The Queen’s Most Favoured City In the South (of Philippines), Iloilo City today is known as the City of Love. The last bastion of the Spanish conquistadors, it was dubbed La Muy Leal y Noble Ciudad de Iloilo for its loyalty to Spain during the Philippine uprising.
Iloilo is home to Ilonggos who speak the gentle Hiligaynon. It’s International airport is the third busiest in the country, and one of the cleanest. It boasts of bountiful agricultural harvests and the freshest seafood. It is where your favorite Pancit Molo, Batchoy, Biscocho and Butterscotch comes from. It is also the place of lavish and colorful festivities such as Dinagyang and Paraw Regatta – the oldest craft event in Asia.
As a resident of this quiet and unobtrusive city for more than thirty or so years, Iloilo has come into its own albeit slowly. What was once a proud and thriving city rich in culture, economics, and history took a blow that sent it to its knees during the second world war.
Gone are the wharves and shipyards that once made this city’s naval forces threaten those of Imperial China’s. The once booming textile industry and sugar production fell by the wayside as demand for sugar dropped in the world market, and Iloilo’s residents moved on to greener pastures.
Iloilo City has since picked herself up with continued agricultural production, fishing, and commercial industries. Progress marched at a sedate pace for Iloilo in the past decades. Today, under the leadership of a young and dynamic mayor who possess an excellent vision of Iloilo, progress has quickened and with it, Iloilo City finds itself waking as if from a long deep sleep.
The pace of development picked up, with major investors pouring much needed resources into the local economy. My once quiet city now thrums to the pounding and merciless beat of progress. There is an undercurrent of excitement even now as the city prepares itself to host the APEC 2015 Summit.
Iloilo. My city, my pride. Make Iloilo City your next destination for these five heart warming reasons:
1. You will not meet a friendlier, more hospitable Filipino who makes sure you feel right at home in her house than in this region. Mi casa es su casa is true here. We go out of our way to make you feel warm and welcomed. It is also partly due to our pride. Do not let it be said that an Ilonggo has been inhospitable, or that you went hungry while you visited her.
Ilonggos are a retiring but proud people. With a strong stubborn streak running beneath the calm façade.
2. Ilonggo food is excellent, bar none. Blessed with a rich bounty from farmlands and the sea, food in Iloilo City is always fresh, reasonably priced, and cooked to exacting standards. When an Ilonggo says it’s “namit’ you can bet your farm it’s delicious.
Two Restaurants I Recommend (just to whet your appetite)
Punot Restaurant from Estancia, Northern Iloilo. Estancia is hands down the heart of seafood in Iloilo, as well as numerous vareities of excellent dried fish that are perfect with spiced vinegar, fresh tomatoes, and hot steamed rice. Try the Indong (eel) Seafood Calo-Calo, Kasag Y Mais soup, fish and shell of the day, or just point at anything on the menu, you won’t be disappointed.
Breakthrough has fallen as my top go-to restaurant, but it is still good. It now has a branch at the Plazuela, beside SM CIty Iloilo but if you want to eat with a beach side view, visit their Arevalo branch. Enjoy plenty of menu choices from native raost chicken, roast pork, prawns, crabs, shells and fish cooked to your specifications. Don’t forget to buy Pulot from the local vendor. Manong has been selling Pulot (similar to Molasses)in that area for over 4 decades.
3. Take a breather, literally. At night, you will see the stars shining bright because our city is smog-free. Enjoy the seemingly laid-back pace. I say seemingly because to outside eyes, we move like turtles but Ilonggos are one of the most industrious people in the country and the poverty level here is tolerable. There are no families dwelling under the overpass, by the roadside, or running after your car in the middle of heavy traffic to beg alms.
4. Immerse yourself in history, art and culture. Iloilo boasts of centuries old churches from the Baroque period as well as mansions, buildings, artifacts etc. that attests to its rich historical tapestry.
5. Iloilo is home to more than 11 Universities including University of the Philippines Visayas. Ilonngos are well-educated with a high literacy rate. You might want to visit Central Philippine university and have a commemorative picture beside it’s flagpole. You just stood in the heart of the Philippines, geographically.
Yes, UP Visayas has two campuses, which are an hour’s ride away from each other.
I love Iloilo and there’s nothing I want more than to see her in full bloom yet retain her regal demeanor. I hope she blooms gracefully into this century, without getting herself tarnished from the excesses of development.
I like my Iloilo. She is home. No other city holds my heart than Iloilo.
Some Ilonggo phrases you need to learn before coming over:
“Kagwapasaimo.” You are beautiful.
“Kanamit sang lutomo.” Your cooking puts a 5 star chef’s dish to shame.
“Palangga ko ang Iloilo” I love Iloilo
Other things I love about Iloilo City
Nice clean Jeepneys and safe taxi services I can’t find in any other city.
The winding Iloilo River
An Ilongga never reveals all. Now it’s up to you to find out more of this lovely city and come for a visit.