What Makes Iloilo Special Series: Learnings From The Heart

While going through the numerous brochures I brought home from my Iloilo trip, I realized that I have just skimmed over what Iloilo has to offer. Rather than regret, it made me appreciate what I’ve experienced and left me excited for my next trips to Iloilo, also known as the Heart of the Philippines

A Taste of the Old World
Degustation, which comprised Part I of my What Makes Iloilo Special Series, is the word I’m looking for. I have just learned that Pancit Molo used to be a luxury, reserved only for Spanish archbishops, governors and generals. 

Some Iloilo food and delicacies available today are products of a rich past, especially of Spanish and Chinese influences. 

You can also see old-timer Iloilo restaurants that have withstood the test of time; usually it is tied to their restaurant name. For example, Ted’s La Paz Batchoy (Famous since 1945), Luna’s Arrozcaldo (Since 1967), Nang Palang’s Buko Pie (Since 1972), etc. 

Who wouldn’t want to taste an iconic specialty in Iloilo when it took you a plane ride just to get there?

A Feel of the Old World
Walking around Calle Real was one of the first things I did in Iloilo. 

With a longing to catch a glimpse of what it was like during the time when trade flourished in this side of Downtown Iloilo, I found myself admiring the architectural design of the façade of the buildings around this street. 

I heard someone say that Dr. Jose Rizal walked this same street and bought a hat here. That longing was actually brought about by a groundbreaking ceremony I witnessed on the first day of my trip. 

There were efforts coming from the government, the businessmen and Ilonggos to work together and restore the glorious days of Iloilo’s Chinatown district as a way of paying tribute to their ancestors. Read more about the long story here.

A Learning Experience
Guess where the University of the Philippines in the Visayas is located? Miag-ao, Iloilo! 

There are many more universities and colleges around Iloilo and people from Visayas and Mindanao go to Iloilo to study. My second day was spent with a brief walk around the first university in Western Visayas, the University of San Agustin along General Luna Street. 

One jeepney ride then took me to the Central Philippine University campus. 

According to this tablet, CPU was formerly known as Jaro Industrial School and it was the first school in the Philippines where the students worked for their education. 

I remembered the times when I was still in college and it seemed so long ago that I felt like a student again on this day. I never really took the time to appreciate what I had and explore the ADMU campus in those 4 years.

A Shift in Paradigm
I was a person, up until my Iloilo trip, who wasn’t complete with being alone and being open to whole new experiences. I had doubts if this was true. After all, I chose to be a travel blogger. It was a good thing that nobody wanted to go with me on that trip and if not for that, I wouldn’t have the opportunity to find out that the world was not full of bad people (and creatures).

I had my first taste of Ilonggo hospitality when Manong Siloy came to my rescue and showed me the riverside view of the restaurant in the Residence Hotel. I was looking for a quiet place when the energy of Downtown Iloilo was just too much for me. 

He showed me around town on his day-off and told me about his life in Iloilo. I also met my friend Jason who took the time to have a dinner chat with me and tell me about his beloved hometown and family.

I also dared to conquer my fear of fish in Iloilo through the Tibiao Fish Spa. 

The local fish they had discovered mesmerized me. I let my guard down and finally let go of the fear that the fish will eat me alive. I guess, after this, I will no longer stay on the boat when my friends go out to snorkel. 

I never thought that resisting was futile and letting fish eat me alive could be such a fun experience. 

I shifted from them being scary and hurting me to me being bigger than them and me not hurting these cute and amazing little creatures. 

I dipped my feet on the beginner tank on the first day then happily came back for the Extreme and Super Extreme Fish Tank the next day.

A Trip to Remember
My trip wouldn’t be complete without the graciousness of a number of Iloilo bloggers and photographers who unabashedly showed me and shared with me the picturesque beauty of the surroundings they grew up with. 

Carlo and Nilo. Photo by Hawili Hurom


I took home with me a few history lessons, stories and, of course, beautiful photos with me. There’s the bridge where you can hold your breath and make a wish. Here’s a picture of the serene San Joaquin Church. 

Something worth noticing aside from the columns is that this church has a mural depicting the battle between Spanish and Moorish forces right in front of it. 

This is San Joaquin Cemetery. It’s unusually popular to have photo shoots here nowadays. 

Photo by Gerry Ruiz

Miag-ao Church is a massive and beautiful fortress. 

It is in the UNESCO World Heritage list as one of the four Baroque Churches in the Philippines.

Thinking of the Future

I’m going to include the places that I only heard about from locals but didn’t have the opportunity to visit. The receptionist in the hotel told me about his favorite hangout place SEAFDEC in Tigbauan where he would marvel at the fish. He also told me that aside from the Dinagyang Festival happening every January, he likes going to Chinatown to celebrate the Chinese New Year when tables of food are put out for all Ilonggos and visitors every year. The Pasungay Festival sounded interesting, a festival for the Ilonggo version of bull-fighting. The Paraw Regatta is also a spectacle to see according to local enthusiasts. 

This is my attempt to give you a peek at my glimpse of Iloilo. 

The Heart of the Philippines has so much more to offer aside from these unforgettable experiences. For example, golfing at the oldest golf course in the Philippines, visiting an ancestral house, watching other festivals, going caving and exploring the coastline, crossing to Guimaras or Bacolod, etc. Ultimately, what made my trip memorable were the conversations, the trips, the adventures and the numerous experiences with the locals, which I took home with me.

I want reserve the rest of this What Makes Iloilo Special series for my future adventures in Iloilo. In the meantime, here’s another Guiltless Suggestion: Just try talking to a local and experience Iloilo hospitality.

Read more about Iloilo:
Loving Iloilo and Ilonggo Pride
Wandering My Way in Downtown Iloilo
What Makes Iloilo Special Series: Eats Too Good in My Mind - Foodie Finds!
What Makes Iloilo Special Series: Learnings From The Heart