Thursday, August 30, 2007
The Fall of Muelle Loney
Forgive my poetic license and for being so overly-romantic with history, I was the one who made that phrase but very comparable to this scenario in the 50's:
According to Alfred McCoy's work "The Queen Dies Slowly"*, it refers to the period when Iloilo's River Wharf (back then Iloilo's port only refers to the river wharf known as Muelle Loney) was under the conflict of two labour unions (more likely stevedores or arrastres: the Consolidated Union of the Philippines (CLUP) and the Federacion Obreros de Filipinas (FOF)) in order to seize control of the port.
After the opening of the port to international trade in 1855 onwards before World War II, Iloilo's wharf was really raking money, thus the famous slogan: "Ang Kwarta, ginapiko kag ginapala." ushered. Many people would want to control this lucrative infrastructure back then because the flow of money from sugar was immense. All sugar products from the vast planations in Negros Occidental are exported internationally through Iloilo City before World War II. The wharf was renamed "Muelle Loney" in remembrance of the British Vice-Consul who ushered in the era of sugar boom by introducing modern farming techniques and enocuraging sugar trade in Negros and Panay. Egro, he is known as "The Father of Philippine Sugar Industry"
After the Japanese Occupation, Iloilo's prominence in the Visayas and Mindanao was already waning because of the opening of a direct access of sugar factories to ports in Negros Occidental in Pulupandan and Bacolod. Also, since the sugar economy was already declining after World War II, many workers complained about their minimal wages, lay-offs and mismanagement.
The conflict between the two labor unions reached to the point where the Caltex Depot was bombed by mid-50's. Iloilo port's infamy reached the shores of Manila and Cebu and it discouraged the entrepreneurs and invstors to open up business in Iloilo. Passengers who are coming from different parts of the country feared of the port since not only these arrastres are rumored to do extortion to shipping companies and businessmen, but also pickpockets. The merchants fled the dying city. Thus, the "Death of the Queen" was inevitable.
That is how important an infrastructure is to a city. Partly what brought life to the city also brought death upon it.
The wharf has witnessed the the abandonment of her sons and daughters for better opportunities outside Iloilo back then. This was one of the reason of Iloilo's demise. A victim of monocrop agricultural industry and as what Ambeth Ocampo said "Prosperity without progress".
A bitter medicine that is hard to swallow and a lesson learned the hard way. But nevertheless, hope was never lost in every Ilonggo spirit. And now, they are moving forward, despite the recent adversities that hit the Ilonggo heartland.
*Alfred McCoy, A Queen Dies Slowly: The Rise and Fall of Iloilo City. The Philippine Social History (7). Asian Studies Association of Australia: South East Publicaion Series, pp.297-358.