Iloilo

Daylight glimpse of Iloilo City

Spending a day in the so-called ‘The City of Love’ made me tell that Iloilo City is one of those few destinations in the Philippines that can be called a second home to its visitors. Despite the complexity of their language and the variety of their traditions, Iloilo City is a very accommodating place, may you be a Filipino or a foreigner.

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Upon learning that Iloilo City is just a ferry away from Bacolod, I immediately arranged to visit the former ‘Queen City of the South’ even for at least a day.

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Better yet known for the annual Dinagyang Festival, Iloilo City also houses exquisite heritage structures like Spanish-colonial churches, grand vantage houses and old institutional and commercial buildings.

For this post, let me give you a quick tour of Iloilo City and its most visited spots.

1. Plaza Libertad

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Plaza Libertad fronting the Iloilo City Hall.

Surrounded by many of Iloilo City’s famous landmarks, Plaza Libertad is dubbed to be one of the most important places which represent the rich history of Iloilo. Now, a leisure place for the residents of Iloilo, but before, a witness to historical events of the city – one of which is the raising of the the first Philippine flag on December 25, 1898 after the Spaniards surrendered Iloilo to the revolutionary forces led by Gen. Martin Delgado.

Getting there: Located in the intersection of  J.M. Basa, De la Rama, and Zamora streets in Iloilo City Proper, Plaza Libertad can be accessed by PUJs with signages ‘Jaro CPU’, ‘City Proper’, ‘Molo Baluarte’.

2. San Jose Church

Housing the precious image of the Nuestra Senora del Rosario in Iloilo City, the San Jose Church is one of the few churches in the country which is still run by the Augustinians. Established on the year 1617, this infrastructure proudly stands across Plaza Libertad and serves as one of the most famous landmarks in the City.

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Getting there: Located in the intersection of  J.M. Basa, De la Rama, and Zamora streets in Iloilo City Proper, Plaza Libertad can be accessed by PUJs with signages ‘Jaro CPU’, ‘City Proper’, ‘Molo Baluarte’.

3. Molo Church & Plaza

Known for the prominent red spires that crown its tall bell towers, Molo Church can be said as one of the top tourist attraction in Iloilo City. This famous Spanish-colonial religious site in Molo District is built in neogothic style.

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Molo Church is also fondly called as “the feminist church” because of the all-women ensemble of saints represented in 16 statues perched on the aisle pillars of the edifice. According to locals, the coral stone facade of the church reflects the golden rays of the sunset come late afternoons, thus having the magnificent structure best photographed during those magical hours.

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Molo Church sits comfortably in front of Molo Plaza. So while you’re there, you can take a stroll around the plaza while staring at the beautiful structure of Molo Church.

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Getting there: Molo Church and Plaza are the central landmarks of Molo District. Jeepney routes passing by the area or near it includes Molo or Arevalo, Villa Arevalo, Molo Mandurriao, Molo Baluarte, Oton Anhawan and Oton Derecho.

4. Iloilo River Esplanade

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The Esplanade and Iloilo Medical City.

Simply the “Esplanade” to the locals of Iloilo City, this 1.2 kilometer promenade that runs alongside the Iloilo River showcases the efforts of the city government to protect the Iloilo river system.

Opened to the public on August of 2012, many locals visit the Esplanade mostly on early morning and late afternoon hours to jog or hang around with family and friends. From then on, this long stretch of boardwalk has become a popular spot for tourists to make some ‘candid’ photoshoots or to just simply look at the serene views along the river.

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Getting there: Esplanade can be reached via two entrances: (a) Eastern End – along Benigno Aquino Avenue (formerly Diversion Road), in Mandurriao District. Jeepney routes that passes by the area includes Leganes, SM Mandurriao, Ungka Ul, City Proper and Santa Barbara. (b) Western End – near Carpenter’s Bridge on the boundary of Molo and Mandurriao. One can take Molo Mandurriao or Oton jeepney routes in getting there. This end is just a 5-minute walk from Molo Church and Plaza.

5. Carpenter’s Bridge

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Carpenter’s Bridge is a 114.80 meter infrastructure that crosses Iloilo River and connects the Districts of Molo and Mandurriao in Iloilo City. Included as one of the Seven Bridges of Blessings hailed by the Iloilo city government, Carpenter’s Bridge has its own story to tell.

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The view from Carpenter’s Bridge.

Carpenter’s Bridge was named after the first civilian governor of the Moro Province (Department of Mindanao and Sulu) – Governor Frank W. Carpenter. Governor Carpenter was best remembered  introducing a budget system for the insular government of 1907, administering more than 40 provincial and more than 900 municipal governments in cooperation with public works, schools, health and other departments of the government.

The restoration of this infrastructure is not only purposed for making Carpenter’s Bridge tourism-capable. For many locals, this signifies the beginning of cooperation from both public and private sectors to conserve the rich history of Iloilo City.

6. Jaro Belfry and Cathedral

The Campanario de Jaro built on 1744 in Jaro District, is one of the few belfries in the country that stands apart from the church where it belongs.

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Made of bricks and hewn limestone blocks, this three-storey tower which stands 29 meters high is not only a symbol of religious strength in this part of the Philippines, but has also served as a military watch tower during the Spanish Colonial Period.

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Across the Jaro Belfry is the Church of St. Elizabeth of Hungary, ‘Jaro Cathedral’ for the locals. Built on 1864, Jaro Cathedral’s style is basically baroque with the addition of Gothic elements over many renovations.

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Jaro Cathedral.

Jaro Cathedral houses the 400-year-old image of the Lady of the Candles (Nuestra Senora de la Candelaria) – the only rose among the all-male collection of statues which lines the walls of the cathedral’s interiors. Believed to be miraculous, the Lady of the Candles is the focus of the annual fiesta in Jaro District.

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Getting there: Ride a Jaro Liko or Jaro CPU jeepneys and request the drivers to drop you off at Jaro Plaza or in front of Jaro Cathedral.

7. Museo Iloilo

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Museo iloilo, backgrounded by the Iloilo Provincial Capitol.

Museo Iloilo is said to be the first government-sponsored museum located outside Metro Manila. The museum exhibits the cultural history of Western Visayas which includes an impressive collection of stone age native pottery, fossils, jewelry, burial sites, trade pottery from China and Thailand, era photos, war relics, a British sunken ship, Spanish-era Filipino sculpture and modern art pieces done by Ilonggo artists and craftsmen.

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It was Sunday when we got here. The museum was closed! 😦

There you go! Because my buddy wants us to be back in Bacolod before the sun sets, our Iloilo City tour covered just this much. There’s still a lot of things to see and a bunch of things to learn in Iloilo. A day indeed cannot suffice to experience everything here. But hey, I’m not worried. I’ll get back sooner than we’ll ever know. 😀

P.S. What I love the most about Iloilo City? It’s not the food nor the places we’ve visited. It’s the hospitality the residents of this beautiful place showcases to strangers like us. For example, when you ask for help what to ride next in going to your next destination, they do not just simply tell you directions. They execute everything for you. They’ll find the jeepney that will bring you to your next stop, help you ride in it and tell the driver where to drop you off. Aren’t they pretty hospitable?? I hope I share the same thoughts with you. 😀

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