By DEAN MEL STA. MARIA
While many praise Mayor Isko for clearing certain portions of Manila, we remain oblivious of what other local executives have done in their cities and municipalities. One of them is Mayor Jerry Treñas of Iloilo City even if he is doing an impressive job.
I visited Iloilo City from January 24 to 26 for the Dinagyang festivities. Upon arrival in the evening of January 23, I could not help but immediately notice one obvious sight: the international airport located at Cabatuan, 24 kilometers from Iloilo City, was a very clean modern structure. It was one of the most pleasant-to-the-eyes airports in the Philippines. No wonder it is the country’s fourth busiest domestic airport.There were plenty of taxis driven by very friendly drivers.
Going to my hotel, I asked the taxi driver what he thought of Iloilo City at this time. His response was that it was a happier place and more visitors have been coming. The description immediately implied a comparison with the past. I did not bother to ask why because I wanted to see for myself the reasons.
For the visit, I joined my 1978 Ateneo College Alumni and 1982 Ateneo Law Alumni batchmates who represented practically all regions of the Philippines. And at least one came all the way from New York City.The strategy to invite our group was very smart. Clearly, the plan was for us, while in the city, to spend money buying local Iloilo products such a sits famous biscochos and butter scotches, and also to make all of us potential advertisers promoting Iloilo City in our own respective localities upon our return. This could spur significant economic activities. Now I understand why Iloilo City, led by Mayor Treñas, Iloilo City is rightfully hailed as the Most-Business Friendly Highly Urbanized City outside Metro Manila by the Philippine Chamber of Commerce and Industry.
On January 24, our tour began. As we traversed the city, the public roads and streets were Switzerland-like tidy. I asked Mayor Treñas how he did it. He responded that it was part of his job but, at times, he had to make out orders that made his throat sore. Under his watch, Iloilo City received the ASEAN Clean Tourist City Award. We visited the Miag-ao Church and,in the evening, witnessedmemorable evening-sky show highlighted by spectacular fireworks preceded by the beautiful “dancing” of lighted drones.
On January 25, we walked along Calle Real, bought colorful headdresses, mingled with participants in the parade, and took photographs. Thereafter, we went to Megaworld Iloilo Business Park, visited the Iloilo Museum of Contemporary Arts and the Jaro Cathedral with the “growing” Statue of the Virgin Mary greeting us. Merienda was at the Molo Mansion for the famous Iloilo molo soup. There was just so many places to go. Because of time limitation, we did not see them all, prompting us to plan another visit.
Then, on January 26 which was the main festival day for Dinagyang in honor of the Sto Niño, we watched a massive presentation featuring various regions in Iloilo. The five tribes – Paghidaet, Panayanon, Ilonganon, Salognon, Dagatnon — showcased their distinctive cultural and ethic dances in the Dinagyang 360 Tribe Competition. The huge number of participants, the rhythm, the beat, the dance, the yells, the colors, and the costumes were riveting and absolutely entertaining. Watching from the Freedom Grandstand with the blue sky and the clean Iloilo harbor in the background made them more supremely spectacular. Significantly, the performance continued along the streets for the common people to enjoy fully, another great move by the Iloilo City administration.
Mayor Jerry Treñas’ efforts in creating an effective partnership between the Iloilo City private and public sectors resulting in the resounding success of this world-class Dinagyan celebration are worth emulating. They were the manifestation’s of Mayor Treñas’ aspiration – embraced enthusiastically by his people — of bringing Iloilo City to the next level.
Among the country’s mayors, Jerry Treñas is the one to watch. He works hard, inspires his people, gets them together for a common cause and attracts investments. Political will and commitment to public service are in abundance.
I hope that, in the future, Mayor Jerry Treñas aspires to bring himself to the next level of leadership on the national scene. He stands in a unique position, acceptable to the administration and the opposition. He has my support if he decides to run for the highest national executive position, as one previous mayor has done.