Smack right in the middle of the tropical Philippine Islands is a quaint and at the same time progressive city called Iloilo. Considered the heart of the Philippines because of its geographical location, it is fondly called “The City of Love”. Staying true to its moniker, Iloilo is home to the most loving, friendly, kind-hearted, and soft-spoken Filipinos otherwise known as the Ilonggos.
Unlike the nation’s capital, Manila, Iloilo is more laid-back. It is perfect for those who want to get away from the hustle and bustle of the city and just relax. Driving around the city is a pleasure since the traffic is not horrible; you can even roll down your window for a whiff of clean, fresh air that your lungs can thank you for, while enjoying a scenic view of the city.
The city boasts of modern infrastructures such as malls, bars, hotels, and likewise well-preserved old buildings, churches, and houses from the Spanish era. It is also surrounded by numerous beaches and resorts that will satisfy your wanderlust.
Here are some places that may interest you..
For the culture and history enthusiasts:
Our Lady of Candles National Shrine
Also known as the “Jaro Cathedral”. It houses the statue of Mary, Lady of Candles, carrying the child Jesus. The wooden statue is believed to be miraculous since it has been growing in size. It was only 3ft. tall when it was first discovered in a river bank hundreds of years ago and has grown up to 7ft. as to the present. Legend says that the statue would be gone in the wee hours of the morning and an unidentified woman would be found in the nearby plaza bathing her child. There are a lot more mysterious stories surrounding this historical site and the locals would be more willing to share to you their enjoyable tales.
For the food-lovers:
The Shops at Atria
This is the place to be for the perpetually hungry! It is a venue occupied by various restaurants, coffee shops, bistros, and dessert cafes that will surely satisfy one’s cravings. Popular Ilonggo dishes such as batchoy, chicken inasal, adobo, lechon, native coffee, biscocho are only a stone’s throw away from each other.
For the night owls:
This is home to the hippest and trendiest bars and clubs in the city. It is the go-to place for night outs and parties with friends and families.
For the party animals:
There ain’t no party like a street party! Celebrated every January, it is one of the biggest festivals in the country. Celebrities and tourists from all over the world come to witness this annual event and take part in the celebration. The festival showcases the rich cultural heritage of Iloilo through choreographed street dancing performances accompanied with festive costumes and props. One of the highlights of the event is the Kasadyahan wherein the audience are allowed to join the performers and dance along in the streets.
For the sports enthusiast:
Iloilo Golf and Country Club
This is an 18-hole golf course situated in Sta.Barbara Iloilo. It is open to tourists on a reservation basis. Highly recommended activity for family bonding or for father to showcase his athletic side.
For the health buff:
This is a 1.2km stretch right by the Iloilo River. Its location and grounds make it suitable for jogging, exercise, or merely sight-seeing. To promote healthy lifestyle among Iloilo residents, Zumba sessions are held here every morning and night and are absolutely FREE.
For the nature-lover:
Bucari Pine Forest
It is also known as “Iloilo’s Little Baguio” because of its cool climate. It has a campsite where visitors could pitch a tent and spend the night in the woods. Oh what joy it is to roast marshmallows over a campfire surrounded by friends and be able to wake up to the sound of chirping birds! A hearty breakfast is recommended before setting out to hike the mountain trails. If your endurance allows it, you may even get to go to the waterfalls. I heard it’s amazing! A trip to Bucari would definitely be one for the books!
For the adrenaline junkie:
It is a 15-minute boat ride from the city and one of the popular tourist destinations. There are numerous resorts all throughout the island depending on your preference. There are beach resorts, which obviously are situated in beach areas and there are mountain resorts which are situated in well, mountains. Beach resorts offer a wide variety of activities such as the ever popular jet-skiing, island hopping and boat rental. Whereas, mountain resorts offer activities such as ziplines, trekking, and walking on tightrope in between tree tops. Not for the faint of heart!
For the adventure-seeker:
It is slowly becoming the region’s most popular tourist destination. The trip going to the island is an adventure itself considering you have to take a 6-hour bus ride from the city and a 2-hour boat ride to the island itself. They say that it’s not about the destination, but the journey! Despite its difficulty to go to, the neck-strain-and-leg-cramp-filled trip is absolutely worth it! You will be welcomed with crystal clear waters that will make you want to immediately jump right in. Scallops are sold at a very low price since these beauties are abundant in this part of the region. What are you waiting for?!
There are a lot more places to visit and explore in Iloilo. Whatever type of personality you have, you will surely enjoy what the City of Love has to offer. It may be a small city but the tourist destinations and activities are endless. Traveling around the city is quite affordable. There are air-conditioned vans available for rent and buses for huge groups are available too. Commuting is fairly easy and cheap and you don’t have to worry about getting lost because the locals will be more than willing to help and give you directions. As for the accommodations, there are numerous hotels with great service and reasonable prices and traveler’s inns that could fit your budget.
So, what are you waiting for? Come and fall in love with the City of Love!