Iloilo is Panay’s largest province and Iloilo City is the ninth most populous city in the Philippines. Touted as the second oldest Spanish settlement in the Philippines, it is more famous though for its provincial charm and its use of a tender-sounding language known as Ilonggo. Iloilo City is a 15-minute outrigger ride to the nearby resort island province of Guimaras, famous for its sweet mangoes, Trappist monestery, beach and islet resorts.
Famous for its yummy pancit molo (a native noodle dish), Iloilo City is the transit point to adjoining Antique and Bacolod City in Negros Occidental. Celebrating its more colorful ati-atihan style “Dinagyang Festival” on the fourth of Sunday of January, Iloilo City is 450 kilometers southwest of Manila.
Iloilo is most known for its old buildings and churches, which are reminders of its rich history, cultural, and affluence. Food is also another thing that Iloilo is known for. Destinations in the City of Iloilo can be conveniently accessed by jeepney, taxi, or private vehicle. Though, most of the sights, especially in the city proper, are just within walking distance from each other.
The climate is tropical, with two pronounced seasons: rainy from June to September and dry, from October to May.
PLACES TO SEE IN ILOILO
The Miag-ao Church, or Church of Santo Tomas de Villanueva, was built in 1786 by Spanish Augustinian missionaries and was declared as part of the UNESCO World Heritage Site “Baroque Churches of the Philippines” in 1993. On the front facade, which is flanked by two watchtower belfries, one can see the unique blending of Spanish and native influences.
The central feature of the bas-relief facade is a large coconut tree which reaches almost to the apex. While an integral part of the Philippine landscape, the coconut tree is also the subject of lore. According to an old Philippine legend, the coconut tree was the only bequest from a loving mother to her two children, a tree which sustained them for life. On the church’s facade the coconut tree appears as the “tree of life” to which St. Christopher carrying the Child Jesus on his shoulder is clinging to. The lesser facades feature the daily life of Miagaowanons during the time. Also depicted are other native flora and fauna, as well as native dress.
The church and its watchtowers were also built to defend the town and its people against raids by the Moros. It therefore has thick walls and, reportedly, secret passages. Indeed stretching along the Iloilo coast are defensive towers, but none that equal the size of the Miag-ao. It is because of this defensive purpose that it is sometimes referred to as the Miag-ao Fortress Church.
An impressive collection of Iloilo’s cultural heritage which includes stone age native pottery; fossils; jewelry; burial sites; trade pottery from China, Annam and Siam; era photos. Mementos and war relics; a British sunken ship; Spanish-era Filipino sculpture; and modern art done by Ilonggo artists and craftmen.
The Molo Church is one of the most familiar landmarks of Iloilo. Built in 1831, the church stands as a reminder of Iloilo’s rich history and a monument for Ilonggo artistry. The Molo exudes a blatant expression of Gothic-Renaissance architecture, the one of its kind outside Manila. The interior is a fusion of Gothic and Romanesque architectures, there is a constant alternation between the overpowering features of Gothic and the recessive characteristics of Romanesque.
The Jaro Cathedral (Church of St. Elizabeth of Hungary) was built in 1864, the year the district was named a diocese by Pope Pius the IX, by order of His Grace Mariano Cuartero, first bishop of Jaro. Destroyed in the quake of January 1948 and restored by order of His Excellency Jose Ma. Cuenco, first archbishop of Jaro in 1956. The cathedral’s style is basically Baroque, with the addition of Gothic elements over many renovations.
Built in 1875, this famous Spanish-Filipino cemetery is made of cut stone and fossil rocks and features three imposing stairways and two Gothic doors. Its is 32 kms. from the city.
Five kilometers away from the Estancia town proper is this 1,104-hectare palm fringed island with while sand beaches.
Ruined by 1948 earthquake ,but now restored. One of the few belfries in the country that stands apart from the church.
WHERE & WHAT TO EAT
Iloilo is well-known for its mouth-watering food specialties such as the famous La Paz batchoy- a local noodle soup. It can be found in virtually all of the restaurants in the city but you might want to have a bowl or two at Ted’s. This restaurant chain are found in General Luna and Diversion Road, you can also see them at La Sallet Building in Valeria Street, in a popular mall- Robinson’s Place, and at the Arguelles Building, in Jaro Plaza.
Another favorite would be the Kansi, which is bone marrow soup. The best place to go for this meal would be Pat-Pat’s on E. Lopez St, Jaro. After you have savored the La Paz batchoy and the Kansi, your gastronomical enjoyment does not end there. It is worth stopping by Breakthrough- a seafood place in Villa where you can buy lobsters for as cheap as $4. Breakthrough is about 10 minutes away from the city, if you are taking a cab. Eat to your heart’s desire and it will not even burn a tiny hole in your pocket.
While Iloilo may seem like a sleepy place during the night, it is not what it seems to be! It is bustling with nightlife hangouts and bars. The Tijuana Bar, best known for their cool reggae music, tequilas and margaritas; Smallville, a chain of restaurants and bars that highlight The Flow, a hip party place for yuppies and MO2, a restobar with great music and delectable food. If shopping is your thing, you can go to the Atrium or to ShoeMart (SM) for your shopping needs.
TO DO LIST
When you plan a trip to Iloilo, be prepared for a long to-do list. There are just so many things to do!
• You can start by visiting some centuries-old churches such as the Molo’s Roman Catholic Church; The Miagao Church is a quartet of the UNESCO World Heritage Site – Baroque Churches of Philippines, and you simply cannot afford to miss it. You can take a jeepney ride going the south route to get there.
• You can then proceed to looking at beautiful Spanish homes like those in Calle Real;
• After you have seen the spectacular sights in these valuable heritage sights, you can check out the museums, where you can find more interesting antiques and mementos of Iloilo during the Spanish era;
• Do not forget to stop by some shops for biscocho and piyaya, and make sure to eat them right after they come out of the oven, as these delicacies taste better when they are oven-hot.
• You might even want to go on an adventure to Guimaras Island which is about 15-20 minutes away by pump boat ride. There you can taste the sweetest mangoes in the world!
By air – Iloilo International Airport (IATA: ILO) serves the city of Iloilo as well as the province of Iloilo. It receives flights from Cebu, Davao city and Manila and is served by 5 airlines; Air Philippines/PAL Express, Cebu Pacific, Philippine Airlines and Zest Airways.
By sea – Pumboats are used for transversing the water between Guimaras Island and Iloilo city. The ferries are usually for Iloilo to Manila trips although there are Ferries that will transport people and vehicle from Iloilo to certain islands.
There are lots a ferry between Bacolod and Iloilo 335PHP one way. There a big discounts for return tickets.
Taxi: White cars with the obvious Taxi sign on top. The best service are often offered by Light of Glory or GDR taxi. They drive fast but as relatively safe as possible.
Jeepneys: Dubbed the Unofficial national transport system, it’s an automobile, with some resemblance to a Jeep vehicle, that has long leather benches for people to sit on. It’s everywhere in the city and each jeepney has a set route to follow. Don’t take this if you’re in a great hurry as the drivers can sometimes decide to wait in the loading areas for 5-10 minutes.
Tri-Sikads or Tri-Cycles: Cycles mean motor bike while sikad means a manual bike. It’s the method of transportation for small, tight roads in barangays and the outskirts of the city. It can be more expensive than the Jeepneys.