For the first time, my friends and I traveled to IloIlo to partake in the Antique Marathon last November 16, 2014. Since IloIlo is new to us, we made a decision to stay for one whole night in the city to get a chance to explore IloIlo.
Known to be the Heart Of Asia, IloIlo is also a home of Dinagyang Festival. A very famous festival that normally takes place somewhere around January.
We took a very early flight to IloIlo to give us more time to explore the city. We were so excited as this was the first time for us to travel with a group of friends.
After an hour, we landed safely in IloIlo City. We were just so excited to begin our day tour of the city.
They have a beautiful airport and clean airport. Smoking is also prohibited in the city. If you take public transport, you can ride a taxi but they are expensive and they make their own prices. However, try to walk across the airport and look for vans that go to SM City for a fare of Php 50.00 and take a taxi from there.
We were checked in at Riverside Inn. We heard how affordable their rooms are so we gave it a go. For 4 of us, we only paid Php 1675.00.
Since the check in was only at 2:00pm. They were kind enough to allow us to leave our bags while we explored the city.
After doing all the research, we came up with different places to visit. However we found out that some of the tourist spots are hours away from the city. We didn't want to spend most of our day in taxis and jeepneys so we just decided to explore whatever we could around this beautiful and very clean City of IloIlo.
1.NETONG'S ORIGININAL LAPAZ BATCHOY
When you talk about IloIlo, one food you need to try is there Lapaz Batchoy. It is a noodle soup dish that originated in Lapaz, IloIlo. We went to the most talked about place said to be the home of original Lapaz Batchoy and that is NETONGS.
Getting around Lapaz Market was like a maze. It advisable to ask the people where it is inside the public market to avoid getting lost. The market itself was big, but we were amazed how clean Lapaz Market was.
We finally found Netong's and we couldn't wait to try their Batchoy.
There are so many things to love about IloIlo City. One of them being the price of food being so affordable compare to many other places. We ordered a Mega Bowl of Lapaz Batchoy for Php 100.00. That serving is good enough for 3 people.
Lapaz Batchoy is composed of sliced pork, garlic, meat innards, miki noodles and other spices. The preparation was quick and easy. And after a few minutes, our mega bowl was served. Yum!
I never really tasted a Lapaz Batchoy before, but this one was really delicious specially if you are eating the authentic Lapaz Batchoy.
2. MADGE CAFE
Another place not to be missed inside the Lapaz Market and only a few meters away from Netong's Lapaz Batchoy was the MADGE COFFEE. A favorite hang out place for people from all walks of life, the aroma of the coffee brewing at from Madge Cafe creates an ambiance people look for.
Peter, who now manages the place, was so accommodating to all. He went from table to table making sure all their customers were satisfied and all doing well. I like that! He even said that this tradition has been going on for 76 years now. That's just amazing!
Get to enjoy this strong coffee for Php 25.00 . There is something in their coffee that I like but I don't know what it is. We had 2 servings of their strong coffee because it was just too good!
We were also told that frequent customers just leave their mugs here and use them again when they visit.
The long tradition lives on and there is no stopping here. People love this place a lot!
This is how they prepare their coffee: with the use of Colador or strainer and some evaporated milk.
3. ILOILO CITY HALL
While I was talking to my friend Vincent, he told me to meet him at IloIlo City hall to get a nice view of the city. We did not know that there would be more to see than the view itself.
On the ground floor of the City Hall, you have to check out the City Gallery and get a glimpse of the rich culture of this beautiful city.
This gallery boasts it's rich culture from the Dinagyang Festival all the way to the recognitions the city had received.
Right on top of the city hall was this beautiful bronze sculpture that symbolizes the tradition and livelihood in IloIlo.
We even tried on the elaborate costumes of the Dinagyang festival. This makes me more keen to come next year and experience what it will be like during the Dinagyang Festival in Iloilo.
Vincent surprised us when he took us to a place where we never expected to be, THE CITY MAYOR'S OFFICE! We were like, seriously?! Lol..
Apparently, the Mayor was not around but the Vice Mayor was there to welcome us and even spent some of his time chatting to us. They even allowed us to take pictures with them. How awesome was that!
Right across the Mayor's Office was the Press Room. Perfect for another photo opportunity!
After that very overwhelming experience, we headed up to the roof top to see the magnificent view of IloIlo City. You can also see Guimaras Island on the horizon.
There is no doubt about that IloIlo City is a very clean and beautiful city. This is a place you have to see for yourself!
4. CALLE REAL
A newly declared Heritage Zone by the National Historical Commission of the Philippines (NHCP), Calle Real was formally named J.M. Basa Street. This place was a business and cultural center during the late Spanish colonial period and American period and that's exactly what we felt as we walked along Calle Real.
Calle Real is just a walking distance from the City Hall. You can just ask anybody where the street is and they will all point in the same direction. You probably passed through it going to the city hall.
Other's commented that it was just an ordinary street, but for me it wasn't. The street really brought us back in time just by looking at the beautiful structures around Calle Real.
One famous place along Calle Real is Roberto's. With all the food that they serve, their SIOPAO was the best seller! It was even tagged as the "Best Siopao in IloIlo". Now time for you to try them out when you visit Iloilo.
5. SAMURAI TALABAHAN SEAFOODS
With all the delicious delicacies in IloIlo City, one food you must not forget is to try their Oysters (Talaba). We were so surprised with the affordability of their food compared to Manila. That's why we ordered a lot! Their servings were also generous. Samurai are spread out all over the city . We visited their branch close to SM CIty IloIlo.
Sizzling Crabmeat - Php 139.00
Mix Talaba Platter - Php 135.00
And our total bill for 4 of us was Php 751.00! Amazing!
6. AFRIQUE'S GOURMET PIZZA, PASTA, STEAKS, AND MORE at Smallville
On our first night, we were really starving and we were craving for the best. One friend told us about Afriques, so I told my friends that this is the place where we are going to eat.
The weather was cool and breezy so we decided to sit outside the restaurant and made our orders.
Again, we were overwhelmed with the prices and how affordable the menus were.
We ordered a hamburger, Chicken and buffalo wings. Initially, we ordered pizza but thank goodness it didn't arrive because when the food came, the servings were huge! Seems like we ended up with more than we were paying for. The food was delicious! The best buffalo wings I had for a long time.
We all left the place happy and our tummies were satisfied! Go to AFRIQUE'S if you want to have a great dining experience!
7. ANCESTRAL HERITAGE TOUR
Driving around the city of IloIlo, you already feel of the rich historical past of the city. One of the many landmarks you will find are the ancestral mansions. One of them was the Ledesma Mansion found in Jaro, IloIlo. Although, this mansion is off limits to the public, we were lucky to that the care taker of the house agreed to let us take pictures of the beautiful mansion. You will find many houses like this around IloIlo. Take a drive around and you will be surprised!
8. JARO CATHEDRAL
IloIlo city is also surrounded with lovely old churches. One of the old churches you have to visit is the Jaro Cathedral. Constructed in 1874, this church was damaged by a a strong quake back in 1948 and was restored beautifully.. This church is so unique since the belfry is separated and stands across the church.
You will observe that the saints inside the church are all males and the female saints can be found at the Molo Church.
Many devotees flocked to Jaro Cathedral as it is believed that the statue of Nuestra Senora de la Candelaria (Lady of the Candles) is miraculous.
It is believed that The Lady of the Candles continues to grow bigger each year.
9. BISCOCHO HAUS
The best pasalubong or presents you can give to your family and friends coming from IloIlo is the Biscocho. A baked bread topped with butter and sugar, this is one of the favorite snacks of the Filipinos.
And because of high demands, they also added more varieties and sweets that you can include aside from the biscocho.
Biscocho Haus is spread all over the city and if you buy a lot, they can put them in a box which is ideal when travelling.
Not far from the Jaro Cathedral and Biscocho Haus was another tourist destination, Casa Mariquit. One of the old ancestral houses found in Jaro, IloIlo city, Casa Mariquit is open to the public. You will find some antique pieces ready to take you back to the time of the colonial Spanish period.
Since we didn't have much time, we were not able to explore further.
10. MOLO CHURCH
Another old church we visited was the Molo Church. Constructed in 1831, this Gothic inspired church also draws a lot of tourists and devotees from all over. The interior of the church was also beautiful as you will also find a lot of antique pieces and it feels very calm and peaceful inside. Definitely worth the visit!
The church was also built using white coral which also add to the beauty and character of the church.
When I toured the UK few years back, I couldn't take my eyes off the rose windows like this one at Molo church specially when light enters through them.
All of the 16 Saints you will find here are all females. That is why others called it the Women's Church.
11. Taste the Best Liempo at RAMBOY'S
Not far from the Molo Church, Vincent brought us to a restaurant believed to have the best liempo in town. Ramboy's can also be found all over the city of IloIlo and we were lucky that we found one close by.
As mentioned before, the affordability and serving of the food was incredible. Truly worth what you are paying for!
We were starving and as we opened the menu and saw the servings from the other table, we were in awe and could not wait to have ours served.
We ordered sweet and sour pork and of course Liempo!! They also serve other local delicacies and Filipino favorites, but their Liempo is to DIE FOR!
And there you have it guys, I hope I was able to show that IloIlo is a great destination to visit. People are so friendly here, the city is so clean, the city is rich in history and culture, and you get your money's worth or maybe even more!