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travel & lifestyle blog by ruth dela cruz
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Travel: 7 Reasons Why I Fell in Love with Iloilo, Philippines

February 13, 2022
woman in red dress fell in love in Iloilo

When you think of Philippine travel destinations, beautiful beach spots like Boracay, Siargao, and Cebu always come to mind. But at the heart of the Philippines, is the beautiful Panay Island that is composed of Iloilo, Antique, Capiz, and Aklan provinces. Indeed, Boracay Island being geographically part of Aklan is part of Panay Island.

Panay Island is one interesting destination that proves how beautiful our country is – intact culture, scenic views, and beautiful life underwater. Early this year, I was invited to travel to Panay Island with Tourism Promotions Board, and on its first run, we flew to Panay Island. Our #PTIPPanayIsland adventure started in Iloilo.

Photo of Iloilo Capitol Building

For Philippine travel requirements and tips, check out this blog: Traveling in the New Normal

On our way to the airport for our early flight to Iloilo, my friends are already talking about what food to eat as soon as we landed in Iloilo. I know friends who have chosen Iloilo as their new home, and I couldn’t wait to discover the life and adventure it has to offer. Being a first-time traveler to Iloilo, I prepared myself for the sights, sounds, and flavors of Iloilo.

If Iloilo is not yet on your travel bucket list, check out these reasons why Iloilo should be your next Philippine Travel destination:

1. Heritage Mansions, Ancestral Homes and Old Churches

Iloilo is one of the oldest cities in the Philippines, and one of the most important cities (next to Manila) in the Spanish era. It has become the textile capital and sugar exporter leader to United States, Australia and England during those years.

Ancestral Home in Iloilo

We passed by many interesting homes and beautiful mansions on our way to the hospital (for our SWAB Testing upon our arrival). I wish we had the time to take a walking tour around, but we had to comply with LGU requirements. I personally enjoy touring old mansions and churches, and just admire the architecture. I could imagine how grand and beautiful Iloilo was during the old times. Our tour guide throw in a few nice trivia about the different mansions, including the schools where prominent personalities had studied. I won’t spoil the fun for you, you have to book a trip to Iloilo. You can also check out this site which lists heritage mansions in Iloilo.

2. Culinary Destination

When a local dish becomes one of the most famous soups in the country (and was even made into an instant cup meal), we can say that it is indeed delicious, and we have to taste the real deal. Batchoy is a hearty soup made with chicken, pork or beef stock topped with pork cracklings, fried garlic, and a raw egg.

Batchoy and Roberto’s Siopao for merienda

I am taking my friend’s recommendation of the best Batchoy, which you can find in the public market (Netong’s).

My Ilongga friends recommended that I also eat at Tatoy’s Manukan for the best fried chicken experience in Iloilo, and enjoy Roberto’s Siopao which is good even without sauce. The next time I visit Iloilo, I would want to do a Food Tour, who is joining me? You may also check out my friend’s blog about Ilonggo Dishes that you must try.

A photo of local delicacies in Iloilo

You can also feast on fresh seafood that you can enjoy with their very own signature mix of vinegar dip (more about island hopping experience on the next blog). I obviously gained a lot during this trip, and I am taking home the “gains” as part of a beautiful travel memory.

A photo of woman in the beach holding seafood platter

3. Progressive City

I am so impressed by how Iloilo transformed the old city into one beautiful and progressive one while saving its heritage buildings. Some observations during our land travel:

A photo of buildings in Iloilo City
  • wide roads – easy to go around, you don’t need to worry about being stuck in traffic
  • bike-friendly city – although I have yet to learn how to bike, it is good to know that biker friends would feel safe to go around Iloilo City
  • beautiful esplanades – the Iloilo River Esplanade is one of the tourism projects of the city, and it is so beautiful. I am quite surprised to know we have something so clean and green spot such as Iloilo River Esplanade. I wish I had the time to explore and take photos.

4. Colorful Festival and Rich Culture

We visited different tourist destinations in Iloilo and one thing that really captured my interest is how they still practice traditions and rituals, like the welcome dance to ward off bad elements. The beauty of such traditions is that they are performed by the indigenous people of the province. They also gave us “Carmen” which serves as protection.

Welcome dance ritual performed by local Aeta Community and “carmen” given to protect us during our trip

Although I am not Catholic, I appreciate and respect the cultural heritage and festivities in our country. Dinagyang Festival is celebrated on the 4th Sunday of January, and the catchy “Hala, Bira” drumbeat welcomed us in our visits to hotels and tourists destinations.

5. Century-Old Art of Weaving, Hablon

The century-old art of hand-weaving fabric called Hablon was born in Miagao, Iloilo. “Hablon” in Hiligaynon means “to weave”. In Iloilo, you can visit the weaving houses and be amazed by the beautiful fabric pieces that are made of pina, abaca, and cotton. You can even buy souvenirs or gifts from a variety of designs and colors.

A woman wearving fabric in Hablon in Iloilo Philippines
Hablon Fabric
A blogger trying out hand weaving hablon in Iloilo

I only have high respect for women and locals who developed such skills in weaving beautiful patterns and pieces that can now be incorporated into modern pieces.

6. Robusta Coffee, Kape Nagpana

For coffee lovers like me, Iloilo has a beautiful gem that is found in Baratoc, Viejo – the Kape Nagpana. It is a home of Kape Nagpana, formely known as Kape Miro. Kape Nagpana offers Robusta Coffee which is abundant in the forest land.

Robusta Coffee is commonly grown in Brazil and Vietnam, that is why it is a treat for coffee lovers like me to have a taste of Robusta Coffee. It has higher caffeine content, and bitter taste making it perfect for espresso blends. When I extracted it from my espresso machine, it even formed a heart-shaped crema. A beautiful memory from our trip to the indigenous community.

7. Gigantes Islands

The Gigantes Islands is a chain of islands in the Western Visayas, which is in the municipality of Carles, Iloilo, Philippines.

A little history of the island, it was named Gigantes after locals discovered gigantic sets of human bones inside a cave. Then, of course, there is a folklore story about a giant who fell in love with a local maiden (more on a separate post).

Woman on top of cliff in Cabugao Gamay in Gigantes Island

Adding as a bonus entry to my list is the Friendly and Helpful Ilonggos. They always remind us that Ilonggo refers to the people of Iloilo, while Hiligaynon is the local dialect. Everyone we met on the trip seemed so happy, cherry, and helpful – from local contacts, tour guides, and boatmen. I felt so secure to be traveling with people who are good at what they are doing. I am happy that local tourist destinations are opening again, giving livelihood to the locals.

Iloilo is truly a beautiful destination. I am amazed at how it manages sustainable tourism by building modern infrastructures for investors while ensuring the province’s rich culture and heritage spots are well taken care of and celebrated. I cannot wait to visit Iloilo again and catch up with my friends and find more reasons to fall in love with “The City of Love”.

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