I have been to Iloilo several times which I consider it as my second home province since my father is a pure bred Ilonggo but I never had a chance to fully explore this underrated province when it comes to tourism purposes. Most people would think that Iloilo is a province for commerce, business, agricultural and industrial development. Only a few people would think that it is a province for tourist to explore. Often, people that would do their vacation there because it is either that is their home province or they have relatives living there just like what we normally do in my several trips to Iloilo.
|One of the fame landmarks of Iloilo - Molo Church|
It was a moment of excitement for my return to Iloilo after four years! I’m returning to the province to explore its wonderful sights, places and cuisines which I did not enjoyed in my previous trips there. My family usually stays at my grandmother’s house in Pototan whenever we visit them. So my latest visit to Iloilo is really something memorable.
|First glance of Iloilo province in the air...|
Iloilo City is the jump point to explore Iloilo province. The city is a historical city rich in culture and heritages. I think this is the core of the province’s history and economic progress where most of the financial centers, businesses and establishments are located. In Iloilo City alone, I get to experience the rich heritage of Western Visayas when it comes to history, sights and culture of Ilonggo people. The city has wide choices of mass transportation to explore it. From buses, jeepneys, taxis, tricycles up to pedicabs, I tried it all just to discover Iloilo City’s sights and cuisines.
|Welcome back to Iloilo after 4 years!|
|An grand ad welcome at Iloilo Airport.|
It was 11 in the morning when we reached SM City Iloilo in Mandurriao district from the airport in Santa Barbara. It was a good thing that prior to my arrival I pre-arranges to meet my Iloilo resident aunt who will accompany us for this trip with my sister and cousin. When we met at SM City Iloilo we engaged into an almost never-ending conversation since I haven’t seen my aunt for a long time. While we continue our conversation and stories, I and my travel companions decided to take a lunch first to have energy before exploring the city.
|The facade of Jaro Church.|
|Jaro Belfry just across the church.|
Even though it was one hot afternoon, I proceeded with the exploration of Iloilo City. We started off with one of the famous religious landmark that is near in Mandurriao – Jaro Church, also known as Jaro Cathedral or Church of St. Elizabeth of Hungary. It was built in 1864, the year the Jaro district was named a diocese by Pope Pius the IX, by order of His Grace Mariano Cuartero, first bishop of Jaro. The cathedral’s style is basically Baroque, with the addition of Gothic elements over many renovations.
As I approach Jaro Cathedral, I can’t help but noticed the church’s belfry located on the plaza park on the opposite street across the church. I can clearly observe how old the ruins were dating back through the Spanish colonization period. I learned that Jaro Belfry is one of the few belfries in the country that stands apart from the church. It was ruined by 1948 earthquake and restored by the Iloilo City Government during the last decade of the 1900s. Though, it’s built is already old, the ruin still looks sturdy and hard. Its location makes a unique landmark within the Jaro plaza park with its towering height that attracts any Jaro district visitor.
|The interior of "masculine church" - Jaro Cathdral.|
|Mother and child: Jaro Church entrance door with the opposite view of Jaro Belfry across the street.|
|Colorful prayer candles for Our Lady of the Candles.|
We took a jeepney to Bonifacio Drive to the province’s repository of cultural heritage - Museo Iloilo. A visit to this prime museum of the city leads us to experiencing being bought back century years ago. Inside were exhibits of scientifically-dated fossils, shells, rocks, native potteries and tools that indicate the arrival of civilization and age of Panay Island. Also inside the museum were local artifacts, religious images and antique relics and jewelries preserved from the Spanish period of colonization. One of the delightful sections of Museo Iloilo is the art gallery section where contemporary art paintings by Ilonggo artists are on display. The painting viewing was a great addition to the museum but I wished the curator or the city government would expand the museum to give more room for more historical artifacts and include a cover of the whole heritage of Western Visayas inside the museum.
I’ve learned that Museo Iloilo is the first gov’t sponsored museum outside Metro Manila and was designed by Ilongo architect Sergio Penasales. Museo Iloilo’s permanent exhibit covers the cultural history of Western Visayas from prehistory to contemporary history. Museo Iloilo is found in Bonifacio Drive, just beside the Iloilo Provincial Capitol and the Department of Tourism Regional Office.
|Art gallery section of Museo Iloilo.|
|One of the untitled art inside Museo Iloilo.|
The church is distinctly characterized with gray-black covering walled bricks with imposing two bell towers with pointed roofs. Inside the church were predominantly white painted walls, columns and ceilings with grey color accents. I also noticed the 16 women saint images adorned the lining hall of the church towards the altar. This has made the church dubbed as a “feminine chruch” opposite of Jaro Church as a masculine church. The altar of Molo Church is grandly lit with gold ornaments and designs with various images where the centerpiece in the retablo is the image of Sta. Ana, the patron saint of Molo.. After only a few minutes of stay in the church, me and my travel companions decided to leave the church as there is a mass is on-going inside.
|Molo Chruch's elegant interiors.|
Miag-ao Church is the most beautiful church I have been in Iloilo. This is probably its unique architectural character and exquisite bas-relief that depicts images of ordinary life of Filipinos during the country’s Spanish colonization period. Constructed more than two hundred years ago in the year 1797, the Miag-ao Church stands as a living legacy of the culture and way of life of the people of Miag-ao centuries ago. The artistic facade of the church is decorated with a relief sculpture of St. Christopher carrying the Christ child amidst coconut, papaya and guava shrubs. A large stone image of St. Thomas of Villanueva, parish patron saint, dominates the center. Carved life-size statues of the Pope and St. Henry with their coat-of-arms above them flank the main entrance. Supporting the facade are the twin belfries, one towering two-storeys and the other three-storeys high.
|The side area of Miag-ao Church.|
When in Iloilo, don’t miss to try Iloilo’s culinary pride and must-try cuisine, the La Paz Batchoy. A local noodle dish made of scissored noodles and pork innards simmered in both is perfect either for afternoon merienda or breakfast treat. I was able to try a bowl of La Paz Batchoy at Ted’s La Paz Batchoy branch in Robinson’s Place Iloilo mall before we enroute to Concepcion. Eating a bowl of La Paz Batchoy is like eating a whole bowl of Iloilo cuisine! It was heavenly delicious with all the spices, broth and meat flavour! Just take cautioned and moderately in eating La Paz Batchoy because of it has high cholesterol content.
While I was in Guimaras, I got a sample of Pancit Molo, a soup with spiced pork and chicken meatballs daintily wrapped in thin dough, boiled in chicken–pork broth. It is also another must-try cuisine when in Iloilo which I surprisingly like it on my first taste! You’ll appreciate the deliciousness of the soup when served warm. Both Ilonggo dishes are also served in other specialty restaurants around Iloilo City.
|La Paz Batchoy: Namit gid!|
|Puto: perfect partner for La Paz Batchoy!|
|Around Iloilo City.|
One of best time to visit the province is probably during its fame Dinagyang and Paraw Regatta Festival. Dinagyang Festival is one of the grandest fiestas in the province and in the country that is held both to honor the Santo Nino and to celebrate the arrival on Panay of Malay settlers and the subsequent selling of the island to them by the Atis. The festival is Ilonggo’s pride for showcasing its rich culture and heritage. While Paraw Regatta Festival is a race of colourful sailboats called Paraws in the straits between Guimaras Island and the city of Iloilo held every third weekend of February.
It was indeed four years has passed since my visit to the province. Yet, Iloilo did not change and remain idyllic and charming with friendly Ilonggos that made my stay enjoyable and comfortable. I enjoy exploring Iloilo and glad to prove that there’s more to this underrated province when it comes to places and sights to visit. I am also glad to discover and explore the historical Iloilo City that uniquely offers Ilonggo’s rich heritage, culture and daily life. A four year return is indeed worthy! I experience the best of Western Visayas first in Iloilo – the heart of the Philippines!
Experience Western Visayas first in Iloilo is a part of my Iloilo blog series of the same title where I share my travel experiences in exploring Iloilo City after 4 years since my previous visit last July 9-11, 2012. Some information are credited to Exlopre Iloilo - one of my guide and information source for this Iloilo trip.