Known as the “Heart of the Philippines,” Iloilo is one of the major travel and heritage destinations located in the heart-shaped Panay Island in Central Philippines. It is a first-class, highly-urbanized city that’s rich in fertile land and friendly locals who usually greet tourists with a warm welcome. Iloilo is a peaceful province, but there is more to this province than meets the eye.
Iloilo is popular for its delicious cuisines, cultural traditions, treasured historical buildings, captivating natural landscapes, and exciting festivals throughout the province. With its multifaceted collection of tourist spots and attractions, more and more tourists and travelers give interest in these places. There are visitors who even decide to invest in a house and lot in Iloilo as they fell in love with the city.
If it is your first time to travel to Iloilo, below is a list of the places you should not miss to include in your itinerary.
Have you ever heard of a ‘feminist church’? If not, you have to visit St. Anne Parish Church. It is the only church in the country that was not built by the Augustinian friars. It earned the name “Feminist Church” since most of the statues in the church represent female saints. There are sixteen female statues along the central aisle of the church. Not to mention, the pavilion houses the statues of the six Greek goddesses. With its impressive structure and façade, St. Anne is also a National Historic Site in the Philippines.
Aside from compelling statues, the church itself is a work of art. You can appreciate how the columns that support the saint’s niches are beautifully domed all throughout on the roof, leading to the sanctuary and the central dome above it. You will get an overview of the church when you climb the narrow steps into the west side pulpit.
In this era where modern houses are the new trend, there are old houses in the province such as Camiña Balay nga Bato that stood the test of time. Built in 1865, it is considered one of the oldest houses in the Philippines. From afar, you will be impressed how the ancestral house was preserved for almost a century and a half.
Apart from its traditional structure, most of the things you will find inside the house are antique – from the dining table, chairs, and kitchen utensils up to its decorations. Thanks to the fourth generation of the owners – they opened the ancestral home to visitors who want to witness a little piece of history.
Tourists who go there and explore the house do not just experience entering a historical house but they can also bring home souvenirs available inside. Moreover, they also offer tourists pancit molo, batchoy, hot chocolate, kinihad (toasted sliced bread), and other Ilonggo and Filipino dishes.
Visiting Iloilo will never be complete without visiting Museo Iloilo. The building was built in 1971 to pay tribute to Ilonggo heroes and ancestors. Sergio Penasales, an Ilonggo architect, is the designer behind the museo.
Further, the museum houses an impressive collection of Iloilo’s cultural heritage such as the Stone Age native pottery, fossils, jewelry, burial sites, and trade pottery from China, among others. Aside from the artifacts relating to Iloilo’s history and culture, it displays a collection of priceless religious images and relics, silver pieces, and church vessels that represent the Panayanon religious spirits.
You can also find a life-size dummy illustrating how the natives carefully weave the traditional Filipino clothing such as Filipiniana and barong Tagalog.
The locals call it the “Lover’s Garden” since Nelly’s Garden is a favorite venue for wedding. It features a beautifully landscaped lawn with American-colonial heritage (art deco style) house as its backdrop.
Nelly’s Garden is also dubbed as “Iloilo’s Queen of Heritage Houses” and became the landmark that represents the former grandeur, the aristocracy, and elegance of the old Iloilo society. From the rooms, tables, chairs, utensils, and decorations, you will be impressed at how the owners preserved the mansion.
Exploring Iloilo does not just end in historical places. You can also discover locations that are suitable for people who have an active nightlife. Smallville Complex is Iloilo’s nightlife capital. It has the most popular dining and entertainment hub. Most locals and visitors dine, drink, and spend their night out in the city. The place is also famous for its dance clubs, bars, coffee shops, restaurants, and KTV bars.
The site continues to be the prime entertainment and dining center of the city. However, you can expect more developments within the next few years.
Masadya diri! (It’s fun here!). What’s more fun and will surely warm your heart than knowing its history and culture is meeting the locals. When visiting any of these places, you will meet a lot of Ilonggos. They will always greet you with “Halong kada ha” (Take care) and “Damo nga salamat” (Thank you very much) for visiting their beloved land.
So, start making plans for your next trip and include all these awesome places to visit in Iloilo in your itinerary!