Iloilo on my mind
Some of my best memories of Iloilo happened during mealtimes, at the long wooden table of my grandparents’ home. And all 10 of their children, and their children’s children would magically fit on that table to share a sumptuous feast.
My family’s idea of a feast was bowls and bowls of tinolang manok and white rice. The soup would be flavorful because the fowl would be boiled for hours to soften its otherwise tough meat. All the vegetables in it—papaya, ginger and dahon ng sili—were nurtured and harvested from the farm.
Needless to say, my grandparents’ post-war home would come alive with children’s noise and laughter every summer and holiday. I remember us cousins taking turns to sit on our lola’s lap so she could tell us that “you are my favorite, but don’t tell your cousins about it.”
Their farm house has withstood storms, earthquakes and rambunctious children. And it still stands today. Its concrete foundation and wooden walls still look like that idyllic house of my childhood. Its capiz windows still slide noiselessly to keep the chilly air and imaginary shape-shifting aswangs out.
This is exactly why Iloilo will always feel like home. The people will always be warm, the food will always be comforting and the walls of its structures will always have a rich history to speak of. You don’t even have to be a local to experience all these.
The Jaro Cathedral is the most accessible spot to visit as the church, which was founded in 1587, is accessible through the Jaro CPU jeep. Its detached belfry shows its defiance to nature’s and mankind’s ravages. Outside, you can find vendors selling hot bibingka made of glutinous rice and coconut.
Some of the heritage houses can also be found in Jaro. Nelly’s Garden, The Antillan House and the Lizares Mansion are all located there. The grounds of Nelly’s Garden is open for tours.
In response to the male statues of Jaro, you can find an all-female lineup of saints at the Molo Church or St. Anne’s Parish. Locals call it a feminist church. Its gothic architecture is beautiful inside and out. When the sun is up, make sure to find a spot where you can sit outside so you get to enjoy how the sunlight hits the wall because the white corral—of which the church is made of—glistens.
Heritage houses can be found in Molo and Villa. There is the Casa Rizaliana, Sinamay House and the Camiña Balay na Bato. You can eat pancit Molo at the Molo Mansion. But if you are feeling really hungry, Breakthrough and other seafood restaurants are nearby.
Iloilo can be your jump-off point to other gems of Visayas like the famed islands of Guimaras and Boracay. The sweet mangoes of Guimaras are just one ferry away, while the world-renowned powdery white sand of Boracay is just a five-hour scenic bus ride through Antique.
The good thing is that there are now more hotels in the area, allowing tourists to enjoy the province. Guests are spoilt for choice on which hotel to stay in. The latest addition would be the Courtyard Hotel by Marriott, located inside the Iloilo Business Park, which in itself is a tourist destination given the row of homegrown restaurants, museum and the Festive Walk.
This is the best part of Iloilo. It has managed to keep its history and charm while allowing modern structures in. Old and modern work side-by-side to make the province worth remembering.
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