No trip to Iloilo City is complete without a visit to Molo's Roman Catholic church, named in honor of St. Anne.
With its towering spires, it is typical of Gothic Renaissance architecture, but with a completely Ilonggo twist -being made of coral rocks. It was completed in the 1800's.
What futher sets this beautiful church apart is its devotion to female saints - all images in the cathedral are those of female saints - for which it has earned the distinction as the most feminist church in the Philippines.
A tip to make the most of your visit: request the very friendly church guard (Danny's his name, I think) to give you a tour not only of the church interiors (it's free) but also to take you the top of the one of the belfries, where you get a very good vantage point of the city. This is if you are not acrophobic to scale a soaring, narrow, spiral staircase. For those brave enough, they shall be well-rewarded with magnificent views of the city.
Proceeding to the left of Plazoleta Gay takes you to JM Basa St., known as Calle Real in the Spanish era. This is a four-lane winding strip of stand-alone shop houses, now mostly owned by Filipino-Chinese merchant families.
Most buildings along JM Basa St. were built during the American colonial days (1900s-1930s). One my personal favorites is the Celso Ledesma Bldg built in 1923 - not for its architecture, but for one of its shops - The Commoner - the best place to get cheap office and school supplies. As a student (spent my grade and high school years in Iloilo City), I always looked forward to shopping for my supplies every school opening (usually June in the Philippines). Particularly enjoyed shopping for art supplies - crayons, watercolors, pastels - for my art classes. The colors were so mesmerizing.
I don't know when The Commoner began operating, but I was told that it was already in existence when my father was just a student! Imagine how many rolls of pad paper it had sold, how many pencils, pens, and my personal favorite - crayons.
Present-day old downtown Iloilo - mainly the streets of JM Basa and Iznart - retains much its colonial character, albeit most of the buildings require much much-needed repairs and refurbishing.
A PERSONAL NOTE: My late maternal grandmother, complete with her Spanish accent, always insisted on calling JM Basa St by its old Spanish name, Calle Real. (I love you lola!)
Most of the buildings that stand today were built during the height of the American colonial era (c. 1900-1930), at a time when Iloilo was a key trading port, mainly for the export of sugar to the global markets.
AN INTERESTING SIDEBAR: Much of the fortunes (and later on, misfortunes) of the wealthy clans of Iloilo and neighboring Negros Occidental were built on the booming sugar industry, until the early-1980s when it all collapsed, leaving the local economies, especially that of more sugar-dependent Negros Occidental, in tatters.
At the center of downtown Iloilo stands Plazoleta Gay, a rather unremarkable white obelisk-like structure with a dove perched on top.
But the real beauty of this monument (and place) is not in its physical form, but in its historical significance. It was where freedom-loving llonggos congregated at the height of People Power Revolution in February 1986 to denounce the Marcos dictatorship and demand its ouster (which eventually catapulted Corazon Aquino to the presidency, after the Marcoses fled to Hawaii on 25 February 1986).
As an 11-year old kid then, I had witnessed this historic event while munching my favorite waffle hotdogs, which were sold at a small kiosk beside this historic monument.
Now, as I pass through this part of the city, the cries of freedom-loving Ilonggos still reverberate, and in some ways, still hold true - freedom from the tyranny of poverty, from the oppressive ways of some big businesses, and demands for a decent and clean government.
There is no better way to start your tour of Iloilo than to visit its repository of cultural and historical heritage - the Museo Iloilo.
Although the museum has been in a state of disrepair, (not to mention inadequate maintenance) it contains a good selection of exhibits that would transport visitor to the province's and city's past - to witness the daily lives of the pre-historic Ati tribes, believed to be the island's first human inhabitants, to experience the rich Spanish colonial heritage (mainly religious objects and artifacts), and to witness the effects of American occupation.
The museum also from time to time features modern works of Ilonggo and visiting artists -providing a dynamic link between the past and present. The building itself, designed along modern lines, provides a striking contrast with the pre-historic and ancient exhibits therein.
Entrance fee is at 15 pesos (perhaps high time for an increase to fund much-needed repairs and maintain the building and exhibits in good condition!).
Jaro, a suburb of Ilolilo City, is a major archdiocese in the predominantly Roman Catholic Phillipines, encompassing the whole of the Western Visayas region.
TRIVIA: Jaro's former archbishop, now-deceased Jaime Cardinal Sin, went on to become the Archbishop of Manila, which is regarded as the head of the Roman Catholic clergy in the Philippines. Historically, he played a major role in ousting Ferdinand Marcos in 1986, when he called the Catholic faithful to congregate in EDSA (a major thoroughfare in Metro Manila) to support the rebellion of then Gen. Fidel Ramos, who later on became president, and then Minister of Defence, Juan Ponce-Enrile.
As such, the Jaro Cathedral, which is the seat of the Jaro Archdiocese, is a major religious landmark in the country, and a must-see for visitors in Iloilo.
Architecturally, it pales in comparison with Molo Church, but is nevertheless, a grand cathedral made of local limestone. The exterior walls used to be covered with painted, modern concrete, which was later removed to expose their original limestone (good move!) facade and lend the church a more old-age aura.
A distinguishing feature of this cathedral from others is its belfry, which was built separately apart from the cathedral (the belfry is featured in a separate article below).
Further down JM Basa St., closer to the docks stands Regent Theater. What used to be a good, wholesome cinema housed in an elegant classical building, sadly, now features cheap skin flicks (as shown in the picture - at least when the last time I was in Iloilo).
The building constructed in 1928, retained most its original facade with the ubiquitous classical columns when it was remodeled in the late 1980s.
I remember watching good local and English movies in this old cinema with its uniquely reclining seats (probably still unmatched in Iloilo).
I wish there is a rethinking of the cinema's film offerings so that it could live up to its regal and noble name.
A modern art piece on display at the Museo Iloilo.
In addition to being a repository of Iloilo's culture and history, the museum, from time to time, features contemporary works of local and visiting artists - providing a venue for the promotion of Ilonggo arts and culture, for everyone to enjoy.
Jaro's Cathedral is one of the few churches in the Philippines whose belfry is detached from the main church building. The original structure was destroyed in the earthquake of 1948, but had since been rebuilt, albeit with poor workmanship.
From a plane, the belfry is very much visible and an ubiquitous signal to your impending arrival to what is one of the most devoutly Roman Catholic cities in the Philippines.
Life-sized dioramas depicting life of the indigenous inhabitants - the Negritos or Atis in the local dialect - of Panay island, within which Iloilo is situated.
Here, the nomadic Atis are depicted as hunters and gatherers, whose Panay island population had dwindled to about 4,000 as of 1999.
Jaro's patron saint is the Lady of Candles (La Candelaria) whose feast day of 2nd February is marked by much fanfare and arguably the grandest of fiestas in Iloilo, and perhaps the whole of Panay island.
But there is more to the Lady of Candles than her grand feast day (which, I look forward to because it's a holiday!). The story goes like this: the image, which is now enshrined in Jaro's Cathedral was said to have been found by a fisherman in the Iloilo River. When it was brought to La Paz (yes, my La Paz), the image started to become so heavy, that is became impossible to carry it. Only when it was brought to Jaro did it become so light that a man could carry her.
Once in Jaro, miracles started happening and are being attributed to the Lady of Candles. There are even stories that people would notice times when the image's niche would be empty while seeing a beautiful long-haired maiden bathing a child at a well across the church (goose bumps now!).
And there's more: the image is said to be growing taller!
Our Lady of Candles was 'crowned' by Pope John Paul II himself during his 1981 visit to Iloilo - a fitting recognition and reward for the Ilonggos' devotion to the Lady of Candles.
A handloom on display at the Museo Iloilo. Handlooms were particularly popular during the Spanish era.
To a certain extent, this traditional way of weaving have been preserved in many parts of Panay island, mainly using natural fibers such as those derived from pineapples (piña), to produce materials for traditional Filipino clothes like the barong. These fabrics could be bought from some shops in the city.
Jaro used to be known for its millionaire's row of palatial homes built on fortunes from the lucrative sugar trade during the American colonial period.
Seen here is the ancetral home of the Montinolas (Montinola Mansion), an old land-owning Ilonggo family. The mansion is a grand version of the "bahay na bato" (stonemade house, usually of adobe) popular during the Spanish period. Architecturally, the "bahay na bato" evolved from the lowly "bahay kubo" (native hut), which was usually made of less permanent materials (bamboo, thatched palms).
Unfortunately, the Montinola Mansion does not admit visitors anymore. It used to be open to the public as some sort of a living museum.
Another mansion along Jaro's millionaire's row. Frankly, don't know much about the owners, history, etc. of this seemingly haunted mansion.
But what I could recall is that the place used to have a beautiful rose garden, which greeted me everyday I pass by it on my way to school. Now, the place looks rundown, and the lovely red roses, well, gone.
One of the 4 churches declared as UNESCO World Heritage site in the country, Miag-ao Church is an awesome beauty to behold once you see it. Quarried from nearby San Joaquin, the eart light brown sandstones the structure is made of is what makes it a stunning beauty - "Morenang Simbahan". The restoration works up to the minutest details since its inclusion by UNESCO has revealed its real original beauty.
The facade created like a wood carving is a work of art. Noticeably of Filipino theme, the tropical setting design w/ St Cristopher carrying the Baby Jesus on the facade is what makes it one of a kind.
More pictures on the Travelouges.
If you want to see some old artifacts about history, culture and paleontological and archaeological finds in Iloilo, then this is the place for you. What inside are fossils, parts sunken vessels, stone age tools, burial jars, pottery etc. Some rare photograph from WWII are also displayed with also some works of local artists.
I spent more than two months in total in 2008 and 2009. It is high class hotel in central Iloilo...more
The Atrium At The Capitol Cor
Satisfaction: Very Good
Good for: Solo
It's built along the Iloilo river. Have great sunset during summer. A small hotel with small...more