Irong-Irong appears in the Maragtas legend of the coming of ten Bornean Datus (chieftains) to Panay who bartered gold for the plains and valleys of the island from local Ati chieftain. One datu, Paiburong by name, was given the territory of Irong-Irong (now Iloilo). For 300 years before the coming of the Spaniards, the islanders lived in comparative prosperity and peace under an organized government and such laws as the Code of Kalantiaw.
In 1572, the Spaniards under Miguel Lopez de Legaspi came to Panay and established a settlement in Ogtong (now Oton, Iloilo). He appointed Gonzalo Ronquillo as deputy encomiendero who in 1581 moved the seat of Spanish power to La Villa Rica de Arevalo, a sitio named in honor of his hometown in Avila, Spain. By 1700, due to recurrent raids by Moro pirates, Dutch and English privateers, the Spaniards moved to the village of Irong-Irong or Ilong-Ilong whose name the Spaniards shortened to “Iloilo” later became the capital of the province.
Iloilo, the historical and cultural cradle of the Visayan Islands, is home of hand-woven fabrics, collection of historical artifacts and antiques, old churches of greatly varying designs of a guideless people. Their culture rubs off on visitors, their quaint city and towns bathe in cool, clean fresh air, their centuries-old industries and arts continue to nourish a lifestyle of grace and elegance.
Repository of Iloilo’s cultural heritage. Carbon-14 dated fossils, shells and rocks, flaked tools, native pottery, ornamented teeth, jewelry, secondary burial coffin, underwater relics, coins, sculpture, silver crafts, gallery of rare pictures and art pieces by Ilonggo artists are on display.
Collections of Philippines colonial sculpture, wood, stone and ivory saints, Chinese porcelain wares and other artifacts.
The “Old Iloilo”, once the exclusive area for the elite is now the district of vintage homes, seat of archdiocese and religious capital of the region, home of Graciano Lopez Jaena and Magdalena Jalandoni, famous writers, Jaro Fiesta, most opulent religious pageantry and grand clock derbies.
Known as the flower village, front yards of quaint homes are abloom throughout the year. Also famous for giant multi-color fireworks. Arevalo’s skyline becomes a celebration in dazzling display of colors and blazing lighting effects on the eve of every third Sunday of January. Sinamay, jusi, and piña delicate local fabrics weaving center of Iloilo.
Referred to as the “Athens of the Philippines” because of the numerous intellectual giants it has produced (seven senators, seven governors of Iloilo and four justies of the Supreme Court.) Molo is noted for its coral Gothic Renaissance Church built in the 1800’s, antique collection, Panaderia de Molo biscuits and original Pancit Molo.
Iloilo Golf Course
18-hole, 35 hectares, the oldest in the Philippines built in 1907 by a group of Scot, English and American expatriates working in Iloilo City business. The key pioneers were the Scots who were working on the Panay Railway System.
Included in the UNESCO World Heritage List, the Miag-ao Fortress Church was built in 1786 as a place of worship and refuge during piratical attacks. It has two dissimilar bell towers and a unique façade reminiscent of Aztec art. San Joaquin Church is the only church in the Philippines sporting bas-relief of a historic battle between the Christians of Spain and the Moors of Tetuan, Morroco in 1859 at its façade. Both Miag-ao and San Joaquin churches are national historical landmarks. Sta. Barbara Church is the site of the first cry of Ilonggo revolution. The parish house of the church manifests the glory of Hispanic old churches in varying designs are found in several municipalities of the province.
A travel to Iloilo is not complete until a bite of the local delicacy is taken. Famous bakeries with over a century of baking experience prepare different breads and biscuits with such exotic names such as bañadas, hojaldres, broas, biscocho, galletas, torones, etc. Don’t miss Pancit Molo, a soup with spiced pork and chicken meatballs daintily wrapped in thin dough, boiled in chicken-pork broth. Sample Iloilo’s culinary pride: the La Paz Batchoy, a delicacy made of scissored noodles and pork innards simmered in broth and Binakol, chicken cooked in young bamboo tube. Other Ilonggo, delicacies are pinasugbo (banana brittle), barquiron (local stuffed wafers), barquillos (local wafers) and an array of mouth watering treats.
THINGS TO DO IN ILOILO CITY
1. ANTIQUE HUNTING
Hunt for authentic antiques at the different antique shops in Iloilo. There are various collections of Philippine colonial sculptures, wood, stone, and ivory saints, Chinese porcelain wares and other artifacts at reasonable prices. Try to strike a bargain.
2. WEAVING INDUSTRY
In Arevalo District, see how many women weavers daintily operate early Spanish era looms to make delicate jusi, piña and hablon fabrics of elegant designs. Buy finished products at Sinamay Dealer near Arevalo Plaza. These will be conservation pieces at home.
3. VILLA BEACH
Savor the best in local and seafood cuisine at the wide array of restaurants along Arevalo District’s shoreline. Try Breakthrough, Tatoy’s Manokan or Villa Regatta, you’ll be glad you did! Not far away from the beach, be charmed by flower gardens ornamenting homes and means of livelihood. Seeing the flowers and their grower can be both rewarding experiences.
4. MUSEO ILOILO
Visit the repository of Iloilo’s cultural heritage and experience being brought several centuries back in time. View exhibits of scientifically-dated fossils, shells, rocks, Stone Age flake tools, native pottery, ornamented teeth among others all indicating the age of Panay Island. Hulot Aninipay, changing gallery for local, national and international art, awaits those who love to view or buy contemporary pieces.
Spot bargains in shops housed in old buildings at Calle Real (JM Basa St.), where Philippine national hero, Dr. Jose Rizal on his way to manila from his exile in Dapitan bought a hat in 1896. These buildings survivors of the ravages of time and war, have retained the unique characters of Iloilo as a gracious city. Enjoy shopping at several modern stores and malls in the City Proper and at La Paz and Mandurriao districts. Hunt for souvenirs at the Ilonggo Producers Association showroom for a wide selection of native crafts, giftwares, fashion accessories, delicacies, garments, etc. Test haggling skills for native bags and housewares sold at the Central Market area where fruits in season are also available.
6. SPORTING LIFE
On Sundays and special occasions, partake of the excitement of cockfighting, a sport well-known to the Filipinos, where fortunes can change hands overnight at the Iloilo Coliseum. Physical fitness enthusiasts may drop by Iloilo Sports Complex to swim, jog or play tennis, basketball or simply catch up on ongoing sports competition. Contact the Iloilo Mountain Bike Association c/o Department of Tourism for a weekend of tour biking in Guimaras along scenic trails and mango orchards and coconut plantation, fish and prawn farms, caves and white-sand beach. Guimaras is famous for graded dirt roads, single-track trails and unspoiled beauty. Play golf or simply watch others play at the Iloilo Golf and Country Club, the Philippines oldest golf course located in Sta. Barbara, Iloilo.
7. SCHOOL CAMPUS
Coordinate with school authorities and experience a memorable time visiting Iloilo City’s old but charming school campuses founded in late 19th to 20th centuries. Colegio de San Jose founded in 1872 is the oldest educational institution in the province. Iloilo National High School established in 1902 is the first provincial public high school in the country. University of San Agustin was founded in 1904 and made a concentration camp by the Japanese in 1941. Central Philippine University was founded by the Americans in 1905. In the same year, the Americans also founded Baluarte Elementary school, the oldest public elementary school in the country. The University of the Philippines in the Visayas used to be the City Hall of Iloilo.
8. RELIGIOUS LANDMARKS
Capture the aura of the old Iloilo, the second oldest Spanish settlement in the Philippines, in its opulent churches. Coral rock Molo Church built in 1831 was made as an evacuation center of the civilians during WWII. Jaro Cathedral, finished in 1874 was where one of the famous national heroes, Graciano Lopez-Jaena, was baptized. Its belfry is one of the few in the Philippines that stands apart from the church. Saint Vincent Ferrer Seminary is the fifth and the last seminary founded during the Spanish regime in the Philippines.
9. BAMBOO CRAFT
In La Paz District, appreciate bamboos made into souvenir items for export. Observe how religious images, toys, decors and lampshades are fashioned from bamboo under the watchful supervision of Carmelite Sisters who run the CM Bamboocraft Center. At El 98 St. near the Jaro Market, dining set, living room set, cabinets, beds all made of bamboo are on display and sale. Visit the Ilonggo Producers Association Trade Pavillion at Gen. Luna St., for convenient shopping.
Taste and take home famous delicacies like pinasugbo (banana brittle), barquillos (local wafer), and biscocho(buttered toasted bread) from Jaro district, hojaldres, bañadas, kinihad among others are baked and sold fresh at Panaderia de Molo and Biscocho Haus. You should not miss La Paz Batchoy and Pancit Molo, local noodle dishes served in most restaurants in Iloilo City.
11. PUBLIC MARKETS
Enjoy local colors and lower prices at the market of each of the six districts of the city. The City Proper has two markets: the Supermarket and the Central Market where tropical fruits, fresh vegetables and fish are available. The most popular market is the Jaro Thursday Market where people from nearby provinces and other parts of Panay Island go to buy and sell different products. Jaro Market has been famous since the early 19th century and has retained its popularity not only in Iloilo City but in the whole Western Visayas.
12. FORT SAN PEDRO MUELLE LONEY
View the picturesque island province of Guimaras from historic Fort San Pedro built by the Spaniards in 1600s, attacked by Dutch British, Americans and Japanese troops. Muelle Loney, Iloilo City’s waterfront, was named after Nicholas Loney, British Vice Consul and father of the Sugar Industry in Panay and Negros. Considered as one of the safest harbors in the country, this area accommodates both foreign and inter-island vessels.
SOURCE: Department of Tourism