Isabela Convention Center (ICON) is a multi-purpose coliseum that functions mainly as a sports, convention and trade center for the province of Isabela. It has a 2,500-seating capacity with offices and commercial spaces for lease. Having successfully hosted events since its opening on November 8, 2021, it is Cauayan City mayor Bernard F. Dy’s hope that ICON will boost economic growth and promote local tourism as a convention and trade show venue in the north of the Philippines.
In an exclusive Bluprint interview, Mayor Dy is excited to tell us all about ICON and what we can look forward to in this impressive and unique infrastructure.
BP: True to its form, the ICON seems to set the image of Isabela to be an iconic city through this structure. What was the conceptual design of this outstanding building?
Mayor BERNARD DY: First and foremost it’s the first convention center in Isabela and in fact in Region II, so that makes it a milestone. What we envisioned, the name speaks for itself ICON. We wanted to do a classic design and has that WOW factor, especially it’s a landmark that will be enjoyed by future generations, not just the current one. I worked with Mike and Charmaine Lagman to make this project possible. They executed my vision very well and efficiently.
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BP: What was the inspiration behind the marvelous facade?
Mayor BERNARD DY: We wanted to play around with the kawayan beam being resilient and having that characteristic that one can find in a bamboo. This structure was something unique and timeless. It is future-proof so 10, 20, or 30 years from now, should we want to build something on top of it, (like a high-rise, we can just dismantle it and put it on top) it is bound for new creation. What sets it apart from other structures is its functionality and sustainable features.
BP: The city of Cauayan partnered with MC Geometric Proportions for this project. How was it completing its turn over before the target date?
Mayor BERNARD DY: The construction only took less than a year, 10 months in the making, even I was amazed and overwhelmed. It was completed in a perfect timing and we’re just starting to reopen the economy of the city of Cauayan. In fact, we already used it even before the actual turnover and hosted a joint national event. It was a success and it was memorable to all guests and participants and definitely it could be an eye-opener for other conventions for private firms or government to see Cauayan as an alternative venue for conventions. MCGP made an incredible construction timeline. Due to project’s innovative techniques, we were able reduced constructions costs, build time and material waste.
People are used to Baguio or Ilocos so they might want to see new places. Now Cauayan is offering a new venue. We have well planned airport and hospitality buildings are emerging. We already had two conventions simultaneously. That itself has a tremendous impact for the citizens of Cauayan as well as the entire province of Isabela.
BP: How feasible was it to make the infrastructure eco-friendly?
Mayor BERNARD DY: Cauayan City is a part of Isabela, northern part of the Philippines. The city is famous for having the most typhoons in the country before. We got hit by super typhoons around 7 times in a year so the structure has to be really set in a way that it could withstand signal no. 1 typhoons. Secondly, the calamities that we have in Isabela is not the normal calamity that you’d experience here in Manila and that’s why it has to be resilient. With the help of MCGP, we were able to project a good structure that can withstand potential disasters in the future. This is one of the key considerations upon initial planning.
The sustainability there should surpass any catastrophe that come our way. We have not had a supertyphoon hit us this year yet, after ICON’s completion but we’re confident that it could withstand it and with that kind of design this is also something unique and for sure, it will serve its purpose.
BP: ICON is such an impactful and inspirational name for this structure. What does it mean for the city of Cauayan to have a venue where people can gather and exchange ideas?
Mayor BERNARD DY: It’s an economic booster and economic driver. In any major city in the world, you would have to have a place like that to have meetings and conventions and exhibits but more so it’s really monumental for the city of Cauayan. We’re in the middle of rice fields, a highly agricultural city, we’re poor in terms of income, and yet we have this kind of facility. So that again will change the landscape of the city of Cauayan from a neglected agricultural city to becoming a smart and sustainable one.
This is a smart infrastructure that wasn’t built without a purpose. It had to be sustainable, it had to have that pride of Cauayeños. The name ICON connotes two things: ICON for Isabela Convention Center, and ICON for the ideal city of the north.
BP: The soft launch of ICON was on Nov. 8. The Isabela NATCON 2021 was held on Nov. 11, where leaders from JCI Philippines and JCI Senate Philippines have convened. What measures did ICON put in place to align with IATF guidelines when having esteemed guests from all over the country come over?
Mayor BERNARD DY: I, being a local chief executive, need to be responsible for everything to follow such guideline. I need to make sure that all the delegates attending were vaccinated, they needed to have a PCR test before coming. While they were there, they had to follow the protocols such as wearing masks and practice social distancing. When they left, they had to take a PCR test again and thank God, nobody tested positive.
This is also a testament for other cities, even Metro Manila, that we can do it. It can be done because we already did it. And again, at this signal of reopening and building back the economy.
BP: Will Isabela have its own tradeshow in ICON? If so, what are the best local products of Isabela that you want to showcase?
Mayor BERNARD DY: Eventually. I think everything will follow suit and events that will happen in ICON in the next coming months. It’s a fresh place that people would want to see to explore and we want to host them.
Isabela has 34 towns and cities so with the “OTOP” itself “One Town, One Project” we have automatically 37 things, you would taste, feel and touch coming from the different municipalities and cities. Apart from that, the local food: we have better longganisa than Vigan, we have Mushroom empanada, which is healthier than Ilocos empanada, we have serkele, goto, pancit kabagan, cassava rolls, all these new flavors that our local and foreign tourists would certainly enjoy.
BP: Are there any major events lined up for ICON? What are the future projects of Isabela this 2022?
Mayor BERNARD DY: We’ve been getting a lot of calls, inquiries and reservations for local events, whether it’s the Rotary Club and inductions, but I am more looking forward to the conventions. Once the economy opens up, I’m certain we will be back to normal soon. I’ve been hearing a lot of people wanting to hold their respective conventions in ICON but I have yet to push my city council to pass the ordinance already. However, the future is bright and there is so much potential that I just can’t wait for people to explore the city of Cauayan through ICON.
Photos courtesy of Ed Simon