RESTORED. The newly-restored Jaro belfry (right) was formally turned over by the National Historical Commission of the Philippines to the Iloilo City government and the Archdiocese of Jaro in a ceremony Sunday night. The ringing of its carillon bells was again heard by Ilonggos after 74 years. (PNA photo by Arnold Almacen/City Mayors Office)

ILOILO CITY – The ringing of the carillon bells of the historic Jaro belfry in this city’s Jaro district reverberated again after its inauguration and formal turnover by the National Historical Commission of the Philippines (NHCP) to the city government and the Archdiocese of Jaro in a ceremony Sunday night.

The Jaro belfry was first built by the Augustinian friars in 1744 as a bell and watchtower but underwent several restorations after it was damaged by an earthquake in 1787 and 1868.

Its second and third stories were again destroyed by the strong quake named “Lady Caycay” on Jan. 25, 1948.

NHCP Chairperson Rene Escalante, in his message, said the restoration of the belfry was in the pipeline six years ago but was delayed due to the health pandemic.

He thanked former senator Franklin Drilon who made sure that there is funding for the project when he was still in the Senate.

He added that together with the restoration of the belfry, the NHCP also built at the plaza a monument of local heroine Patrocinio Gamboa, who played a significant role during the revolutionary period and the bandstand.

Along with the restored belfry are the four statues that represent four cardinal virtues– fortitude, justice, prudence and temperance.

Drilon, in his message, said the inauguration of the belfry is a celebration of the Catholic faith in Jaro.

“This represents not only the symbol of the Catholic faith but the symbol of the culture of Iloilo, which we are very proud of. These are the symbols that we are restoring today in order to remind people of the rich history and culture of Iloilo,” he said.

Mayor Jerry Treñas, meanwhile, said Iloilo’s sense of pride is back.

“We are proud to be Ilonggos. We have a very rich cultural heritage to be proud of. We are proud of our culture, we are proud of our people, we are proud of our heroes,” he said.

Escalante said the belfry project would be the second to the last project that they were turning over under this year's budget.

"This January, we will open to Maritime Museum at the Iloilo Custom House," he said.

He noted that while most of the NHCP’s museums are dedicated to heroes, they explored thematic museums in the province.

The economic museum at the old building of the Commission on Audit narrates the economic history of the Philippines, Escalante added. (PNA)