Jaro is central to Iloilo City’s culture and heritage. During the Spanish era, it was a standard practice that a ‘plaza’ was constructed in community areas. It was a strategy by the Spaniards to bring communities together and closer to Catholicism, as well as to administrative rule. Moreover, natives were encouraged to erect their houses around the plaza. This was pivotal in what Jaro came to be and what it is today. Cited as the ‘center of faith’, Jaro became a base for Catholic missionaries in evangelization initiatives in Panay and Western Visayas. Back then, Jaro was not an independent parish but was a ‘visita’ of La Villa de Jaro. It was later declared an independent parish in 1587. “The plaza of Jaro, just like any other plaza in the Philippines, has been a silent witness to the history of the people. It also serves as a show-window of Jaro’s early development as a prosperous town and as the center of Catholicism in Western Visayas,” excerpts from an article entitled ‘Bridging the Gap’ by Henry Funtecha, Ph.D. published on the The News Today. “With Jaro being made as an independent parish, a larger church was constructed facing the plaza and served the religious needs of the inhabitants. From 1826 to 1837, the Jaro bellfry was built as a lookout tower to warn the inhabitants of the approach of the Moros. The Jaro Cathedral was built in 1864 to 1874 and replaced the old one. In 1865, Jaro became a diocese,” another excerpt in the same article.
Jaro is a district in Iloilo City and is the largest in terms of area and population. Once a separate city, Jaro was reincorporated in the 1940s during the American administration. Dubbed as ‘mestizo town’, Jaro is home to a number of prominent Spanish-Filipino families. Apart from that, Jaro is home to institutions founded by religious sects – the Seminario de San Vicente Ferrer, the National Shrine of Our Lady of Candles, the Jaro Cathedral and the Archdiocese of Jaro, Central Philippine University – Iloilo Mission Hospital, Jaro Evangelical Church, Jaro Adventist Center, and the Convention of Philippine Baptist Churches.
Patron Saint of Jaro
Nuestra Señora de la Candelaria. The devotion to the Candelaria of Jaro is derived from the original Virgin of Candelaria (Our Lady of Candles) enshrined in the Basilica of Candelaria in Canarias, Spain. The feast, in Iloilo, is celebrated with a Solemn Pontificial Mass presided by the Archbishop of Jaro. Pope John Paul II personally performed a canonical coronation of the venerate image on February 21, 1981. It is the sole Marian image in Asia crowned by a pontiff in personam (by a papal saint). The limestone figure was discovered during the 16th century by fishermen and the Bishop then declared that the image should be placed on Jaro Church. The statue depicts Mary and the Child Jesus with tapers in their right hands as a symbol of light and purification. Vested in gold cloth, the Child Jesus holds a ‘globus cruciger’ symbolizing Christ’s reign over the earth. The yearly tradition recounts the statue’s first appearance in 1587.
Iloilo City Improves Plazas
The Iloilo City Government has been implementing the rehabilitation of district plazas to create healthy and urban living environments that will encourage physical activities and promote social interaction within the community. Included in the plaza’s improvement is the restoration of the Jaro Belfry, rehabilitation of the Lopez Jaena shrine, and the Jaro Plaza bandstand. “The plazas are being restored by the city because we want to make public spaces available to our constituents for free. Public spaces are very important as it gives people a place to rethink and recharge,” says Iloilo City Mayor Jerry Treñas.