It was eight years ago that I had my last visit to the beautiful city of Ilo-Ilo. It is located in the southeastern tip of Panay Island and borders the provinces of Antique and Capiz in the Western Visayas. It is known as the heart of the Philippines. Irong-irong was the first name of the place because of the land is formed like a nose in the south of Ilo-ilo River. The Spaniards had difficulty pronouncing it, therefore shortening it to Ilo-ilo.
I am really amazed about some developments of the city since my last visit, especially the widened road. This helps minimizing congested traffic even during rush hours. In spite of the city's modern development, its original cultural history was preserved. One can visit and enjoy the old town and savor the famous traditional food, meditate in the old baroque churches, and admire the century old houses.
Ilo-ilo is a one-hour flight from Manila via Manila Domestic Airports. Ilo-ilo International Airport is 19 kilometers away from the city center and it takes about 30 minutes by car to get there. From the airport, one can take a private taxi that costs about 400 pesos or you can share a van up to SM City Ilo-Ilo costing about 70 pesos. There are also means of public jeepneys but if you prefer less hassle, I suggest taking a shared van.
When we flew in, a family sitting in front of us offered us to join them in their prebooked van for free. They dropped us off at the city's outskirt and from there we took a taxi for 100 pesos to reach or hotel, namely Go Hotel. This hotel costs only 1500 pesos per night and it is located next to the Robinson's Mall in Mabini Street. This place is quite central in Ilo-ilo city and other locations can be reached quickly by riding a jeepney costing only 8 pesos.
Seven interesting places to visit for a day in Ilo-ilo City: 1. St. Anne's Church of Molo is 200 years old and is one of the oldest churches in the Philippines. It has a gothic architecture design primarily of the corral-stoned wall. It is referred to as the Church of Women because of its 18 female Saints statues inside the church.
2. The Jaro Cathedral is the National Shrine of Our Lady of Candles with its patron saint Nuestra Senora de la Candelaria. It is one of the oldest churches in the country and the first church's structure was built in 1864 in honor of St. Elizabeth of Hungary. This is the only marian statue in the country crowned personally by the Pope St. John Paul II.
3. The Campanario de Jaro (Jaro Bell Tower/Belfry) was built in 1744 just across the Jaro Cathedral served as watchtower against the Muslim invasion during the Spanish colonial period. It stands 29 meters tall and has a baroque architectural design and the only belfry in the country that was built detached from the church. In 1984, it was declared a national historical landmark by the National Historical Commission.
4. The Museo Ilo-ilo (Ilo-ilo Museum) is the first government-sponsored museum outside Metro Manila and was built in 1970s. It features Panay's cultural heritage, religious relics, stoned-age potteries, remains of British sunken ships, contemporary art, and related artifacts. It is located just beside the Provincial Capitol Building. Opening times are Monday to Saturday from 0900-1700. (Entrance fee: 50 pesos)
5. The Arroyo Fountain is another famous landmark of the city. It is located in the small rotonda fronting the old provincial capitol building. It is also known as the zero kilometer in the island of Panay. The fountain is named after the late Senator Jose Maria Arroyo from Ilo-ilo. The fountain's original design was with four naked women carrying a water basin on their heads but due to cultural and local conservatism, the statues were changed to wearing clothes.
6. The Old Houses and Chinatown Walk Tour along Bonifacio Drive and Iznart Street is a self walk tour we did to explore the inner old town of Ilo-ilo. Surprisingly there are a lot of old buildings that are still used either as commercial or residential houses. Take extra care of your belongings.
7. Netong La Paz Batchoy Restaurant. There are other famous La Paz Batchoy restaurants from Ilo-Ilo such as Ted's and Deco's but Netong has preserved its original location inside the La Paz Public Market. One cannot be in Ilo-ilo without trying the famous food of the town such as chicken inasal, pansit molo, and la paz batchoy. Netong can be found in the heart of the public market passing through different sections. It opened in the same location as of today since 1940s. They are serving specials, super specials and extra specials between 90 and 100 pesos per order. There is a wide selection of noodles from miki, lomi, bihon, and miswa. Your batchoy is best accompanied by either siopao or rice puto (at additional cost). They have air-conditioned room even in the middle of the day while savoring your hot la paz batchoy.
We have tried to dine-in at Sari-sari Bakery not just for local breads but for its short orders of pansit molo (for only 30 pesos), which gives you a taste of a real Ilo-ilo speciality. Mangoes of Guimaras is a must-try in La Paz or in Ilo-ilo city public market.
A day is well spent visiting some interesting tourist sites of Ilo-ilo city while savoring the local cuisines at budgeted costs. Surely I will visit the beautiful city of Ilo-ilo again.
If you ever come to Ilo-Ilo try to visit these interesting sites and savor the authentic food that the town offers. It is highly recommended place to enjoy your vacation. Ilo-Ilo is truly one of the "WOW Philippines" tourist destinations. Experience the best of Ilongo's hospitality.