Monday, October 15, 2012

Exploring Iloilo for 2D/1N - The home of Dinagyang Festival

I've clearly miscalculated the time that should be allotted for our day tour in Iloilo (this was just last week), as I didn't put in any time to research on all of the towns and tourist spots that we wanted to visit. Other than the fact that it was raining most of the time in Iloilo city, we we're basically left to just visit the nearby towns. But since we booked our stay at Ong Bun Pension House, Rubel and I were able to visit 4 out of 7 districts that were close by: Mandurriao, La Paz, Jaro and Molo.

How to leave Iloilo airport

There are 2 modes of transportation at the airport that leave every few minutes -- via cab or shuttle van. You can choose to ride the cab at your convenience. But prepare to pay a hefty price for it (P500 for a fixed price!). But if you have time to spare, you can always choose the latter. Plenty of shuttle vans can be seen just across the parking lot. A ride to SM Mandurriao (the van's last stop) will only cost you P50. As soon as you reach SM Mandurriao, you can now ride any cab that you want since these will run on normal meters now.

Must-see in La Paz: Netong's and St. Clement's Church

We met up with an Ilongga friend on our first official stay in Iloilo. So after checking-in at Ong Bun Pension House, we started our tour towards La Paz. La Paz is home to Iloilo's famous Batchoy. So what better way to welcome that sun shiny morning than to eat some authentic La Paz Batchoy, right? I know Deco's and Ted's are one of the few famous ones. But we opted for another famous name -- Netong's! 

Netong's can be located inside the La Paz Market, and is literally in the middle of the palengke. From there, you will be able to see how one prepares a special bowl of batchoy. 

Other than Netong's, Iloilo is also best known for its wonderful churches. We had our first church visit at St. Clement's. Sadly, the parish was closed when we got there. We were only left but to view the exteriors of it.

St. Clement's Church, Jaro

Must-see in Jaro: Jaro Plaza, Jaro Belfry Tower, Jaro Cathedral and Biscocho Haus

After visiting St. Clement's Church, we took a cab going towards Jaro. We got down by Jaro Plaza (presently called the Graciano Lopez Jaena Park), and then walked towards the Jaro Belfry Tower and the Jaro Cathedral. Both structures were an exquisite sight!

Jaro Belfry Tower would have to be one of the few belfries in the Philippines that still stands apart from the church.

The Jaro Cathedral, also known as the National Shrine of our Lady of the Candles, is Baroque in style. It also had a few Gothic elements that were eventually added throughout its renovation (especially after getting hit by the 1948 earthquake).

Jaro Cathedral - National Shrine of Our Lady of the Candles

The famous Biscocho Haus is also a household name in Iloilo. You can buy your biscocho, otap, mamon and other kinds of sweet pasalubong goods here. It's just a short walk from the Jaro Plaza.

Must-see in Molo: Simbahan ng Molo, Molo Plaza and Athens of the Philippines

From Biscocho Haus, we took a cab going towards the Molo area. Our Ilongga friend took us to St. Anne Parish, also known as 'Simbahan ng Molo', to visit one of Molo's most beautiful structures. St. Anne has also been dubbed as the 'Feminist church of the Philippines' because of the 16 female saints that are placed on top of several pedestals.  

Simbahan ng Molo - The Feminist Church of the Philippines

The famed 'Athens of the Philippines' on the other hand, can also be found just a few walks from St. Anne Parish. You surely won't miss this white edifice since it's already a part of the Molo Plaza, and since the statues are hard not to miss. If you look closely, you will be able to recognize them as Greek goddesses (Demeter, Artemis, etc.).

The white edifice on the left is the "Athens of the Philippines"

Must-see in Mandurriao: SM City and Plazuela

Out of 3 districts, Mandurriao is considered to be one of the major commercial areas in the city of Iloilo. SM City actually gave us a hangout place from when we started to get tired from all touring and walking. The first ever Starbucks in Iloilo city is just beside the mall and is accessible along the Diversion Road. But other than SM, another busy hub can also be accessed just across the mall -- Plazuela.

The Plazuela at night

Also, if you're staying for just a few hours in Iloilo and would love to go around without your luggages or backpacks in tow, you can always leave your stuff at SM's Traveller's Lounge. It will only cost you P30/compartment. You can also take a shower there, if you'd like.

What/Where To Eat

Try dining at Dive Rock. Their Tom Yam, matched with their inihaw na liempo and manok are such sumptuous combinations!

And if you find yourself awake at 8 am and by the Ledesma area (where Ong Bun is), and scurrying for some breakfast meals, you can always head out to Robinsons Place. The only place that you can dine in at 9 am would have to be Fiesta (the only food establishment that's open around that time). But if you don't feel like exploring, you can always try Mcdonald's or Jollibee nearby.

Of course, never miss a La Paz Batchoy food trip. You can try Netong's. They'll surely serve some extra bowls of hot soup and garnishes!


Before Cebu City got it's nickname, Iloilo city was the first province that was named the 'Queen City of the South'. Other than that, Iloilo city also takes pride in being recognized as the 'Food basket and Rice granary of Western Visayas'.

Street-smart Tips

*According to an Ilongga friend, if you're taking a cab from SM Mandurriao and is bound for any point in Jaro, Molo or La Paz, your usual cab fare should not go beyond P100-120.

**Crossing the street from the Jaro Belfry Tower to Jaro Cathedral proves to be quite a challenge. There are no stoplights to warn neither pedestrian or driver -- so make sure to pay close attention to all kinds of passing vehicles.

Anyway, here's our TRAVEL EXPENSE SHEET to help you budget your finances, especially if you're planning a trip to Iloilo soon.

How about you? Have you been to Iloilo city? I'm thinking about going back and doing more church-hopping. :) Care to join me next time?

Explore & Be Free!
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