Fort San Pedro area to regain nightlife luster

The Fort San Pedro area in Iloilo City was traditionally the nightlife park of its people as far back as the roaring 50’s when the sugar industry was the top dollar earner of the country, and rich hacienderos had oodles and oodles of money to spend.  It was where the Casino Espanol, considered the watering hole for the sugar magnates of Iloilo of that era, was located. In the 1980’s, the Fort San Pedro itself became a favorite leisure and entertainment park with its famous chicken bar-b-que (that was long before Injap Sia embarked on “Mang Inasal”).

But the area slowly deteriorated in the last two decades as business moved out of the traditional shopping strip on “Calle Real”, which is how J.M. Basa Street, continues to be called. The opening of big malls “killed” the stores in the area as Ilonggo crowds moved farther and farther away from this long strip that was known for its pre-war buildings. Being on the tail-end, Fort San Pedro lost its attraction to the crowds. It’s only because it is home to many government offices that the area continues to see busy traffic during the day. It has long ceased to be the nightlife capital of Iloilo.

This is likely to change in the next few months. A young businessman named Rommel Ynion has bought the old Royal Palms Hotel and began its reconstruction to turn it into a hotel-casino complex. Ynion also purchased the ruins of the Casino Espanol across the street to provide for wide parking spaces. Rumors on the street say Ynion is behind the move to operate slot-machines at the Amigo Plaza complex on Iznart St. as a prelude to reopening full casino operations at the Royal Palms Hotel.

The only negative factor that can pose problems for this entertainment complex is the heavy concentration of informal settler communities in the neighborhood. Petty crimes like snatching and pickpocketing are rampant in the area. The run-down honkytonk bars a short distance away from this refurbished hotel-casino complex presents an ugly sight for its visitors and turn them off. This early, the city government would do well to already look into this problem. We want investors to feel comfortable about bringing fresh capital to Iloilo City, and authorities need to provide the infrastructure to make this happen.

By the way, Ynion looks like he’s serious about doing big business in Iloilo. He’s already bought “The News Today” from Rosendo Mejica. Apparently, Ynion is anticipating heavy opposition from the church when the casino projects rolls out. He needs a good media outlet to reach out to the community and persuade the people to accept it.

About Manuel "Boy" Mejorada
Manuel "Boy" Mejorada is a journalist and social media activist. A former Iloilo provincial administrator, he is now waging a crusade against corruption and narco-politics.

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