Friday, April 10, 2009

RetroTravel: Iloilo

Iloilo is a suitable destination to be featured here in "Going Places" for the Holy Week. It is mainly because one of Iloilo's main places of interest are its churches - particularly the world heritage site Miag-ao, Molo and Jaro churches - suitable places to reflect in time of this special season. I have been to Iloilo for four times in a row yet unfortunately I haven't explore its places of interests and wonders extensively. But recently while reading internet sites and magazines, I've learned that Iloilo has so many places to offer. Beyond the dates I mentioned above I cannot recall the two exact previous dates I have been to that province.

We always stay in the town of Pototan because my father's relatives are living there. They are Ilonggos. We usually go there for family vacation. But just last year on a vacation, we use Iloilo as a jumping point going to Boracay as buses plies directly to Caticlan from Pototan daily. My last vacation to Iloilo marks my return to the province after 9 years! And its quite a good reunion to return again in Iloilo as there are so many things that have change already but some good things still remains like its idyllic atmosphere and fresh air of the province.

Relatives in Pototan, Iloilo.
Pototan is quite far from the city. There are few things to see around the town as it is quite remote from the city. I think it is 3 or 2 rides away from the Iloilo City proper. Travel time from the airport is between 45 minutes to 1 hour. I am tired of seeing so much rice paddies around my grandmother's place that's why I am eager to see the other side of Iloilo - its places of wonders. I want to see the main tourist places around the province so I can see more about Iloilo and not just rice paddies. ^^ So, if ever I'm going to have an opportunity to "swingaround" in Iloilo again I will definitely explore the sights I saw and read in travel magazines and internet websites.
Relatives in Pototan, Iloilo.
Now before we go down to the places to see and things to do in Iloilo... let me first introduce you to Iloilo from Wikipedia: Iloilo

Iloilo is a province of the Philippines located in the Western Visayas region. Iloilo occupies the southeast portion of Panay Island and is bordered by Antique to the west and Capiz to the north. It's capital is Iloilo City. People from Iloilo are called Ilonggos. There are two local languages spoken in the province: Hiligaynon sometimes called Ilonggo, and Kinaray-a. Hiligaynon and variants of it are spoken in Iloilo city and a few towns of the province. Spanish architecture can be seen in old buildings in downtown Iloilo. Chinese Merchants and Indonesians were trading with the Ilonggos long before the Spaniards came. The ruling Spanish government encouraged these foreign merchants to trade in Iloilo but they were not given privileges like ownership of land.You can still see the old buildings that surprisingly are European and American inspired such as stately mansions, majestic century-old churches, and heritage commercial buildings. The town fiesta is one of the most important events for Ilonggos. Almost every town (municipality) in Iloilo has a fiesta and festival celebrated annually.

Getting in to Iloilo is easy by a 1 hour plane from Manila to its new airport located at Cabatuan. Other options can ride buses (then through RORO) or shipping lines but via airplane is the fastest travel time. Iloilo Airport is new and has modern touches. The moment I stepped out of its jetway (they have jetways now before disembarkation is through stairs) you can feel an atmosphere of modernity and light-spacious ambiance. It is beautiful. And the landscapes of ornamental plants and manicured gardens are a plus to its modern look. There are baggage conveyor already which makes it easy for baggage claiming.

The new Iloilo Airport.
I just wish that authorities or government will work adding more transportation options to and from the airport as I find it limited. The most convenient way to get to Iloilo City proper is through a shared van aircon shuttle. Travel time between to and from the airport to city proper is 30 to 45 minutes. I also hope that alternative routes access shall be made to airport as the only way to the airport is through Tomas Confesor Highway in Santa Barbara. I heard that Cabatuan is near Pototan so an access road to link to two municipalities would be a good option for alternate route going to/from the airport.

I haven't explore the province extensively. To be honest, all I can see whenever we drop to Iloilo is Pototan's vast areas of rice paddies and some forested areas. I have never explore the sights of the city and other municipalities' attractions. Though, I have been to Guimaras, (an island near off-coast to Iloilo City) it has been a very short trip. So hopefully on a future travel to Iloilo, I will be able to see those wonderful attractions.

Before I thought that there is nothing more to do and see in Iloilo aside from tasting their food and delicacies but with the help of Wow Philippines: Iloilo, here are brief infos of its places to see and things to do...
  • Plaza Libertad (Iloilo City) - Where the flag of the First Philippine Republic was raised in triumph after Spain surrendered Iloilo, her last capital in the islands, to the revolutionaries led by Gen. Martin Delgado on December 25, 1898. Available transport – jeepney.
  • Molo District - Called Parian in the old days. It was the Chinese quarters of La Villa de Arevalo; Athens of the Philippines. Has produced many intellectual and political leaders. Available transport - jeepney.
  • Museo Iloilo (Bonifacio Drive, city proper) - Museo Iloilo is the first government sponsored museum outside Metro Manila. It is a great place to explore Iloilo’s history through its impressive collection of Iloilo’s cultural heritage
  • Jaro Belfry - Ruined by a 1948 earthquake, but now restored. One of the few belfries in the country that stands apart from the church. Available transport – jeepney.
  • Guimbal Watchtower - 29 km. southwest of Iloilo City proper; called "bantayan: built to warn the people of pirates. Available transport – jeepney.
  • Old Buildings at Downtown Area (Downtown Iloilo) - J.M. Basa St. or Calle Real boasts of buildings that date back during the Spanish and American colonial periods. Available transport - jeepney.
  • Sicogon Island - A 1,104 hectare white sand palm-fringed island gradually sloping down to some 350 feet beyond the shoreline; 5 km. from the town proper of Estancia, 137 km. northeast of Iloilo City. Isla de Gigantes - where 15th century burial caves are still found. One cave has a stone elephant and a natural swimming pool; 12 km. east of Estancia.
  • Nadsadjan Falls - Located in Igbaras, 39.9 km. southwest of Iloilo City; a 100-foot high falls dropping on a giant cauldron-like natural swimming pool.
  • Balbagon (Carles, Iloilo) - A flat, palm-fringed island with white sand near Gigante
  • Concepcion's Islands - there are many island attractions of the municipality but the notables were Agho Island (Concepcion, Iloilo) - The home of Tabon birds that lay oversized eggs and Baliguian Island (Concepcion) - A coral reef rising only a few feet above sea level with its lighthouse and beach of white corals and shells. Contact local tourism office for more infos.
  • Ajuy - see Marbuena Island Resort and a lighthouse in Calabazas Island. Enjoy its white sand beaches and azure waters to swim. Island hopping to the islands are available for arrangement.
There are so many places to see in Iloilo one blog entry is not enough to enumerate them all from its different municipalities. Those I have gathered were the famous ones to see. It is also as of this time that I learned a lot of places of attraction in Iloilo. There are more to explore in Iloilo so visit Explore Iloilo. The site is so helpful in learning all the attractions of the province and what Iloilo is all about.

Miag-ao Church - a  UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Calle Real in Iloilo City downtown.
Iloilo's famous site are its churches. The notable ones were the Jaro, Molo and Miag-ao Churches. A trip to Iloilo is incomplete without seeing this beautful architectural sight and historical churches. It is also a perfect time to pray and reflect for this Holy Week season. Miagao Church - is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The Aztec-Baroque inspired church with Filipino botanicals used to carved on the facade. It is known for its intricate facade and pyramidal bell towers. The church was used as a fortress during the olden days. It is a massive structure built of yellowish Limestones.

If Cebu is known for its Sinulog Festival, then Iloilo is popular for its Dinagyang Festival. The Dinagyang is a religious and cultural festival held on the fourth Sunday of January, or right after the Sinulog In Cebu and the Ati-Atihan in Aklan. It is held both to honor the Santo Niño and to celebrate the arrival on Panay of Malay settlers and the subsequent selling of the island to them by the Atis. Various festivals in different Iloilo municapalities are held in various dates making Iloilo known also for its festivals. Recently, Paraw Regatta Festival is gaining attention. The festival centers mainly among seafarers race on colorful sailboatsa called Paraw in the straits between Guimaras and Iloilo City.

Dinagyang Festival.
Paraw Regatta Festival.

Dining in the city is not a problem in Iloilo as numerous restaurants and coffee shops have sprout in the city. The Avenue - one of Iloilo's newest dining and entertainment strip at Pison Complex has some of best restaurants and food shop in the city. Notable were Amalfi Cucina Italia, Nothing but Desserts, Mojave Grill and Steakhouse, Bauhinia Filipino Cuisine and Coffee Break. The Avenue belongs to a complex fondly called Smallville where other restaurants and nightspots complex like Red Square, Mo2, Riverside Boardwalk and Shipwreck. Smallville is a popular night spot in Iloilo where Ilonggos and visitors go to eat, drink, and spend a fun night out in the city. The term Smallville refers to the original row of restaurants, bars, and clubs but due to several expansions in the area, it now refers to the whole series of buildings formally (but less popularly) known as Pison Complex. Smallville is located along Benigno Aquino Ave. (more commonly known as Diversion Road), in Mandurriao District.

Batchoy - a favorite dish in Iloilo.
Butterscotch - Iloilo's yummy treat.
My trip to Iloilo would not be complete without bringing home its yummy sweet treats like Biscocho (baked-toasted bread with sweet sugar or garlic spread over), Barquillos (or biscuit rolls like tubes with holes are also sweet and perfect for ice creams), Piyaya (flaten-like hopia with mongo spread inside but ube filled were more delicious for me) and Butterscotch (my favorite Ilonggo treat perfect as dessert. It is a sweet caramel with butter content brownie-like small piece). All these ultimate pasalubongs from Iloilo are available in all chains of Biscocho Haus - an establish Ilonggo pasalubong house in the province. And don't forget to taste the famous Ilonggo soup - Batchoy. It is made of noodles with vegetables, pork organs and cracklings (chicharon), shrimp, beef and chicken. The noodle soup originated from the district of La Paz in Iloilo City that's why it also refers as "La Paz Batchoy"

I had a chance to visit Guimaras on my trip to Iloilo in 1998 but it was only a brief period with my Ilongga grandmother. I heard that Guimaras is famous for its resort beaches and mangoes - the best produced in the country. The island once dependent to Iloilo is now a separate province and famous for sidetrips when visiting Iloilo. If given a chance, I would like to visit this place again and explore it islands.  

I do hope that in the near future, I'll be able to explore the wonders of Iloilo for I know that it has greats sites to discover for every visitors. It hidden gems are just waiting to be discovered.

RetroTravel: Iloilo is a RetroTravel series and a recollection of my trips to Iloilo last May 10-12, 1999 and April 10-12, 2008. In Summer 2008, Iloilo was one of my sidetrip on our way  to Boracay and made it a jump point to the fame island via 6 hour bus drive to Caticlan. Some photos are credited to user - hn. 

Explore Iloilo and the rest of Panay Island by visiting Explore Iloilo.


  1. nice! beaches and islands, and guimaras! i've always wanted to go there. that museum for sure is.. different!

  2. You might also want to try the northern part of ILoilo next time you travel there --- Carles in particular has some fascinating islands and sand bars you can check out! You can stay at Carles Shangri-La Family Resort to rent out their boat for an island hopping adventure around the islands.

  3. Thanks for the comment... I'm wondering how far is Carles from Iloilo City.. I really would like to try visiting it.

  4. Carles is about 3-4 hours from Iloilo City. You can take a van or bus to Balasan or Carles directly. Balasan is about 20 mins away from Carles and has jeepneys and small vans going toward Carles.

    Check out Carles Shangri-La's blog on ways to get there:


  6. thanks for the info urbanfaerie! and for the place to stay at Carles.

  7. Iloilo truly has a lot to offer... I myself need to do some more exploring. Great article!

  8. Iloilo is a really nice place to visit! such place exudes with beauty in their culture, food and lifestyle.

  9. Paraw Regatta Festival! I would love to see this!


All comments and reactions are highly appreciated.

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