Visitors to Iloilo City should not miss the Magdalena Jalandoni house. Jalandoni (1891-1978) is regarded as the “Grande Dame of Hiligaynon Literature,” and was the first to receive the Republic Cultural Heritage Award for Literature in 1969. The University of San Agustin, in celebration of its 50th year, also recently published her book titled Labi sa Bulawan, a three-act play written in 1932 that was toured in the various schools in the province of Iloilo. Interestingly, she wrote her first corrido when she was ten and her first novel Ang mga Tunok sang Isa ka Bulak when she was 16, an age when most girls were just waiting to charm their princes.
The house, which looks like a castle, is heavily protected with barb wires. But one needs to notify the keeper of the house, Jalandoni’s niece, days in advance, to get a visit clearance. Jalandoni’s contemporaries include novelist Angel Magahum, poet Delfin Gumban, poet Serapion Torre, poet-translator (from Spanish) Flavio Zaragoza Cano, essayist-journalist Rosendo Mejica, zarzuela masters Jose Ma. Ingalla and Jose Ma. Nava, playwright Miguela Montelibano, essayists Augurio Abeto and Abe Gonzales, the young novelist Ramon L. Musones, and the poet Santiago Alv. Mulato. The triumvirate of Gumban, Torre and Zaragoza Cano also ruled it out for years in poetry, their rivalry often magnified by the public balagtasan or poetic joust.
Thanks to EDSA Revolution of 1986, there is now an emergence of Kinaray-a writing along with Aklanon writing, and multilingual writing in the West Visayas region. The prestigious Palanca Awards has, in 1997, also included Hiligaynon short story, alongside that of Cebuano and Iluko, among its categories.
Important young writers in West Visayas today include (Hiligaynon) Alicia Tan-Gonzales, Peter Solis Nery, Edgar Siscar, Resurreccion Hidalgo, Alfredo Siva, Alain Russ Dimzon; (Kinaray-a) Ma. Milagros C. Geremia Lanchica, Alex C. de los Santos, John Iremil E. Teodoro, Jose Edison C. Tondares, Maragtas S. V. Amante, Ma. Felicia Flores; (Aklanon) Melchor F. Cichon, Alexander C. de Juan, and John E. Barrios.
Visitors can set out next to the nearby Biscocho Haus, located along Lopez-Jaena street. The store offers kinihad, banana marble, angel toast, paborita, ugoy-ugoy, pulceras, pacencia. It is interesting how specialty stores in the country become “hauses” as attested to by the store across from it—Squid Hauz.
Visitors to the nearby Graciano Lopez-Jaena house could be in for a disappointment. There is just the historical marker and a vacant lot behind the wall. One could not help but wonder how one of the country’s hero, or for that matter, his descendants, could not have left any decent house. It is ironic that across it stood the much-preserved building of The Convention of Philippine Baptist Churches.