12 Free Things to do in Iloilo City

In Iloilo for Dinagyang? Here are twelve things to do while there--and none of them cost a thing!

January 20, 2012


Hunt for authentic antiques at the different antique shops in Iloilo. There are various collections of Philippine colonial sculptures, wood, stone, and ivory saints, Chinese porcelain wares and other artifacts at reasonable prices. Try to strike a bargain.


In Arevalo District, see how many women weavers daintily operate early Spanish era looms to make delicate jusi, piña and hablon fabrics of elegant designs. Buy finished products at Sinamay Dealer near Arevalo Plaza. These will be conservation pieces at home.


Savor the best in local and seafood cuisine at the wide array of restaurants along Arevalo District's shoreline. Try Breakthrough, Tatoy's Manokan or Villa Regatta, you'll be glad you did! Not far away from the beach, be charmed by flower gardens ornamenting homes and means of livelihood. Seeing the flowers and their grower can be both rewarding experiences.

Photo by Abet Lagula


Visit the repository of Iloilo's cultural heritage and experience being brought several centuries back in time. View exhibits of scientifically-dated fossils, shells, rocks, Stone Age flake tools, native pottery, ornamented teeth among others all indicating the age of Panay Island. Hulot Aninipay, changing gallery for local, national and international art, awaits those who love to view or buy contemporary pieces.


Spot bargains in shops housed in old buildings at Calle Real (JM Basa St.), where Philippine national hero, Dr. Jose Rizal on his way to manila from his exile in Dapitan bought a hat in 1896. These buildings survivors of the ravages of time and war, have retained the unique characters of Iloilo as a gracious city. Enjoy shopping at several modern stores and malls in the City Proper and at La Paz and Mandurriao districts. Hunt for souvenirs at the Ilonggo Producers Association showroom for a wide selection of native crafts, giftwares, fashion accessories, delicacies, garments, etc. Test haggling skills for native bags and housewares sold at the Central Market area where fruits in season are also available.


On Sundays and special occasions, partake of the excitement of cockfighting, a sport well-known to the Filipinos, where fortunes can change hands overnight at the Iloilo Coliseum. Physical fitness enthusiasts may drop by Iloilo Sports Complex to swim, jog or play tennis, basketball or simply catch up on ongoing sports competition. Contact the Iloilo Mountain Bike Association c/o Department of Tourism for a weekend of tour biking in Guimaras along scenic trails and mango orchards and coconut plantation, fish and prawn farms, caves and white-sand beach. Guimaras is famous for graded dirt roads, single-track trails and unspoiled beauty. Play golf or simply watch others play at the Iloilo Golf and Country Club, the Philippines oldest golf course located in Sta. Barbara, Iloilo.


Coordinate with school authorities and experience a memorable time visiting Iloilo City's old but charming school campuses founded in late 19th to 20th centuries. Colegio de San Jose founded in 1872 is the oldest educational institution in the province. Iloilo National High School established in 1902 is the first provincial public high school in the country. University of San Agustin was founded in 1904 and made a concentration camp by the Japanese in 1941. Central Philippine University was founded by the Americans in 1905. In the same year, the Americans also founded Baluarte Elementary school, the oldest public elementary school in the country. The University of the Philippines in the Visayas used to be the City Hall of Iloilo.


Capture the aura of the old Iloilo, the second oldest Spanish settlement in the Philippines, in its opulent churches. Coral rock Molo Church built in 1831 was made as an evacuation center of the civilians during WWII. Jaro Cathedral, finished in 1874 was where one of the famous national heroes, Graciano Lopez-Jaena, was baptized. Its belfry is one of the few in the Philippines that stands apart from the church. Saint Vincent Ferrer Seminary is the fifth and the last seminary founded during the Spanish regime in the Philippines.


In La Paz District, appreciate bamboos made into souvenir items for export. Observe how religious images, toys, decors and lampshades are fashioned from bamboo under the watchful supervision of Carmelite Sisters who run the CM Bamboocraft Center. At El 98 St. near the Jaro Market, dining set, living room set, cabinets, beds all made of bamboo are on display and sale. Visit the Ilonggo Producers Association Trade Pavillion at Gen. Luna St., for convenient shopping.


Taste and take home famous delicacies like pinasugbo (banana brittle), barquillos (local wafer), and biscocho (buttered toasted bread) from Jaro district, hojaldres, bañadas, kinihad among others are baked and sold fresh at Panaderia de Molo and Biscocho Haus. You should not miss La Paz Batchoy and Pancit Molo, local noodle dishes served in most restaurants in Iloilo City.


Enjoy local colors and lower prices at the market of each of the six districts of the city. The City Proper has two markets: the Supermarket and the Central Market where tropical fruits, fresh vegetables and fish are available. The most popular market is the Jaro Thursday Market where people from nearby provinces and other parts of Panay Island go to buy and sell different products. Jaro Market has been famous since the early 19th century and has retained its popularity not only in Iloilo City but in the whole Western Visayas.

Photo by Abet Lagula


View the picturesque island province of Guimaras from historic Fort San Pedro built by the Spaniards in 1600s, attacked by Dutch British, Americans and Japanese troops. Muelle Loney, Iloilo City's waterfront, was named after Nicholas Loney, British Vice Consul and father of the Sugar Industry in Panay and Negros. Considered as one of the safest harbors in the country, this area accommodates both foreign and inter-island vessels.

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