By Emme Rose S. Santiagudo

ILOILO CITY — Economics is not exactly an exciting subject matter.
But a museum showcasing economic history that has been set up in an 18th-century building originally owned by one of the country’s biggest trading firms at that time makes it interesting. And the Museum of Philippine Economic History, the first of its kind in the country, does not disappoint.
Located along Ortiz Street in Iloilo City, the museum houses artifacts, images, documents, and other items that depict the rich economic history and culture of Iloilo as well as the Philippine’s flourishing industries.
The recently opened museum — the third in the city since 2018 and the 25th nationwide by the National Historical Commission of the Philippines (NHCP) — is housed at the old Elizalde Building.
The building was originally owned by Ynchausti y Compania, of the Ynchausti family but by the late 1920s, Ynchausti y Cia came under the management of the Elizalde family, which eventually acquired it and renamed it Elizalde y Compania in 1936.
The Commission on Audit (COA) later bought the building and was used by various government offices.
In 2015, plans for the restoration of the edifice, considered one of the historical treasures of Iloilo City, were announced.
“This was a headquarters. This is where the ships came to the ports. They would unload here goods from Manila, Panay, and everywhere else, they would come through here. Aside from the fact that this was the heart for us — of our businesses — this was also the heart of trading, in a way, in Iloilo,” Nick Ynchausti, a representative from the family that originally owned the buiding, said during the museum’s launch last week.
He thanked everyone who pushed for and helped in restoring the building to its old charm.
Senator Franklin M. Drilon, who hails from Iloilo and initiated the project, led the inauguration and took pride in reminiscing over the “wealthy” history of Iloilo.
“It is only fitting that a museum of this kind is put up here in Iloilo City. A hundred years ago, Iloilo was known as the ‘Queen City of the South’ and was the center of commerce south of Manila at the turn of the 20th century. This Elizalde Building was one of the centers of economic activity in Iloilo that shaped the economic vigor of the country since the Spanish colonial times, and propelled Iloilo as a regional economic center up to the American period,” Mr. Drilon said.
A walk through the Museum of Philippine Economic History, with its 13 galleries, presents one with a close look at such industries as abaca, coconut, sugar, metals, textile, along with heirlooms from prominent business families.
“Now that we have this museum, the old Filipino families, after they see this, will be encouraged to display artifacts, documents, works which are just in their little bauls (trunks) or storage places. Now, they will have a place to display their artifacts,” Mr. Drilon said.
Other museums in the city include the Iloilo Museum of Contemporary Arts which was opened in 2018 by Megaworld Corp. at the Iloilo Business Park in Mandurriao District, and the National Museum’s Western Visayas Regional Museum which is located at the old Iloilo Provincial Jail.
All these, Mr. Drilon said, breathe new life into Iloilo’s growing economy and tourism industry.