Iloilo is one of the most progressive provinces in Western Visayas. Its capital, Iloilo City, is the center for commerce and trade of the region. The province continues to grow as several industries continue to thrive. While business is good in Iloilo, its historic landmarks, glorious mountains, clear waters, and pristine shorelines continue to attract visitors every year.
Anybody who wishes to have a blissful retreat can visit the historic and beautiful churches in Iloilo. The Jaro Cathedral is a national shrine in the Philippines. Also known as the National Shrine of Our Lady of the Candles, it was built in 1864 but was destroyed by an earthquake in 1948. It was rebuilt and restored in 1956. On February 21, 1981, Jaro Cathedral was visited by Pope Saint John Paul II, where he canonically crowned a 400-year old Marian image of Our Lady of the Candles that was enshrined in the church.
The Miagao Church is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and one of the four Baroque Churches of the Philippines. It was built from 1787 to 1797, and had served as a fortress against invaders. The Molo Church, meanwhile, is the only gothic church outside of Manila. It was established in 1863, and is known as a feminist church because of the all-women congregation of saints on its main isle. The churches in Iloilo not only provide a glimpse of the role of religion in the life of its people but the impressive history of architecture and art of the province.
Gleaming white sand and clean, aqua waters await visitors at Gigantes Islands. This tropical paradise also has a myriad of activities to enjoy like swimming, boating, cliff-diving, and snorkeling.
Iloilo is just a plane ride away from major metropolitans like Metro Manila and Cebu City. If you're coming from Metro Manila, travel time takes about an hour. If you're coming from Cebu City, it's just a short 30-minute trip. Iloilo International Airport serves as your gateway to this amazing province in the Visayas region.
By Land and Sea
For those who are queasy when it comes to flights, you can take a bus instead. Bus lines like Philtranco and Dimple Star hop on board ferries to take you to Iloilo. Make sure to pick a comfortable seat since you'll be in transit for more or less 20 hours.
Another alternative would be to take a ferry. 2GO Travel's ferries depart Manila North Harbor for Iloilo's Port San Pedro at 9:00 AM every Tuesday and Friday, and at 9:00 PM every Thursday. Just like the bus ride to Iloilo, travel time also takes about 20 hours.
How to Get Around
Metered taxis also serve Iloilo City. It is a good alternative if you're not very familiar with how to get to your destination. Keep in mind that the flag down rate for taxis is at PHP 30.00.
Jeepneys are available in Iloilo for those who prefer public commute. Make sure to research or ask around to know which jeepney to take when trying to get to a certain destination.
For those who don't have enough cash for a cab, tricycles are also a good alternative when getting around in Iloilo. There are many varieties of tricycles in the city to accommodate travel groups of all sizes.
You'll need to ride a habal-habal or motorcycle if you want to explore certain areas around Iloilo, especially if you're touring Gigantes.
What to See
The 18th and 19th century buildings at J.M. Basa Street are testaments to the carefully preserved cultural heritage of Iloilo. Taking a walk along this heritage street, also known as Calle Real, will make you feel like you're being transported back in time.
Iloilo is also known for its centuries-old churches, making it a premier destination for Catholic pilgrims. The majestic Santo Tomas de Villanueva Parish Church in Miag-ao is one of the four Baroque Churches of the Philippines that were listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. It was established in the 18th century. Another notable church is the Parish of St. Anne in Molo district. It is considered as a "feminist church" as it features images of 16 female saints. More churches that you should definitely visit in Iloilo include San Joaquin Cathedral, Parish of St. William in Passi City, and Jaro Cathedral. Meanwhile, Jaro's 18th century belfry, which can be found just near the church, is considered as a historical gem.
Another landmark in San Joaquin is San Joaquin Cemetery and its Camposanto (chapel). This graveyard was built in the late 1900s.
Iloilo is also home to countless wonders of nature that will surely thrill nature lovers.
For beach bums, Gigantes Island is the place to be. You'll be able to swim in clear waters and lie down on fine, white sands as you work on your tan. Go island hopping to see captivating attractions like Bantigue Sandbar, Antonia Beach, Pawikan Cave, and Tangke Lagoon. Aside from Gigantes Island, Concepcion is another great destination for island hopping. With 16 islands, you'll surely have your fill of the sun, sand, and sea. Bulubadiangan Island, Pan de Acuzar Island, Agho Island, and Malangabang Island are just a few of Concepcion's frequently visited islands.
For those who prefer a cool destination to escape the scorching weather, head to the town of Leon where you'll find the mountainous area called Bucari. With its cool atmosphere and amazing pine tree forests, this area is hailed as the "Little Baguio of Iloilo." If you're fond of adventure, you can go trekking and camping while there. You can also enjoy the cool waters of Imoy Falls.
Meanwhile, for tourists looking to hike in Iloilo, you have two mountains to conquer: Mt. Napulak and Mt. Namaphag.
Next to its grand churches, the ancestral homes and mansions of Iloilo depict the rich history and culture of the province. Aside from their magnificent architecture and design, the artifacts and memorabilia found in these homes offer a glimpse into Iloilo's rich past.
The grandest of these homes can be found in Jaro, and among them is Nelly's Garden, considered the most elegant. Set in the Beaux-Arts form of architecture, this stately mansion was owned by Don Vicente Lopez and was named after his daughter, Nelly. Guided tours of this mansion are available for a fee if you want to experience for yourself its grandeur. Apart from Nelly's Garden, other Jaro ancestral homes that you should definitely visit include Casa Mariquit, Ledesma Mansion, and Vito-Lopez Mansion to name a few.
Meanwhile, an ancestral house in the district of Arevalo offers both a unique historical tour and a gastronomical experience. Sign up for a tour of the Camiña Balay Nga Bato where you can feast your eyes on abundant historical memorabilia and feast on yummy treats like pancit molo and their signature thick hot chocolate. But if your curiosity still isn't satisfied, swing by Museo Ilolio in Iloilo City and discover more priceless remnants of this province's past.
Another must-visit in Iloilo are the Miag-ao Rice Terraces. This attraction serves as a welcome change for those who want a break from the hustle and bustle of the city. You can also stroll along Iloilo River Esplanade or watch the beautiful sunset at Fort San Pedro.
Events and Festivals
Dinagyang Festival is one of Iloilo's grandest events. Held every fourth weekend of January, it is celebrated in honor of the Child Jesus and Iloilo's rich cultural heritage. This colorful event is highlighted by a fluvial procession along Iloilo River as well as lively street dances and parades.
Another event to look out for is Paraw Regatta, a festival and boat race where locals compete against each other using native sailboats called paraw. Other activities you can look forward to include a variety of competitions like the search for Miss Paraw Regatta. This vibrant celebration takes place every third weekend of February.
Where to Eat
Fast Food Chains
You'll also find branches of your favorite fast food chains in Iloilo, especially in the commercial areas of Iloilo City and in shopping malls like SM City Iloilo. You can find easily find a Jollibee, McDonald's or KFC when you go to these places.
But if you want a taste of fast food that is uniquely Iloilo, swing by Green Mango for affordable eats that are sure to satisfy your appetite.
Iloilo is not just a cultural and historical destination but also a culinary one. With a variety of restaurants that offer various cuisines, you'll not only be able to enjoy authentic Ilonggo and Filipino cuisine, but also international dishes.
If you're craving for litson manok , Tatoy's Manokan and Seafoods is the place to go. Coated in special marinade, their roast chicken will definitely leave guests wanting more.
At Breakthrough Restaurant, you're guaranteed that all dishes are made from the freshest seafood. This place offers paluto, which means you can pick any fresh seafood and have it cooked the way you like it. Another restaurant to check out if you want some good shellfish is Allan's Talabahan. As its name implies, it specializes in succulent oyster dishes.
For Ilonggo and Filipino dishes with a twist, visit Bauhinia Filipino Cuisine. For fans of Italian cuisine, you won’t be disappointed with Amalfi Cucina Italiana's pizzas. But if you want something closer to Asian flavors like Chinese food, Roberto's offers a wide variety of dishes. Their bestseller that you don’t want to miss is their yummy siopao—some even argue that it’s the best in the province.
Iloilo's most significant contribution to Philippine cuisine is the La Paz batchoy. This savory noodle soup is offered in commercial areas around Iloilo, but locals and tourists favor three stores: Netong's Original Special La Paz Batchoy, Deco's La Paz Batchoy, and Ted's Oldtimer La Paz Batchoy.
Netong's original branch is located at La Paz Public Market, which is considered as the birthplace of La Paz batchoy. Meanwhile, you'll find several branches of Deco's and Ted's all over the province.
If you're strict on budget when it comes to food, you don’t have to worry since there are many carinderias in Iloilo that offer quality food at a fraction of the price. A plus when you eat at carinderias is you'll be able to eat the way the locals do.
There are many street food stalls at Jaro Plaza, also known as Graciano Lopez Jaena Park. Visit this area for a snack while enjoying the surroundings.
Some of the dishes in Ilonggo are so popular all over the country that you’ve probably had them before. But there’s nothing like trying out some authentic La Paz batchoy, pancit molo, and chicken binakol while in Iloilo.
Bars and Clubs
The Smallville Complex is a popular nightlife hub in Iloilo. Home to many bars and night clubs, this is the place to be when the night is still young and you’re in the mood for bar hopping, listening to musical performances, and dancing.
Where to Shop
The biggest malls in the province are found in the heart of Iloilo City. For your various shopping needs, head to SM City Iloilo or Robinsons Place Iloilo.
Sweets are the popular pasalubong in Iloilo. Make sure to buy some barquillos at the Original Deocampo Barquillos and biscocho at the Original Biscocho Haus. Aside from their specialties, they also offer other treats like butterscotch bars and other pastries.
ATMs and Money Changers
If you need to withdraw cash, there are banks and ATMs around Iloilo. Meanwhile, you'll find money changers in the major commercial and shopping districts.
Fare: PHP 1,200.00 to PHP 6,000.00
The cheapest way to get to Iloilo is via bus or ferry. Bus fares cost as cheap as PHP 700.00, exclusive of ferry fee. Meanwhile, a trip to Iloilo via 2GO Travel costs a little over PHP 1,000.00.
But if you're willing to forego the long hours of travel, flying to Iloilo via commercial airlines is the more sensible choice. One-way plane tickets cost from PHP 3,000.00 to about PHP 6,000.00 depending on the airline.
Food: PHP 50.00 to PHP 300.00
It does not cost much to enjoy a food trip in Iloilo. If you want to enjoy pocket-friendly meals, try eating in carinderias. Lots of fast food chains also offer value meals for those with a tight budget. If you choose to eat in a restaurant, a single meal ranges from PHP 200.00 to PHP 300.00.
Shopping: PHP 50.00++
A small pack of barquillos or biscocho costs less than PHP 50.00.
Accommodation: PHP 500.00 to PHP 4,000.00
There is a wide selection of accommodations in Iloilo. From budget inns and lodges to five-star hotels and resorts, you'll have lots to choose from when looking for a place to stay.
Activities: PHP 5.00++
While there are many free things to do in Iloilo, some attractions charge certain fees. The cheapest is to visit Museo Iloilo, which is only PHP 5.00. Meanwhile, for those who want to visit the ancestral homes, a tour around Nelly's Garden is PHP 200.00 per head and requires a minimum of five persons. For Camiña Balay Nga Bato, a house tour plus a cup of hot chocolate costs PHP 150.00. For PHP 200.00, you can avail of the tour with hot chocolate and pancit molo. Lastly, for PHP 500.00, you'll be able to enjoy lunch on top of the inclusive perks.
If you want to enjoy island hopping around Gigantes Island or Concepcion, the rates are at PHP 1,500.00 to about PHP 2,500.00 per person.
Other Fees and Taxes: PHP 200.00++
Terminal fees for Iloilo International Airport are PHP 200.00 for domestic flights and PHP 550.00 for international flights.
Day 1 (Iloilo City Tour)
||Enjoy a hot bowl of La Paz batchoy at Netong's Original Special La Paz Batchoy.
||After breakfast, head to Miag-ao.
||Arrive in Miag-ao. See the famous Santo Tomas de Villanueva Parish Church and say a quick prayer.
||Have lunch at Allan's Talabahan.
||Head to Iloilo City's Arevalo district.
||Arrive in Arevalo. Go on the Camiña Balay nga Bato tour.
||After the tour, head to Museo Iloilo to see the many artifacts there.
||Walk along the streets of Calle Real and see the restored buildings along this historic street.
||Stop at Roberto's for merienda. Make sure to order its infamous queen siopao.
||Hang out at Jaro Plaza.
||Visit some of of the heritage houses and take photos of their facades. You can visit Nelly's Garden, Casa Mariquit, and Ledesma Mansion.
||Head to Iloilo River Esplanade.
||Arrive at Iloilo River Esplanade. Take a leisurely stroll along Iloilo River Esplanade and wait for the sunset.
||Have early dinner in one of the restaurants at Smallville Complex. Afterwards, have drinks at any of the bars that are also located there.
Day 2 (Trip to Gigantes Island)
||Have breakfast at Jollibee or any of the fast food chains in the city before departing for Gigantes Island.
||Head to Tagbak Terminal and board a bus going to Estancia.
||Depart Tagbak Terminal for Estancia.
||Arrive at Estancia Terminal. Ride a tricycle going to Estancia Port.
||Arrive at Estancia Port.
||Have lunch at any of the carinderias around town.
||Hop on board a boat going to Brgy. Asluman.
||Arrive at Brgy. Asluman in Gigantes Norte Island. Take a tricycle to your resort accommodation.
||Arrive at your accommodation.
||Hire a habal-habal to take you to Gigantes Norte Lighthouse.
||After exploring, head back to your resort.
||Feast on seafood at any of the carinderias.
Day 3 (Island Hopping around Gigantes Island)
||Have a hearty breakfast at your resort.
||Freshen up and prepare for your island hopping tour.
||Ride a habal-habal to get to your boat for the island hopping tour.
||Start with the island hopping tour. Visit amazing places like Bantigue Island, Cabugao Gamay Island, Antonia Beach, and Tangke Saltwater Lagoon.
||Enjoy the lunch included in your tour package.
||Continue with the island hopping tour.
||Arrive back at your resort.
||Enjoy leisure time around your area.
||Have a sumptuous dinner at your resort before going to bed.
Iloilo is best visited during the dry season, especially if you’re going on a city or island hopping tour around Concepcion or Gigantes Island. The dry season runs from December until May, though weather is generally good all year round.
As a precautionary measure, make sure to pack some medicines and a first aid kit in your luggage when going on a trip to Iloilo. There are a number of hospitals all over Iloilo if you need medical attention.
Although locals understand English and Tagalog, Hiligaynon is widely spoken in Iloilo, which is why some people refer to it as the Ilonggo dialect. Here are a few Hiligaynon phrases that you may find useful on your trip:
Pila ini?- How much is this?
Palihog sang madali lang.- Excuse me.
Diin ang kasilyas? – Where is the bathroom?
Nadula ako. – I'm lost.
There is no general rule when it comes to tipping in the Philippines. Most people leave bills like PHP 20.00 or PHP 50.00.
Safety and Security
No matter where you are traveling, always make sure to be aware of your surroundings and take care of your belongings.