Where’s Jaro Iloilo Exactly?

"Napatay si Prevendido sa distrito ng Jaro sa Iloilo at hindi sa Iloilo City." (Prevendido was killed in the District of Jaro in Iloilo, and not in Iloilo City.”)

This was the statement of Police Chief Director General Ronald “Bato” Dela Rosa said during an interview with a media outlet, just a few hours ago. And as expected, Ilonggo netizens bore mixed reactions regarding the statement. Some were amused, others were laughing, while some were annoyed, and criticized the police chief for stating wrong information.

However, it isn’t the first time we’ve heard such gaffe in Ilonggo geography. We’ve experienced it several times and have to correct this kind of information. We couldn’t blame them, especially those who are unfamiliar with the places and where they are located here.

Where exactly is Jaro?

Jaro is one of Iloilo City's seven districts. It's located north of the City Proper. (Map by Google Maps)

We’re not talking about the town in Leyte. We’re talking about Jaro the district in Iloilo.

The district is located just north of the City Proper with its center, Plaza Jaro, around three kilometers from the Provincial Capitol. The plaza, the district’s core, is 10° 43' 28.72" N, 122° 33' 25.4"E if you ask the geographical coordinates.

Plaza Jaro. The center of the district.

Jaro has its own old municipio, a plaza, a church, and even its own marketplace(s).  It has a certain charm that is so different that even Ilonggos themselves think Jaro has a world of its own--different from "Iloilo" that refers to City Proper itself.

Jaro Metropolitan Cathedral is the Ecclesiastical Seat of the Archdiocese of Jaro.

And yes, it is within Iloilo City, even if locals themselves feel like its like a different world.

Kilometer 3. Jaro Plaza is located 3 kilometers away from the Provincial Capitol

It was a separate town

Historically, Jaro was an independent town during the colonial times. It was the home of several prominent families that would eventually become sugar barons and planters of the neighboring island of Negros. Its territory included Pavia as one of its arrabal, or suburb.

The old municipal hall of Jaro, located just across Jaro Plaza. It was only in 1940 that the once independent town decided to merge with Iloilo City. Even up to now, the district seemed to have "a world of its own" distinct from the rest of the city.

Reading from references, the town itself was said to have been “progressive” while Iloilo (or La Punta, back then) was just a mosquito-ridden and swampy fishing village.

If it wasn't for the development of this harbour along Iloilo River, Iloilo wouldn't rise to its prominent urban status.

It is only when Fort La Nuestra Senora del Rosario, or now known as Fort San Pedro, was constructed when Iloilo started to flourish. By the time the Spaniards gave up the Philippines, Jaro and Iloilo were said to have “city status.” The relationship was mutual.

Nelly Garden, one of Jaro's stately mansions lining up E. Lopez Street

In 1936/7, the modern-day Iloilo City was established, merging the towns of Iloilo (City Proper), La Paz, Molo, Villa Arevalo, and Mandurriao and each became “districts.” Jaro, on the other hand, was a bit “hesitant.” It was only in 1940 when it decided to be incorporated to Iloilo City and became one of its districts.

While Iloilo City has its Dinagyang Festival, Jaro District has its own opulent Jaro Fiesta held every February 2. 
That is why, it has its own municipal hall, also designed by renowned Filipino architect Juan Arellano. Indi gid na sila ya magpapirdi sa Iloilo ya nga may ara nga bag-o nga City Hall man (modern day University of the Philippines Visayas Main Building in Iloilo City).

Jaro in Iloilo is like Quiapo is to Manila. It is treated as a "district" but does not have an "administrative" layer in local governance. It is more of a "geographical identification/placemaking" process, though historically they may have been separate communities. Districts have a tendency to exude its own character.

Jaro as a district is like Ermita, Malate, Intramuros, Santa Cruz, Binondo, or Quiapo is to Manila. Or we can look at it as like New York's boroughs such as Manhattan, Brooklyn, Queens, or Bronx.

Iloilo City and Province Are “Different Administrative Entities”

If we’re an outsider and does not have prior knowledge of places in Iloilo, we might think that Iloilo the city and the province are one and at the same, but it’s not. Iloilo City is a highly urbanized city, separately administered by the City Government. Citizens of the city do not vote for Iloilo’s governor and other provincial officials.

The Provincial Capitol of Iloilo may have been located within Iloilo City, but the city itself isn't part of the province, administratively-wise.

On the other hand, Iloilo Province is a separate “administrative entity” from Iloilo City. They do not govern Iloilo City.

Like Jaro, Iloilo has its own plaza complex where the Church of San Jose, the City Hall, and the Masonic Temple are located. Plaza Libertad is enlisted as a National Historical Landmark for being the surrendering place of the Spanish colonial administration on December 25th, 1898.

The same complicated mess is the same with Cebu City and Province, Davao City is to the Davao Provinces, Zamboanga City is to the Zamboanga Provinces, and so on. In the Philippines, if the city is “chartered” and “highly urbanized,” there is a certain degree of autonomy the city’s administration have. If a city is a “component” one, the city is still subject to the administration of the province itself. We don’t want to further confuse you with Cotabato City’s stature as an “independent component city.”

The Capitol, the seat of provincial power and administration may be found in Iloilo City, but the city where the building and its lot stands is not part of it.

I guess the confusion of General Bato may have the same case as with police's complex local administration with regional, provincial, city, and even national bureaucracies.

Iloilo Province (Screengrab from Google Maps)
Having the same name for both the province and the city makes a bit of a mess, especially for outsiders.

People who are unfamiliar with Iloilo or Western Visayan geography have a tendency to think Jaro is an independent town from the city. We couldn't blame them. Some even thought that Miagao is just within the city, and to that, can do a "walking tour" from Molo to Miagao.

Molo and Miagao are 35 kilometers from each other. Don't expect to do a walking tour for that.

Molo and Miagao are about 35 kilometers away from each other.

Where is Iloilo for locals?

To answer this question, you need to listen to bus/jeepney conductors, barkers, and dispatchers, and sometimes eavesdrop on some Hiligaynon conversation. It needs further study though, but this is just a general observation:

When you’re outside Western Visayas, Iloilo refers to both the city and the province located in the Visayas, Western Visayas region specifically. It is the same concept when you’re within Western Visayas—Panayanon and Negrense alike.

Jaro from above.

When you’re in Iloilo Province, when they say “Iloilo,” that refers to the city itself—regardless of whatever district in the city you would like to go specifically.

When you’re in Iloilo City, you would wonder why dispatchers, jeepney drivers, and locals would say “Sa Iloilo nong” (to Iloilo) but they’re already in Iloilo City? The answer: the locals are referring to “City Proper” District, the original Iloilo.

Ilonggos have a tendency to put layers on its place making.

We’re giving them some slack…

Visitors or people who are unfamiliar with the place tend to assume that everything is one at the same, but it isn’t.

Personally and politics aside, I would give General Bato some slack on this confusion. After all, he may not be familiar with Iloilo’s geography and may have only relied on his staff who, might also relayed the details. The operation that happened in Jaro was an initiative of the Provincial Police force, and not the City’s—therefore he may have assumed that Jaro was a district or town of Iloilo Province, and not within the city—even if Jaro is within the city. 

Jaro is now one of Iloilo City's districts, which is composed of different barangays. Iloilo City is independent from Iloilo Province, administratively. That's just the tip of the iceberg in understanding local autonomy in the Philippines.

Philippine local administrative autonomy has its own perks, cons, and weirdness.

I’m just hoping that he’d be careful with his statements next time, being the top cop of this country and “ideally” people look upon him with authority and prone to criticisms.

Besides, if we are on his shoes and unfamiliar with Davao geography, we might think Calinan and Toril are separate towns, in which like Jaro, aren't. They are districts of Davao City. To add, we might think that Digos, Mati, and Tagum are part of Davao City, but they aren't.

Some of the districts of Davao City. Toril may look like an independent city, but its part of Davao City.

We have the same vulnerability of creating the same mistake if we are unfamiliar with the place. Hence, the best way to know one is to ask a local and explore the place with respect and responsibility. It doesn't hurt, most of the time. After all, we would be glad to let our visitors see our places and get to know us better.