritage.
Landscaping and lighting, as well as speakers and a fountain, were set up to create a laidback yet modern vibe.
International lifestyle designer PJ Arañador, in his Facebook post, said the plaza restoration project was a result of taxes well spent.
“I don't mind paying taxes to a city, like Iloilo, that uses our money properly and innovatively, not only on social and environmental considerations but also in wellness and well-being,” Arañador said.
“Health to citizens in Iloilo means... benches to read a book, trees to take refuge underneath, and plazas to walk on or dance the day. I walk at Jaro Plaza at least three to four times a day. It means a slimmer tummy and a longer life for me and the rest of the residents. Most of all, share happiness with all Ilonggos,” he added.
Jaro Plaza is well-designed with great flat pavements, ample seats, classical pipe in music, giant tree canopies, picturesque and informative, clean and green, Arañador said, adding, “I only wish it would have a people's amphitheater, too.”
He suggested that developments should consider becoming “people-centered” amid a busy life.
“Jaro Plaza allows me to walk and get my morning sun at least three time a week. Urban planning is not at all about skyscrapers or roads. It must include amenities that sustain the health of its residents,” he said.
A well-traveled person, Arañador likened to “foreign feels” the new ambiance offered by the park that has been transformed into a feast for senses.
“In Scandinavian and Nordic countries, they embrace a culture called ‘hygge’ that includes walking every day to go to markets and groceries, etc. It makes them live happier, healthier, and longer. Their cities, like Iloilo City, are walkable. It makes their residents calm and well-balanced,” Arañador said.
“Jaro Plaza is perhaps on par with Central Park in New York City, where I experienced walking with its ample sun benches, including my favorite Vivaldi's and Tchaikovsky's playing in the background. I walk to Jaro Plaza, which is a stone’s throw from where I live. I think, sleep, eat, and work better with people because I walk. Thanks, Iloilo City. You are adorable,” he added.
Mayor Jerry Treñas stressed, “We want to make public spaces available to our constituents; they are very important as they give people a place to rethink and recharge.”
City Hall has initially funded P257 million for the major makeover of Jaro Plaza with P90 million; La Paz Plaza with P75 million; Arevalo Plaza with P46 million; Plaza Libertad in City Proper with P30 million; and Mandurriao with P10 million.
Plaza Libertad also got P19 million, and Mandurriao Plaza got P17 million, or a total of P36 million, from the Green, Green, Green Program of the Department of Budget and Management and the Department of the Interior and Local Government.
Jaro Plaza Bandstand, Belfry, and Lopez Jaena Shrine, as well as Molo Plaza, were funded by the National Historical Commission of the Philippines.
Plaza Libertad has paved the way for an assembly area now being used for Monday’s flag-raising ceremony and other programs organized by offices.
The plazas’ perimeters have been opened for easy access, except for La Paz, which will be installed with a grilled fence to secure the facilities inside.
A retention pond and improved drainage system have made the area flood-free by catching rainwater, which can be utilized for watering plants.
The football field will be provided with lights so that the players can still play at night.
The development of La Paz Plaza has been added, with features including a Koi Lagoon and Butterfly Garden, in partnership with the private sector.
The Liga ng mga Barangay office will be replaced by a community center with a library in front of La Paz Church.
Meanwhile, the gymnasium in Jaro Plaza will be relocated to Alta Tierra Subdivision.
These development projects definitely contribute to the improvement of the whole city and always benefit the welfare of every Ilonggo. (PR)