I have never been to Iloilo but I consider it as my second home province since my mother is a pure bred Ilongga and today is my chance to fully explore this underrated province when it comes to tourism and vacation purposes. For our second day in Ilo-ilo we went to Banate. 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 when we visits Iloilo.
It was a moment of excitement to be able to see Iloilo after eon years! I’m visiting this province to explore its wonderful sights, places and cuisines which I did enjoyed in my trip here. So my latest visit to Iloilo is really something memorable.
Iloilo City is the jump point to explore Iloilo province. The city is a historical city rich in culture and heritages. 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. Another thing that made Iloilo distinct is the appearance of their jeepneys. They sure have pretty rides here! And comfortable too!
After almost an hour and a half of ride we reached my relatives home! Yeyyy! :) It was a good thing that prior to our arrival my mom pre-arranges to meet my Iloilo resident aunt who will accompany us for this trip. When we met, we engaged into an almost never-ending conversation since I haven’t seen my aunties, uncles and cousins for a long time.
Everything is less expensive, and everyone is extra friendly and polite! Or I guess there’s just something about the Ilonggo language that makes people feel like it. Its very malambing, and they somewhat sound like they’re singing if you’re like me who does understand a little from the language.
Then afterwards, even though it was one hot afternoon, we proceeded with the exploration of Iloilo City. Iloilo is predominantly Catholic and is known for its old churches. The churches are greatly influenced by European architecture. It was impressive on how the Ilonggos were able to preserve these churches.
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. It is a sight not to be missed when in Iloilo City. Today, the cathedral is also known as the Nuestra Señora de la Candelaria (Our Lady of Candles).
As I approach Jaro Cathedral, I can’t help but noticed the church’s belfry (Bell Tower) unusually is located across a busy street on the Jaro Plaza. Such construction arrangement is rare in the Philippines. Usually the Churches and their belfries are built adjacent to each other, or at least they are located on the same plot of land. This is a remnant of an older building that collapsed during an earthquake. 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. 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. Since the church is close when we go there I wasn’t able to witness the design and structures inside of the church, maybe in our next vacation I’ll visit it again. I looked back at the main entrance area where I noticed the colorful prayer candles on the stands that have caught my attention. And I think each color of these prayer candles is of different prayer purposes. All I know pink is for love life and blue is for career.
Jaro Cathedral is grand as it is but it serves its purpose – a solemn place to pray and communicate with the divine creator. The church is one of the great landmarks of the city and much more of the district of Jaro.
Cathedral is about 18 kilometers south of Iloilo International Airport. From Iloilo International Airport you can take a van that cost Php50 per passenger. You can also board a tricycle or jeepney bound for the area, and you just need to kindly inform the driver to take you to the belfry. It is near the Jaro Plaza, so you can use that place as a landmark. The cost of a jeepney ride by the way is only Php7.50.
Of course, don’t forget to leave Jaro without dropping by at a branch of Bischocho’s Haus. Original Biscocho Haus is one of the famous bakeshop in Iloilo. We did our pasalubong hunting here which is a great way to sample unique Ilonggo delicacies like barquillos (local wafer), butterscotch, pinasugbo (banana brittle), piyaya (flat unleavened bread filled with mozcovado (raw) sugar), barquiron (small barquillos with sweetened powder inside), bañadas (sugar-glazed cookie) and biscocho (buttered toasted bread and some with dry sweet condensed milk filled topping), of course! They can even put it all in a box for you to make sure that all the yummy treats stay in its original condition and can withstand the airplane transport.
Tired from all the walking and eating last night? Back to Sarabia Manor Hotel to rest for the night because of our flight back to Manila the next day. You can sleep all you want in your hotel room on your last day. Anyway, usual check out time in hotels is still at 12:00 noon. Just be sure all your luggages are already good to go and you catch your flight back to Manila on time. I recommend that you choose a noon or afternoon flight for you to still catch some rest.
I hope you guys can visit this place soon. I personally wasn’t able to really immerse myself in the tourist spots there, because of a very tight itinerary, so I will definitely be back to this part of the Philippines, but I could just imagine how much more pretty pictures I could take if I were able to do so. However, 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. I experience the best of Western Visayas first in Iloilo – the heart of the Philippines!
Lastly, bid adieu to Iloilo, “The Heart of the Philippines”.