Iloilo province has seen immigrants even before Hispanic conquest. It is said, although no written documents exist, that Indonesians and also South Indian kings had once ruled this region.
However eventually Spanish conqueror Legazpi succeeded in taking over this island. From then the Hispanics ruled over for over 300 years. These and many more facts and history was running through my head as we landed in the small airport of Iloilo city.
First thing that surprised me was, that the airport was empty, empty of any airplane except ours. Apparently not many flights that day. This was the new airport, some distance away from the city. It took half an hour or so to reach my hotel, one of the comfortable boutique hotels in Iloilo. I was told that the hotel and the surrounding glitzy buildings were all built on the old airport land and the main street was in fact the old runway! Well, that’s the speed with which Iloilo is growing. 😀
Here I write my experiences in Iloilo city.
Camiña Balay nga Bato in Arevalo. It may read and sound archaic, but when we reached there after a short rest at the hotel, I found that it was the most interesting house. Built in 1865, the house was a veritable museum of sorts and it was home to one of the oldest and richest Ilonggo families. Mme Camiña hosted an elaborate buffet of Ilonggo cuisine which served the palate of even me, a vegetarian. I finished the lunch while a local singer crooned love songs. 🙂
The lunch ended with a slurpy tsokolate (hot chocolate). If you are a foodie then this place is a must. Don’t forget to call in advance and reserve.
The house had pillars made of tree trunks. The more such pillars, the richer one is. In Camiña Balay, there were 24 pillars! The ground floor also has a curio shop and a couple of weaving machines amongst other antiques.
De Ocampo’s Barquillos. Continuing with the food theme, I reached Ocampo’s where I had my fill of barquillos, a tube or roll made of wafer. The skilled barquillo maker was managing two stoves and the speed with which he made them was faster than I could eat! Concentration is the key and start with the right consistency of the batter. Too light, it burns easily while too thick, it sticks to the surface.
National Shrine of Our lady of candles. Have a wish? Light a candle. Also known as the Jaro Cathedral, was the first one to be built in the Panay Island. The belief is you light a coloured candle as per your wish and it will come true. Remember red candle is for good luck, pink for love, green for hope and blue for career! I saw a few people buy a bunch of all colours. How greedy can people get! Ha Ha Ha. 😀
I felt that the design was quite unique in that, the belfry was detached from the main church building and located across the street. Later I was told that it was not by design. There was another Church next to the bell tower that collapsed during an earthquake. This cathedral has been graced by Pope John Paul II, during his visit to the Philippines in 1981 and canonized the image of Mary.
The new Capitol building. There is a small museum and a video show on the ground floor that talks about the festival of Dinagyang, religious and cultural festival, held in January. Several schools and groups participate in this festival. The highlight is the view from its terrace! One can have a 360-degree view of the city of Iloilo. If you are lucky you could meet the mayor too!
Molo Mansion is a perfect example of a Spanish house and is now maintained in mint condition. Situated right opposite Molo Cathedral, a private builder acquired it and turned it around into a heritage museum and a souvenir shop. In its heyday it was the residence of one the influential families of Molo province.
Molo Church, also called St Anne Parish church is located across the street. It is one of the largest church buildings in this region and is still active. Another uniqueness about this Church is that, it is “all women” meaning there are 16 statues of women saints along the aisle.
Heritage streets and buildings. One can observe several historic Luxury buildings of American influence on Calle Real or the Royal street or J.M. Basa Street. One can also view the original Ilonggo affluent family homes on the Millionaires row. A jaunt in the market street and china town could be a wonderful experience to soak in the culture and eat good food. Some of the colonial houses in the outskirts are just awe inspiring.
Iloilo River Esplanade is a waterfront Promenade. A 1.2 KM walk along the river amidst evening walkers and joggers is a perfect way to wind down a hectic day. At places there are heady but nice smells of flowers. I am sure one Cestrum Nocturnum or “Raat ki Rani” as we call it in India.
If you think you have “done” Philippines, then here’s another place to go. Let us hear your experience!
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