It's the underrated local destination you need to put on this year's travel list.
Big things are brewing down south in Iloilo. With the recent urban development of this Visayan destination, Iloilo City has become a place where town meets country. Pristine beaches, contemporary structures, and old-world architecture all co-exist in one place. Thinking of paying a visit? Here's a handy guide on what you can include in your itinerary.
What to See
Iloilo Museum of Contemporary Art
Iloilo’s first and only museum for contemporary art in the city, the Iloilo Museum of Contemporary Art (ILOMOCA) opened in 2018 and has since housed and highlighted artwork by locals of the Visayas and Mindanao. The game-changing three-story museum contains five exhibition spaces and a museum shop. Exhibits are a mix of rotating shows and permanent collections.
Casa de Emperador Building, Festive Walk Parade, Iloilo Business Park, Mandurriao, Iloilo
If your stay permits you to visit just one historic place of worship, then make it the Jaro Cathedral. The structure was built in 1864 and is best known for its Baroque features. Inside, a hauntingly beautiful collection of statues of religious figures line the walls. One such figure is the Nuestra Senora de la Candelaria, who allegedly grants miracles.
A bonus to this visit is the best-selling Balasan-style bibingka sold outside of the cathedral.
This stately home was built in the 1920s and belonged to Doña Petra Lacson, wife of Estanislao Yusay, before it was passed on to Iloilo governor Timoteo Consing Sr. After years of neglect, it reopened to the public in 2015 and hosts cultural events. Some floors now accommodate a coffee shop and a Kultura souvenir shop.
What to Do
Visit the Trappist Monastery in Guimaras
While famous for its mangoes, Gumairas is also known for the Trappist Monastery that turns its produce into take-home goodies. The holy place is a popular tourist destination for the bottled goods and snacks that the monks make themselves. Take your time to tour the grounds, which you will find exudes an extremely calming aura.
Escape to the islands of Gigantes
A three-hour drive and a short boat ride away from Iloilo City awaits the unspoiled beauty of the Gigantes Islands. This remote destination is paradise to adventure-seekers and they have a world to explore. Sandbars, lagoons, beaches, and climbing spots lay hidden among this group of islands.
Take a heritage tour
The city is teeming with heritage houses and age-old structures that are surprisingly well-preserved. Some of these architectural marvels have been incorporated into the city’s modern pulse, bringing life to business opportunities and tourist attractions. There’s the palatial Nelly’s Garden owned by Don Vicente Lopez and his family, Casa Mariquit, the former residence of vice president Fernando Lopez, and the Magdalena Jalandoni Mansion, which is now a museum. Luckily, a few agencies offer tours around the heritage block.
Where to Eat
Farm to Table
A relative newcomer to the Iloilo dining scene, Farm to Table is the brainchild of chef Pauline Gorriceta-Banusing. She makes it a point to work exclusively with ingredients she can source within close proximity of her restaurant, and this results to innovative dishes unique to Farm to table.
Netong’s La Paz Batchoy
The city is home to what is arguably the most prized batchoy in the country, and no other dining establishment perfects the delicacy quite like the iconic Netong’s. Egg noodles, pork, beef, egg, and chicharon come together in a filling savory soup.
Iloilo is also widely known for affordable and fresh seafood and for many, the seaside restaurant Breakthrough has become a dining institution. You mustn’t leave without trying the baked scallops, sizzling crabmeat, or your choice of crabs sautéed in butter and garlic.
Camiña Balay Nga Bato
History and food converge at the Camiña Balay Nga Bato, a 150-year-old house converted into a restaurant. The ground floor is dedicated to souvenirs and the sale of homemade goods, while one floor up, you have the living room and the dining area. It’s here that you get to try traditional Ilonggo recipes that stay true to form. Recommended orders include the pancit molo and a mug of thick tsokolate-eh.
20 Osmeña Street, Villa de Arevalo, Iloilo
When to Go
January is typically the best time to go to Iloilo City if you want to catch the cultural Dinagyang Festival, which is usually held on the fourth week of the first month. Another option is to watch colorful sails catch wind during the Paraw Regatta in February.
Where to Stay
Situated at the heart of Megaworld’s business hub, the Richmonde Hotel is a stone’s throw away from the best that the city has to offer—museums, heritage districts, and mall—making it the ideal place to set base when you find yourself in the city. The plush accommodations will make you feel more than welcome to make this space your home away from home. On your off-days, you can lounge poolside and grab a drink at the Zabana Bar, or kill time at the Bizbar.
Originally written by: Hannah Lazatin for www.townandcountry.ph