Iloilo City: From Textiles to Outsourcing

Rey Palmares
June 28, 2019

Iloilo City is quickly growing to be an industrial center in the Philippines. The call center industry has flourished over the years through proper governance, marketing, and private-public partnerships. Last 2016, Iloilo City was established as a hub for Information-Technology Business Process Management operations by the Information and Communications Technology Office of the Department of Science and Technology and IT-Business Process Association of the Philippines. In 2017, it bagged yet another accolade with one of its own homegrown companies rising to global status. Despite it being relatively poorer than other highly-urbanized cities, it has managed to secure the 92nd spot in Tholons Top 100 super cities in 2018.

The city would go on to win several other awards in outsourcing management. But a century before all these, Iloilo City was already a bustling metropolis in its own right.

Iloilo City started as a fisherman’s hamlet. The city is crossed with rivers and swamps leading to the nearby ocean. These swamplands were later converted to large fishing ports by Spanish colonists in the mid-19th century. But this likewise brought in trade better than fish: hundreds of tons of European textiles.

At the time, Iloilo was revered as a cornerstone of the textile business in the country. Its history is well documented in its museums that showcase photos and memorabilia of industrial progress. Iloilo had built several dozen textile factories which called for the immigration of laborers and businessmen. Textiles allowed the city to flourish as more Spanish nobles and European traders settled in the city for business. A free market gave rise to the middle-class who would start the next trade, replacing the textile industry.

By the late 19th century Iloilo was named as the Sugar Capital of the Philippines. As the middle class gained power, they would eventually take over the mantle of the Spanish nobility. The sugar industry expanded deep into the island of Panay with thousands of hectares being planted with sugar. The Queen Regent of Spain declared Iloilo City as a Royal City, the Queen’s City of the South – allowing for the establishment of its own formal government under Spanish Rule.

By the turn of the 20th century, Iloilo was second only to the capital city of Manila. Despite the textile industry in decline at the time, Iloilo’s stores sold wares from all over the world as it became a gateway for trading with the allure of sugar.

With the sugar industry long since abandoned, Iloilo was floating in limbo for some time. This stagnation resulted into a steep decline that allowed its neighboring cities to overtake its economic progress. It would not be until later in the early 2000s that Iloilo would establish its first call center companies that the city would again flourish.

Today, Iloilo is making it well into the Information Age. Having won multiple awards for good governance both locally and internationally.


Writing should be one part informative and one part entertaining. It's what differentiates a generic piece of text from a well-written article. Rey Palmares dedicates much of his time to fine-tune that craft, juggling the joys and frustrations of writing with those of his law school life outside of the office. He's making it work so far.