Images and Text by CEDIE SALIDO
Promising—that’s how you can describe Iloilo. Ilonggos are known for their malambing accent, for its rich tradition of celebrating the Dinagyang Festival, and for their absolutely delicious batchoy. Just an hour by plane from Manila, the distinct flavors of Iloilo are easy access. This summer, take time to visit this Visayan wonder to see its beauty and to experience the richness of its culture.
Iloilo has become a perfect example of work-life balance—a progressive island that celebrates tradition while moving forward to a brighter future.
Here are some of the things worth experiencing in the city.
A CONVENTION OF OPPORTUNITY
Inside Megaworld’s Iloilo Business Park, located at the Mandurriao district, is the Iloilo Convention Center (ICC). Opened in 2015 for the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) Summit, the ICC now serves as a venue for opportunities.
The biggest convention center in Visayas and Mindanao, the IBP can host a huge number of people. It’s a convention of opportunities because, whenever big events are held at the ICC—food expos, concerts, business conferences—participants become instant tourists in Iloilo. After every official function, participants can enjoy the rest of their time exploring the city. They can definitely stay in either of the two luxurious hotels within the IBP—Richmonde Hotel Iloilo and Courtyard by Marriott Iloilo.
ART IN THE CITY
Also within the IBP is the Iloilo Museum of Contemporary Art or ILOMOCA, home to the finest art from the region. Currently on the ground floor is the Hulot gallery, featuring Ilonggo artists who won local and international recognition. On the second floor, there’s a fascinating piece by Cezar Arro called Temper. When observed closely, it is a beautiful abstract but it hides an image of woman that’s only reveals herself when the painting is viewed from a distance. To add an element of intrigue, try to take a photo of it then look at in reverse. Tell us what you see!
Aside from ILOMOCA, there is also the Iloilo Museum of Economic History, which opened earlier this year. This museum is in a building that previously served as a government office, built during the colonial period.
CAMINA BALAY NGA BATO
An equally beautifully showcase of Ilonggo art can be found in the many old houses of the city. One of these intricately designed homes is Camina Balay Nga Bato, also known as a house by the river, built in 1863. Camina Balay Nga Bato is considered an important cultural property by the National Museum because of its preserved architectural design and historical value.
If you have more time to explore, try to immerse yourself in nature and to also help you reflect this Lenten season. Garin Farm is perfect for this, with activities that include a farm tour and pilgrimage. Upon entering the farm, you will see a passageway crawling with flowers. Like a scene from Alice in Wonderland or from Mary and the Secret Garden, the passage leads to a whole new world. At the end of the tunnel is a long, wide staircase playfully called “the stairway to heaven,” as it leads up to the Stations of the Cross. At the very top, enjoy a unique view of Iloilo City while being surrounded by beautiful statues of angels.
CHURCHES IN ILOILO
Customary during lent is the Visita Iglesia, and Iloilo is one of the best cities to undertake this religious journey. Among the churches to visit is Our Lady of Candles National Shrine. Also known as the Jaro Metropolitan Cathedral, it’s a church with all-male saints yet it is also the home of the patroness of Western Visayas, Señora de la Candelaria. Many believe that Señora de Candelaria is miraculous. Legend has it that her image moves early in the morning to bathe her son. Other locals claim that they have seen how, through the years, the statue has grown taller. When Pope John Paul II visited Iloilo in 1981, he declared her as the patroness of Western Visayas.
Jaro Cathedral is among the few Spanish churches in the country with a separate belfry. You can find it right across the national highway situated in Jaro Plaza.
A bit south of the city is Miag-ao Church. What sets it apart from other churches is its intricately detailed fa- çade. Built in 1797, the church served as a shield for people against Moro raiders. According to the UNESCO, which declared the church a heritage site, Miag-ao is among the finest examples of a baroque church.
WEAVING THROUGH CULTURE
From Miag-ao comes the hablon. From the Hiligaynon term habol, which means hand weaving, this fabric is famous for its artistic combination of colors and intricate details. When you visit a hablon weaver you’ll appreciate every single piece and the process by which it is made. Each fabric is an artwork woven with labor and love. It takes practice, diligence, and patience to create even the simplest design. Most take days, even weeks, to be completed.
FARM TO TABLE
Another restaurant we visited is chef Pauline Gorriceta-Banusing’s Farm to Table in IBP. It’s the perfect place for the health conscious. Chef Pauline grew up eating organic and fresh ingredients served by her father, an agriculturist and a farmer. Her restaurant replicates her experience growing up in her father’s farm and kitchen.
SWEETS AND TREATS
Before leaving Iloilo, make sure you have time to buy pasalubong. If you stay at Richmond Hotel Iloilo, you can take their famous ensaymada to bring back home with you as gift to family or friends. If you are not fond of ensaymada, don’t worry. There are lots of other sweet treats that are distinct to Iloilo that you can choose from. You can visit the original Biscocho Haus located in Jaro to pick up some of these.
All of these endless explorations wouldn’t possible unless you plan well your visit. Having a good partner such as Southwest Travel and Tours will help you manage your trip to get the most out of your time. Equally the same with the airlines of your choice, good thing Cebu Pacific got you covered with several good deals, surely you have no more excuses not to visit Iloilo.
Tags: Biscocho Haus, CAMINA BALAY NGA BATO, Cebu Pacific, Cedie Salido, Farm to Table, Garin Farm, hablon, Hiligaynon, Iloilo, Iloilo Convention Center, Iloilo Museum of Contemporary Art, Miag-ao Church, Señora de Candelaria, Southwest Travel and Tours