If you’ve been to JM Basa Street in Iloilo City Proper lately, or have visited it before, then chances are, you’ve probably seen the restored Iloilo City Sunburst Park. Thanks to efforts that began back in 2018 just after the 50th Dinagyang celebration came to a close, another famous historical landmark in the City has been restored.
Is the name or the location not ringing any bells? Let’s take a short history lesson about the Iloilo City, Sunburst Park before I dive into the complete details.
Iloilo City, Sunburst Park History
In the Opinion section of The Daily Guardian, Ilonggo historian, Limuel S. Celebria was kind enough to educate us with the history of this underrated park…
According to Mr. Celebria, the story all began with the Iloilo Customs House. It was built in 1916 during the American Colonial Period. Scouring through old photos of Iloilo City Sunburst Park would reveal an imposing building and the complementary garden.
This expansive garden was bisected by walkways; all leading to the building. For this reason, it was called Sunburst Park.
Back in the 19th century, however, Iloilo City Sunburst Park had no official name. Then, it was referred to as the Plaza de Aduana (Aduana, being the Spanish word for Customs House).
This Plaza de Aduana received its name from the American Army Division. This same division helped liberate Iloilo City and the rest of the Panay Islands from Japanese Occupation. And on March 21, 1945, thousands of citizens gathered at the Plaza de Aduana to join the Filipino and American forces in the victory celebrations.
Here’s the interesting part, however…
The American forces present during that victory celebration belonged to the Sunburst Division. Hence, this park earned name and fame as Iloilo City Sunburst Park.
The Tribute to General Peralta
A walk through Iloilo City Sunburst Park behind the Freedom Grandstand will reveal an imposing twelve-foot tall statue.
It’s a tribute General Macario Peralta Jr. — leader of the Filipino resistance movement in Panay and Romblon. He was the commander of the 6th Military District. And on orders of Gen. MacArthur himself, Peralta’s forces engaged the Japanese in numerous battles. It was all to pave the way for American landing.
His service to the country continued on, even as former President Diosdado Macapagal won the presidency. And when Gen. Peralta died, he was buried at the Balantang Memorial Cemetery National Shrine in Jaro, Iloilo City.
In 1975, in honor of his great service, Sunburst Park was renamed, Peralta Park…
Such an underappreciated hero… I’m probably not the only one wondering why so little of this is known?
Thankfully, after the recent completion of the restoration efforts, this tribute to the General can stand out more blatantly than before.
Iloilo City Sunburst Park Restoration
The revival of Iloilo City Sunburst Park began in February 2018 after the 50th Dinagyang celebration. Mayor Jose Espinosa III and Tourism Infrastructure and Enterprise Zone Authority (TIEZA) signed the Development Plan for the project way back on October 13, 2017.
City Engineer Roberto Divinagracia said the pocket park will have Gen. Macario Peralta at the center. And true to his word, the newly renovated Iloilo City Sunburst Park delivered.
With its new looks, the Iloilo City Sunburst Park is expected to help boost Iloilo City’s tourism activities. In addition, it would also contribute to the locality’s economic growth and sustainability.
Senator Franklin Drilon initiated the Iloilo City Sunburst Park development. He did it with the hopes of creating a balance between Iloilo City’s economic growth, and the growing concern for the Ilonggos’ heritage and the environment.
In his own words, Senator Drilon said:
“We initiated the restoration of this park because we believe Iloilo has so much to offer in terms of its rich culture and heritage. It was part of the Iloilo Heritage and Urban Renewal Project that we conceptualized and initiated four years ago in order to preserve the iconic architecture and historical landmarks in Iloilo.”
The development project cost 19 million pesos. It was implemented by the TIEZA and completed on December 14, 2018.
A New Place to Visit and Enjoy
Now, you can find the newly renovated Iloilo City Sunburst Park located in front of the Iloilo Customs House.
And thanks to this project, both foreign and local tourists can enjoy this expansive public space with its walkways, chess playground, and park benches. You can do that; all while basking in the fresh open air, and the stunning view at night.
Image Credits: Featured image from Twitter user @AsecMargauxUson