Once the “Queen City of the South” Iloilo offers a variety of experience. From unique foods to architectural marvels Iloilo have it all.
“Irong-irong” meaning nose- describes the shape of the river that runs in the heart of the city. As time passed by “Irong-irong” evolved into what is now known as Iloilo City. Iloilo is the economic and cultural center of Western Visayas since the Spanish Era, no wonder why you can see a lot Art Deco and Colonial Houses around the city. Since it has became an important trading post during the Spanish Era because of the vast plantations of sugarcane and rice in the interior part of the island large church made of rocks and mansions of influential families dotted around the City. Now this buildings that reminds the Ilongos of their colonial past attracts tourist around the world.
Since Iloilo is known for its old churches let’s start with the best. On top of the list we have Miagao Church, a UNESCO world heritage site located outside the city. It is a perfect example of a Baroque Church with an impressive relief stone facade. It was once a church and at the same time a fortress against the Moors and pirates.
Within the city, in Jaro District you can find the Jaro Belfry, no one knows why this bell tower was placed separate from the church. Made of red bricks this is one of the unique landmarks in Jaro, for me it’s like the local version of Eiffel Tower. Just in front of Jaro Belfry you can find Jaro Metropolitan Cathedral, although it was damaged by an earthquake, the church maintains is elegance after series of renovations. Lined on its nave are life-size sculptures of male Catholic Saints. It is in contrast with the female saints at Saint Anne’s Church (also known as the Women’s Lib) in Molo District. Also a big Gothic-Renaissance church made from large stone and duck eggs with an impressive dome, this church can be seen as far as the island of Guimaras.
For gastronomic comfort you can dine at Tatoy’s Manokan and Seafood. Try their chicken and my personal favorite crabmeat and crablets. For a reasonable price you can savor great foods that Former President Arroyo enjoyed during her trips in Iloilo. Every February, Paraw Regatta is held just in front of Tatoy’s Manokan, see colorful Sailboats race around Guimaras Island.
For an authentic Ilongo cuisine, try our La Paz Batchoy at Teds near Atrium Mall or at Deco’s in front of SM Delgado- whoever among the two are the original it’s the taste the counts. At JD Bakeshop at Roadhouse you can try affordable pastries and of course Pancit Molo for 30-50 pesos. For the pursuit of seafood, drive towards Breakthrough in Villa Arevallo for fresh seafoods served at the beachfront. Best time to be there- at dusk for the sunset,then you can take a beach walk towards the west and swim at Punta Villa Resort for only 50 pesos it is one of the best bargain. For me, the best time in Punta Villa is when it rains hard, perfect time to swim. If you want Italian, near Plaza Libertad you dine at Afrique’s- among their branches I preferred this for the stained glass, simple wooden furnitures and it’s an old mansion converted into a restaurant. My personal favorite, their Matador– pasta in spicy Spanish Sardines.
On the downside Iloilo City cannot offer you beautiful beaches because of urbanization although it is the Philippines cleanest highly urbanized city but it is the gateway to the best. Guimaras Island is just 15 minutes away from San Pedro
wharf. It was noted in Lonely Planet as one of the best surprise in the Philippines, its low-key pristine beaches offers privacy and refuge to busy tourist. And who doesn’t know Boracay, Iloilo is one of the alternative route for tourist heading for this island widely known for its powdery white sands.
For local and international tourist it is best to visit Iloilo between January and February. Dinagyang Festival is celebrated on the second half of January every year. It showcase the colorful traditions that this old city have, combined with the drums and street parties it is perfect for cultural enthusiast. Every February, Jaro Fiesta is celebrated in Jaro District and Paraw Regatta in Villa Arevalo. It is not best to visit Iloilo during typhoon season cause for sure it will flood and I don’t want you to get soaked in the rain.
It is easy to stroll around Iloilo, provided that it is not raining. The people are friendly and warm. The usual fare for jeepneys from Jaro to Iloilo City is Php7 and vice versa. If you want taxis, take GDR or Light of Glory taxi’s, these are reliable metered taxi’s running in our city-you can contact them and they can fetch you wherever you are. From Manila, Cebu Pacific offers fare as low as Php 500, a terminal fee of Php200 is expected when going back to Manila via Iloilo Airport.