From my perspective as a local, here are the top things you can do to experience Ilonggo culture.
1. VISIT OUR CHURCHES
The top three that come to mind if your area of visit is just Iloilo City are: MOLO CHURCH, AREVALO CHURCH & JARO CATHEDRAL.
MOLO CHURCH – the church of Sta. Ana, branded as the feminist church for the all-female statues of saints along the nave. Take your pick. : ). Molo is also significant for having been visited by Dr. Jose Rizal after Dapitan.
AREVALO CHURCH – La Villa Rica de Arevalo (its complete name) is home to the 3rd oldest image of Sto. Niño in the Philippines. Unfortunately, many don’t seem to know about this or care.
JARO CATHEDRAL – home of the Nuestra Señora dela Candelaria, crowned by Pope John Paul II in 1981. Two years ago, this cathedral was elevated to a National Shrine.
If you have plenty of time to go around Iloilo, the province, then must- see a the churches of the coastal south.
MIAGAO CHURCH – the church that needs no introduction for it is in the prestigious UNESCO World Heritage List. This 200+ year old fortress church is significant for its Philippine baroque decorations at the facade. Be sure to look closely and identify the details found in that triangular section of the facade, called the pediment. The rich altar mayor, done a decade ago, complements what is outside.
SAN JOAQUIN CHURCH & CEMETERY -This church has the honor of being one of the 26 National Treasure Churches of the Philippines. It’s the only church in the Philippines with a militaristic theme on its facade.
The cemetery, well, I am biased about since it was my post-grad thesis. Objectively speaking, this is one well-preserved heritage site in Iloilo. Impressive is the funerary chapel or capilla of the San Joaquin Camposanto as well as the entrance archway with its own symbolic design on the pediment.
TIGBAUAN CHURCH – What I never get tired of looking at, among other details, is the relief carving of the Sto. Niño above the main entrance door of Tigbauan church. Inside is another surprise. All the walls, including the altar are covered in mosaic style.
2. STROLL ALONG CALLE REAL AND THE REST OF DOWNTOWN
As more and more commercial buildings in Calle Real are being restored, this area, now recognized as a heritage district, is a must see. Start from Plazoleta Gay and take a leisurely walk while looking at the facade of these old but enduring buildings at the downtown. The styles vary– from very ornate and classical, to Art Deco and post-war minimalist designs.
3. EAT , EAT, EAT.
What else? Iloilo is synonymous to good food, to savor in situ and to take home as pasalubong to family and friends.
A visit to Iloilo isn’t complete without dining at these restaurants noted for their Ilonggo fare.
in the city, there’s a new addition, Punot st the Boardwalk, with both classic Ilonggo and with a modern twist.
A scenic coastal drive along the coast of Leganes to Dumangas with lead you to Piad’s and Joy-Joy’s, noted for seafood–talaba, alimango or mud crabs, fish, shrimps, squid. Specialty is alimusan adobado at Piad’s.
At Villa, there’s the Camina Balay nga Bato for a tsokolate experience, a pancit molo merienda or for the full blown Ilonggo buffet. An asset of this place is the laid back, relaxing atmosphere perfect for afternoons with friends, a counterpoint to the increasingly busy pace of life in Iloilo City.