The Capitol Building in Iloilo referred to as the "Casa Real" or Royal House during the Spanish times was built in 1840. The "Casa Real" was the residence of the alcalde-mayor or governor, then the highest Spanish Official in Iloilo.
Originally it was a one-story stone building where the government offices were located. Gov. Enrique Fajardo finished construction of the second story in 1873 with first class wood and a galvanized iron roof. He was also the first governor to establish official residence in what was at the time the biggest, most elegant Provincial Capitol in the Philippines.
From Gov. Fajardo who lived in the Casa Real from 1873 to 1879, fourteen other Spanish governors lived there. The last, Ricardo Monet, stayed only for one year, 1898. After Manila had fallen to the Americans on Aug. 13, 1898, Iloilo became the Spanish colonial capital of the Philippines.
On December 24, 1898, Governor-General Diego de los Rios surrendered the city to the Council of the Federal State of the Visayas headed by Roque Lopez, the President. The next day, Gen. Martin Delgado and the revolutionary army ceremoniously hoisted the Philippine flag up the tall flagpole before the building.
The Casa Real building has undergone a lot of renovations and additions from the time it became the seat of the civil government of Iloilo. In 1901 it was used as a military garrison by Japanese Imperial Forces during WWII. It was at the Casa Real on April 11, 1901, that General Martin Delgado was inaugurated as the first Filipino governor. He took his oath of office before Governor-General William Taft in the presence of all the members of the Philippine Commission and some leading citizens of Iloilo.
Most of the governors held their inaugural and induction ceremonies at the Old Capitol. Yet, this historic building had also witnessed tragedy. On December 27, 1907, the third Filipino governor, Benito Lopez, was assassinated while working in his office.
In 1927, the flagstaff or flagpole gave way to the Arroyo Fountain in honor of Senator Jose Maria Arroyo. Not only does it symbolize an opulent history it is also used as a gauge to measure the distance from one place to Iloilo City. Older Ilonggos would sometimes recall that the sculpture of the 4 women in the fountain used to be “unclothed.” Unfortunately, the Catholic Church took notice and insisted that the “naked” women be given “clothes.” The sculptors complied, and thus the present appearance of the Arroyo Fountain.
The "Casa Real" or “Casa Gobierno” was remolded in 1960 after Jose Zulueta became the governor of the province. Though some stone structures might have been preserved, the colonnades at the front of the entire structures were demolished. In the 1960s, there were talks of transferring the offices of the Iloilo Provincial Government to a more stately provincial capitol at Oton, hometown of then Governor Jose C. Zulueta.
On November 4, 1998, a fire of unknown source baffled the capitol damaging almost more than the half of the whole building leaving only the main building. The 1998 fire resulted to the construction of a new six-story Iloilo Provincial Capitol of the future initiated by Gov. Arthur D. Defensor and brought to finish by Gov. Niel D. Tupas, Sr. It now stands behind the original structure.
The Old Capitol building of the Province of Iloilo is now a National Historical Site and is now called Casa Real. The National Historical Institute (NHI) formally recognized the Old Capitol as a historical landmark through a marker installed on its walls on April 11, 2010.
See also The Renovated Casa Gobierno
Photo Credits and Write-ups: Restauracion de la Antigua Casa Real de Iloilo, By Hon. Demy Sonza, Panay Saga, by R.Z. Muzones, April 27, 1960, Ramon Ramirez