This progressive municipality has a colourful history which spans from its early occupation by Spanish authorities. The Spanish culture has left its mark on the historical sites of the town. There are excellent selections of historic sites in the area and you can plan some other great things to see on your trips. However, this town is not just bricks and coral stones. Its spirit is the people who make them come alive and who welcome you warmly to enjoy and share their proud heritage.
The Second-Class municipality of Santa Barbara is 15.6 kilometers away from the city. It is politically subdivided into 60 barangays over its 7,748 hectare land area.
Santa Barbara is populated by 60, 215 (2015 Census on Population) Santa Barbaranhons. Market day is every Friday. It annually celebrates its Religious Fiesta every 4th of December.
To get to Sta. Barbara, one can take a jeepney at the Ungka Transport Terminal (fronting Christ the King Memorial Park) in Barangay Ungka-II, Pavia, Iloilo or at the Iloilo Terminal Market in Barangay Rizal Pala-Pala I, Iloilo City.
The beginings of the municipality was recorded bhy the Agustinian archives noting that as early as 1617, missionaries attended to the spiritual needs of a pueblo then known as Katmon. The name was derived from a fruit-bearing tree, which served as an imposing landmark in the area. The place was a rich and fertile plain traversed by Salug (present Tigum and Aganan Rivers) River, producing rice, sugarcane, and mongo.
During that time, Katmon was only a visita of the Jaro vicariate. In 1760, Hispanized as Catmon, the pueblo was canonically established as an independent parish, whose patroness was Santa Barbara, and the pueblo, was named after her, became the base of Revolutionary Forces in Iloilo, and from here Ge. Martin Delgado launched the campaign to liberate the whole province which culminated in the surrender of Iloilo City by Governor-General Diego de los Rios on December 24, 1898.
SANTA BARBARA CHURCH AND CONVENT is of Baroque-Renaissance architectural style. The first church was built same time it became an independent parish in 1760. It was destroyed during the 1787 earthquake. The present church was constructed in 1849 under the supervision of Father Francisco Agueria and was continued by Father Mateo Rodriguez from 1855 – 1873.
It was continued and finished by father Calixto Fernandez in 1878. The convent was built the same time as the church by the same priests. It measures 63 meters in length and with a width of 19 meters.
Materials used in the construction of the church and convent were of adobe and coral stones quarried from Alimodian and were used for the flooring, walls and posts. Materials transported to the town by carts drawn by carabaos. Red bricks were also used.
Its elevated façade is of three main segments: the first is of paired pilasters with two main saint niches flanking the main entrance; the second has arched windows; and the third with paired finials and a niche of the Blessed Virgin Mary in the center.
Connected to the side door of the church is its L-shaped convent of Antillan architectural style. The ground floor of the convent serves as the office of the church and its second floor serves as the quarters of the priest.
The church served as the headquarters for the Ilonggo Revolutionary Forces in Western Visayas under General Martin Delgado in 1898. It was untouched during World War II and had withstood the 1948 earthquake. It was declared as a National Historical Landmark by the National Historical Institute in 2013.
ILOILO GOLF AND COUNTRY CLUB was built in 1907. Known to be the Oldest Golf Course in the Philippines, it was constructed by 13 American and British expatriates and started out with nine short holes.
It is carved on natural 35 hectares of plains and rolling hills, the 18-hole golf course in Barangay San Sebastian claims an undisputed pre-eminence on golfing history as it also stands among Asia’s oldest greens.
VICTORY PLAZA is nestled in the heart of the town and landscaped in the time for the 1998 Philippine Centennial in the Victory Plaza and right in the middle is the Bandstand, an octagonal-shaped structure was constructed in 1925 and since then served as venue to various gatherings and other social activities.
FLAGPOLE PARK waves one of the country’s five giant flags; measuring 30 x 60 feet atop a 120 feet flagpole. It marks Santa Barbara as part of the Freedom Trail of Philippine Independence from Spain and was constructed in time for the 1998 Philippine Centennial Celebration.
SANTA BARBARA CENTENNIAL MUSEUM was constructed in 1998 as part of the Centennial Freedom Trail Site Project of the Philippine Centennial Commission, the museum, houses, antiques, artefacts and photos which tell the story of Santa Barbara’s history and heritage. It is also a depository of memorabilia donated by the townsfolk reflecting the town’s rich culture.
ROMAN CATHOLIC CEMETERY is one of the oldest landmarks of the town. Its facade bears the mark of the Spanish influence in the country and considered as one of the strongest structure in the town. It was constructed in 1845.
SANTA BARBARA IRRIGATION DAM was constructed in 1926, the irrigation dam is the first gravity irrigation system in the Visayas that has revolutionized farming. This is the oldest irrigation system in the country.
KAHILWAYAN is celebrated every November 17 is also known as the Cry of Santa Barbara that fueled the revolution in Visayas and Mindanao. Philippine history would have not been complete without the Ilonggos’ display of bravery and heroism in defiance against Spanish oppressors. So important was the role of this uprising in Philippine history that Santa Barbara was the only municipality outside Luzon that was declared as a National Trunk Site on the Centennial Freedom Trail during the Philippine Centennial Celebration in 1998.
On its 103rd celebration last 2001, the Municipal Tourism Council proposed an innovation in the telling of “Cry” history-one which will catch the attention not only of local folks but that of foreign tourists, as well Thus, Kahilwayan Festival was launched in public during the 2001 “Cry” celebration. Kahilwayan is an Ilonggo term which means freedom or liberty, or independence and Kahilwayan Festival is a cultural festival in a dance-drama form which showcased the events that led to the historic uprising of the Ilonggos against Spain leading to its ultimate victory and freedom now known as the Cry of Santa Barbara. Hundreds of students from different contesting groups parade all over the town in colorful period costumes ( e.g. rayadillo, saya, kimona and camisa chino) and revel in street dancing cum street theater to the tune of Marcha Libertador (composed by Posidio Delgado, brother of Gen. Martin T. Delgado, is was the official march of the Ejercito Libertador).
The highlight, however, is the dance-drama presentation depicting the events that led to the first “Cry of Santa Barbara”.
Three major events are given emphasis in the storyline of the Kahilwayan Festival, first the bringing of saber and flag to Santa Barbara by Lt. Honorio Solinap and Tia Patron Gamboa; second is the use of Marcha Libertador as background music and the third is the hoisting of the Philippine Flag. All these shall be witnessed in the course of every contesting group’s performance.
Amidst the hundreds of festivals all over the country today, Kahilwayan Festival may be considered as just one of the many. But what sets Kahilwayan Festival apart from them is its originality and uniqueness. This is the only festival all over the country, which resolves, in one, single storyline the “Cry of Santa Barbara “. It is unique for it strictly requires the contesting groups to dress-up their dancers in period costumes only. It is not only about dancing or drama but a celebration of life itself, it is about bringing back history and reintroduce them to the younger generation in manner that they can understand, they can relate, they can appreciate and enjoy. It is about looking back and giving honor to the people who fought and die for freedom that we are enjoying today.