Our plane touched down on the runway of Iloilo International Airport ahead of schedule. Golden slivers of sunlight illuminated parts of the tarmac. The sky was a vibrant azure. Already the day had started off perfectly. I was there with my family and it was our first time in Iloilo. We were all excited to explore the province famous for its beautiful architecture.
From the airport we went straight to our hotel right in the city center. We would only be there for a few days and there was so much to see. So before long, we were in a cab on our way to our first stop.
Also known as Santo Tomas de Villanueva Parish Church, Miag-ao Church was founded in 1731 by the Augustinians. Built in the style of Baroque Romanesque, Miag-ao Church has a unique façade consisting of intricate bas-relief.
From there we headed to Sulu Garden, a beautiful al fresco restaurant near the University of the Philippines Visayas. The restaurant serves a variety of Asian dishes from Filipino to Japanese. It is a great place to relax before you continue on with your sightseeing.After lunch, we headed to Guimbal Church or the Parish of St. Nicholas of Tolentino. It was constructed under the supervision of Juan Aquado, an Augustinian friar but was completed thirty years later, between 1769 and 1774 under Friar Juan Campos. Adobe stones (igang) were used to construct the church. The four-storey belfry once served as a watchtower against Muslim pirates.From Guimbal, we made our way to Tigbauan Church, a 16th-century church which was built in the style of Mexican plateresque, a style in which clusters of ornaments adorn doorways, with very little emphasis given to the rest of the structure. The façade is adorned with a statue of St. John of Sahagun, an Augustinian friar. Just below the statue lies the Augustinian seal.
Our next stop was the 19th-century house Camiña Balay Nga Bato, owned by Ms. Luth Camiña. For only Php150, you can get a private tour and a cup of thick tsokolate de batirol (with free refill).From there we went to the newly-restored Yusay-Consing mansion in Molo. It was bought and restored by SM Lands, Inc., and is now a beautifully designed shop where one can purchase local handicrafts and souvenirs.After buying some souvenirs, we headed to Molo Church. It was built in 1831 by the Dominicans under the supervision of Don Josef Manuel Locsin. Also known as the Church of St. Anne, Molo Church is a feminist church because only statues of female saints line the main aisle.Another church worth visiting is the Jaro Cathedral, which was constructed in the Romanesque Revival style in 1864. Unlike the Molo Church, it only has statues of male saints which adorn its pillars on both sides of the aisle.
Another must-visit site is the Lizares Mansion. It was built in 1937 by Don Emiliano Lizares to show his love for his wife Conchita Gamboa. The mansion became a Japanese Army headquarters in WWII. In 1962, the Dominicans bought the property and later converted it to a House of Formation for Young Dominicans in the Philippines.Casa Mariquit is another must-see. It was built over two hundred years ago by Ramon Javellana, grandfather of Maria “Mariquit” Javellana-Lopez, who was married to former Vice President Fernando Lopez, Sr. The interior of the house is adorned by various items once used by the former occupants of the house – from the vice-president’s wooden desks to framed family photos.
One mansion we weren’t able to visit was Nelly’s Garden, dubbed the Queen of Heritage Houses of Iloilo. It was built in 1928 by statesman Don Vicente Lopez and his wife Doña Elena Hofileña. We were told we needed to book 3 days in advance for a guided tour. I did manage to take a photo of it from outside the fence. There are a hundred and one reasons to visit Iloilo. It is a place rich in significant architecture, sumptuous cuisine, and beautiful people. So, what are you waiting for?
By: Katy Concepcion-Wiggins