15 Things to Do and See in Iloilo in 24 Hours

Iloilo is a well-known city in the Visayas. There are a lot of notable and well blogged destination in the province. Ancestral houses, old churches, old cemeteries, century old business districts, modern metropolis and food are some of the things to see in Iloilo. For some Iloilo is a gateway to some of Visayas’ gem such as Guimaras and Gigantes Island but Iloilo is worth your weekend to explore the beauty of the province.  

Five years ago, I first set foot in Iloilo with a friend. It was a quick side trip of our Bacolod trip. Then three years ago I revisited Iloilo, again for a quick side trip before I embarked to my Cuyo journey. This year, Lana and I decided to stay for a night in Iloilo before we proceed to Negros. I toured Lana on some of the places I’ve been to show her the love Iloilo has to offer.  

Iloilo is one of the province in the Island of Panay Island – the center of the Philippines and one of the most important province in the Philippine history. The other province in Panay are Aklan, Antique and Capiz. Iloilo is considered a historical, cultural and economic hub not just in Visayas but in the Philippines. It goes head to head with Cebu City as the Queen City of the South.

The plane landed in Iloilo at around 12nn when the sun was at its peak. We immediately boarded the overcrowded and seemingly non-air-condition van going to SM Iloilo. The trip was less than 30 minutes and it cost around Php60.00. We immediately rode a jeep in SM Iloilo to Calle Real where our hotel is located. The jeep ride was more bearable than the van ride.

Here are the things that we did and ate in Iloilo City for 24 hours. 

Eat La Paz Batchoy at Decos
After checking-in in our budget downtown hotel we immediately hailed a jeep going to La Paz Market for a quick and light lunch. We had the famous La Paz Batchoy at Decos under the 35-degree afternoon.

This is my second time in Deco’s Original Lapaz Batchoy and I must say that the taste, the feeling, the ambiance is still the same. Nothing has changed except for the fading signage outside.

After our quick lunch we rode a jeep going to Jaro to see the famous Jaro Cathedral, the bell-tower, the old Jaro Municipal Hall and some old houses such as Casa Mariquit and the Lopez Heritage House.

Take Picture at the Old Jaro Municipal Hall

Our first stop in Jaro was the Old Jaro Municipal Hall. The building was, on my point of view, already renovated. I bet continues improvements are being made to preserve the building. It was closed when we visited but I spotted some things inside that could imply that the building is still in use. What I hate when we visited Old Jaro Municipal Hall were the cars parked right in front of the building. I just could not take a good shot of it.

Feel the Love at Casa Mariquit, the house of VP Fernando Lopez
Steps away from the Old Jaro Municipal Hall is the house of VP Fernando Lopez named after his wife Mariquit. The house today, called Casa Mariquit is like an old house set in a romantic movie. Covered with tick foliage of green ornamental plants and guarded by a century old banyan tree.

We did not go inside the house because there was no one to call. The gate was open, but we don’t want to invade the soul living inside the house.

Pray at Jaro Cathedral

We decided to go to Jaro Cathedral and see the splendors of the old church. There was wedding on going when we arrived at the church. The church was gorgeously designed to add romance to the exchange of vows. Too bad though, we cannot go inside the church because the ceremony was on going.

In front of the Jaro Cathedral is the church’s bell tower. Jaro Cathedral is one of the few churches in the Philippines where in the bell tower is separated from the church main building. Similar to this is the Bantay Church Bell Tower in Vigan, Ilocos Sur.

Walk down Memory Lane with Ancestral Houses
While on the jeep going to Museo Iloilo I saw a row of stunning old houses. I shouted “sa lugar lang” and we went down the jeep.

One notable house that we saw was the Vicente Lopez Heritage House also known as the Nelly Garden. To enter the house, one needs to reserve. There is also a small fee to enter. Since we don’t have prior arrangement, we were not able to enter. The security guard did not even allow me to enter the grounds to take picture. He said I can take picture outside. 

Some Old Houses in Downtown Iloilo

Lean About the Province in Museo Iloilo
Since it wasn’t my first time in Iloilo and I already entered Museo Iloilo twice already, I just let Lana explored the museum. One of the museum staff seems upset that I am not entering (and not paying the entrance fee).

I sat in the lobby with a large painting in front of me. While Lana was exploring the museum, I rested and checked on my social media while seating. Then I saw the large painting in front of me. Since I am outside the “paid” area of the museum, I thought taking a picture from where I am was okay.  When I pointed my action camera on the painting, one of the staff shouted at me with a blazing eye. She said, “Di ka nag-bayad!” I was stunned because I thought I committed a crime while taking a picture. 

Even though I was provoked, I still maintained my composure and smiled at the staff. Many things run in my head, was its just their accent, expression? I don’t know. But I could not forget her blazing eye! 

I got an idea. Since Lana “paid” the entrance fee. I asked her to take pictures and videos in both paid and unpaid area of the museum. I made sure that the staff including the one who shouted at me heard what I was saying and instructing to Lana. She paid. The staff with the blazing eye could not shout at her “Di ka nag-bayad!” We went out the museum satisfied.

Have a Selfie in Casa Real
Beside the museum is Casa Real and in front of it is the Arroyo Fountain.
Casa Real is the old Capitol of Iloilo Province. The century old building is an iconic structure in the heart of Iloilo City. The Old Capitol serves as the Kilometer Zero of Iloilo.

Pray Again at Molo Church
Our next stop was the Molo Church. From Casa Real, we took a jeep down to Molo district. Molo used to be a separate town in Iloilo called parian where Chinese residents live.
Molo Church also known as Parish of St. Anne is a stunning architectural wonder right in front of the public plaza. Not to mention the possible food treat in front of the public plaza, this neogothic is a sure must visit in Iloilo City.

Enter and Buy Souvenirs at Molo Mansion
In front of the Molo Plaza is the superb mansion of Yusay-Consing or simple known as the Molo Mansion. There is no way you wouldn’t notice it. It’s a feat of grandeur and richness right in the heart of Molo District.

Molo Mansion now houses Kultura of SM Malls. You can buy souvenirs here is you have the budget. At the back of the mansion are food stalls that sells simple snacks and breakfast. They open as early as 6AM.

Have Some Authentic Hot Chocolate at Camiña Balay Nga Bato
Since I wanted to visit an old house in Iloilo that shows the richness of the province and has a guided tour, we visited Camiña Balay Nga Bato. Aside from the guided tour you will be treated with an authentic tsokolate drink after the tour. It is the best chocolate drink I have tried. For Php200 you’ll have a guided tour and two rounds of chocolate drink. At the silong of the house, you can buy souvenir items and if you are early, you can watch women weaving textile also sold at the shop.

Be sure not to do a closing tour. I didn’t like the mood of the tour guide during the tour. Aside from her non-expressive tone during the tour, she almost wanted us to finish the tour even though we’re not starting yet. She keeps on mentioning that the tour is up to this time and the house will close at such time etc. etc. There was no joy in her eyes. Be sure to get there early to avoid what we experienced.

Walk Along the River in Iloilo Esplanade 2
Back to Molo, we did a night walk along Iloilo Esplanade 2. It a nice walk along the manicured boardwalk beside Iloilo River. The Iloilo Esplanade 2 is more than a kilometer long and it took us 20 minutes to walk. The river breathes fresh air, has nice foliage and most of all does not have a stinky smell. No wonder people are relaxing in Esplanade while some are doing night run.  

Night Photography at Calle Real
Back at the Calle Real, I was astonished by the lights and old charm of the city. The buildings were lit illuminating the godly beauty of the colonial street. We were lucky that our hotel is located right in the heart of the city. I did a quick night shot while Lana was buying food for our dinner.

The next day, we decided to hit the road and see more old churches and cemeteries. We went back to Molo to take a bus to San Joaquin, but we end up taking a Van for faster travel. As much as I want to take the bus because its more comfortable and has more leg room, but it will eat more time because of the stops it will make along the way. We took the van going to Anini-y, Antique and went down to San Joaquin.

Calle Real in the Morning

See the “Rendicion de Tutuan” in San Joaquin Church
San Joaquin Church is made of corals. Engraved on the façade of the church is the battle between the Spanish and the moro in Tetuan called “Rendicion de Tutuan” San Joaquin is the only church that I saw depicting a battle.

Get Some Gold at Campo Santo de San Joaquin
A friend message me on Facebook that I should also Campo Santo de San Joaquin. I didn’t know what it was, but I later found out that it is an old cemetery with a lovely old chapel at the middle. Campo Santo de San Joaquin is a picture magnet structure with tons of stories buried underneath. But I found a way to dig one of its hidden secrets through our pedicab driver/tour guide. According to our guide, there are lots of gold under the chapel. A priest from San Joaquin dig the gold and allegedly got some of it. He then disappeared after that – this happened just last year.

With gold or without gold, Campo Santo de San Joaquin is a gem of our history.

Find Out Why Miagao Church is a UNESCO World Heritage Site
Next to San Joaquin is the UNESCO World Heritage Site Miagao Church. The Baroque Romanesque church was founded in 1731. Miagao Church is also known as Santo Tomas de Villanueva Parish. Miagao is one of the most fascinating church in the Philippines. Its yellowish color made it distinct among other churches in the Philippines. The church was build using egg, coral, adobe and some limestone.  

Iloilo is truly a gem in the center of the Philippines. Its history and culture will truly be an amazing factor why you will visit the province. 15 things to do is not enough. There are plenty of thing to do in Iloilo. Feel free to comment what you can suggest. 


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