Iloilo was once the Queen City of the South. It was also the last Spanish-colonial capital after Manila surrendered to the US.
Iloilo City, the capital of the province, is a highly urbanized city and is known as the city of love and festival capital of the Philippines. No, this is not where broken hearts go and no we are not here to go festival hopping but we’re here to enjoy it no less!
Iloilo City is about 20.9 Kilometers from the airport, so about 15 – 30 minutes travel time (YES! TRAFFIC IS NON EXISTENT HERE). There is van that can take you to SM Iloilo, Fare: PHP 50.
Savory food tour, anyone?
Nothing says more Filipino than, “Tara kain tayo!” and nothings says a full pledged Ilonggo meal more than seafood, La Paz Batchoy and Pancit Molo. Yeah, goodbye diet.
La Paz Batchoy is basically a noodle soup made from shrimp broth, chicken breast, pork innards, chicken stock, chopped vegetables and crushed pork cracklings. Go to Netong’s, the place where you can be super special! This local jewel is located in Iloilo Market in La Paz. Hint: Super Special – pork, Extra Special – pork and beef, Mega Bowl – pork, beef and bone marrow.
Pancit molo is a soup dish made of meat-filled dumplings, shredded chicken and a robust broth. The dish is served with green onions and fried garlic bits as garnish for another layer of flavor. This is a dish you can pretty much get anywhere. Confession: we ate Molo in every restaurant just to taste the different versions.
And while we’re here, we went to local restaurants. But I had fun annoying Jade by saying I badly want to eat at Mcdonald’s.
Near Jaro Cathedral is Buto’t Balat (Translation: Bones and Skin). It’s one of the famous restaurants in Iloilo City. They serve Filipino dishes that are all good for sharing. Tables are in open nipa huts. Despite not having air conditioning, we had a relaxing lunch. They have big servings and we were really full after our meal!
In Small Ville, near SM Iloilo are a wide array of restaurants and bars you can choose from. We chose this quaint restaurant called Afrique’s. And their specialty is Pizzaaaa and pasta. Oh la la. Note: They have unlimited wings during MWF.
Enjoy all the seafood dishes as you dine next to the beach at Breakthrough. Tons of people eat here. They serve all sorts of dishes but their seafood is the best. Make sure you go there by 11am. They serve food like in a cafeteria set up so by 1pm, food isn’t as fresh or hot.
It’s doesn’t get more real than Calle Real
And I thought only Vigan had these, the colonial buildings are amazing! Walking by Calle Real felt like walking by Manila in the 80s or like Raon sans the people.
While you’re in there try Roberto’s Queen Siopao. Roberto’s and the word siopao are connected and are already a household name to Ilonggos. They have the most awesome steamed buns! Definitely bringing some home!
Local Cafes are L-O-V-E
Since this was Jade’s trip and I was just happy to tag along, I didn’t really plan and research but she did ask me that we can do at least one stuff I want. So I said coffee! I have a thing for visiting the popular cafe in places I visit.
Of course we skipped Starbucks and the usual ones we have back in Manila, so we went to local cafes.
Hidden in Iloilo Market is Madge Cafe ! This quaint cafe is the #1 cafe in Iloilo (Source: Tripadvisor) Ogle at their amazing mug collection. Don’t let the rustic deco and the location fool you, this local jewel serve pretty damn strong and delicious coffee.
Another local cafe is Blue Jay Coffee Co. If you are into neat interiors and home-y vibe, this cafe is for you. You can try their smoothies and hearty cappuccinos at SM Iloilo.
You probably heard of Coffee Break but did you know that it originated in Iloilo. Well, we got it from the source! Coffee Break can be found pretty much every where. There is a branch at Small Ville and at the airport. Try their Irish Cream and English Toffee drinks.
Check out Ancestral Houses
Camiña Balay na Bato has been around for 150 years now. The home is now owned by the 4th Generation in the family. And would you believe it, they still live in it! The entrance fee is PHP 150. You get to tour the house and enjoy a hearty cup of chocolate (which they made) and toasted biscuits.
Casa Mariquit is by far my favorite ancestral house ever. This is the only house where I was able to enter every room and explore down to the tunnels. The keeper of the house was very nice and really gave us quite the tour. We saw the family’s old vaults in the ground floor and even the tunnel that will lead to the cathedral. Although we weren’t able to enter the tunnels because they closed it due to the snakes, it was still the best house ever. Casa Mariquit also served as office of the Vice President Fernando Lopez. You will see all his plaques in the receiving area and in his office. Entrance fee is PHP 50.
Iloilo is home to centuries-old Spanish-colonial Churches of great historical and heritage value. And I was also not aware that Jade was planning to visit every damn church in the city.
My mom was super happy with her daughter going to church. Iloilo has old glorious churches you can visit! And yay for the history bug in me. Okay, this is a win-win.
The most famous and best preserved in the province is the Miagao Church, which is included in UNESCO’s list of World Heritage Sites.
It’s 30 to 40 minutes from Iloilo Terminal Market. Fare: PHP 50.
Also known as Nuestra Señora de la Candelaria. We visited the Cathedral on a Sunday and their were tons of people. My mother was very happy her daughter went to Church on a Sunday. It’s tradition to light candles on your first visit to a church and I was able to do that here.
Why I love this Church
- There is a children’s play ground right beside it
- It is one of the most beautiful churches outside of Manila
- It’s well maintained.
*I wasn’t able to take a picture because I was busy playing by the swing.
Afternoon stroll at Iloilo Esplanade
We walked here mid-afternoon. It’s a 1.2 kilometer walk if you start at Mandurriao. Perfect place for a jog or bike around. There is a boardwalk at the center with hearty restaurants.
Plazuela de Iloilo
With it’s arched hallways and intricate facade and a grand staircase, you’d feel like you’ve been transported to Europe. It’s right next to SM Iloilo. We went there during a national holiday, not many people.
My favorite house in Iloilo: Biscocho Haus
Iloilo is home to delicious biscochos and lots of Filipino treats. So instead of taking home magnets and shirts, I’m taking home food! (Lots and lots of it).
Biscocho Haus can be found pretty much anywhere, even at the airport. But we took the extremes and visited their main branch. Their small pack of butterscotch is PHP 60 and the big one at PHP 130.
I know this Iloilo trip was last minute but I’m definitely happy that Jade chose to take me with her. Thank you Jade and Iloilo for your scrumptious food, kind people, glorious views and history.
Did I mention it’s a 10 minute boat ride away from Guimaras? And yes, we went there too!
Day 1 Check in at One Lourdes Dormitel, Miag-ao Church, Breakthrough, Camiña, Molo Mansion, Molo Church
Day 2 and 3 GUIMARAS
Day 4 Jaro Cathedral, Lunch at Buto’t Balat, Angelicum School, Casa Mariquit, Biscocho House, Iloilo Esplanade, Afrique’s, Coffee Break
Day 5 Madge Cafe, Netong’s La Paz Batchoy, Plazuela, Blue jay Coffee & Co