ILOILO

Iloilo Province and its beautiful city, ranks as one of the country's foremost centers of culture, industry and trade. Located on the southwestern tip of Panay island between the Iloilo River and the Guimaras Strait, its attributes as the repository of architectural and artistic legacies, as the promising point of progress in aquaculture, and as a trove of unexplored tourist attractions give it an allure so bewitching as not to be missed.

Iloilo is the cradle of early Philippine civilization. The telltale marks of such cultural influences live on the century-old houses, the period churches, the colorful festivals, and in the enterprising bloodline of its people. Iloilo has a glorious past as the land's great sugarbowl and the locale of the haciendas of the old rich - whose scions and daughters turned down the centuries into dons and do˝as of powerful economic dynasties.

Some of the testimonies to this awesome heritage are the churches. Nowhere else can church tours prove so rewarding. The Miag-ao Fortress Church is a grand example of a medieval bastion church with ornate floral designs on the fašade; another colossal monument is the San Joaquin Church and cemetery known for its bas relief featuring the Castilian and Moorish wars, while its cemetery is picturesque for its hexagonal chapel with rose windows and twin-tiered balustrades that lead to its entrance; meanwhile, three staircases lead to the historic rock; whereas the Renaissance-inspired Molo Church and orphanage, the Asilo de Molo, are unique for their architecture as well as for a rare product, hand-embroidered barong Filipino in pi˝a cloth; the Pavia Church is a study of red brick and coral windowcases and rightfully deserves a place in one's travelogue. These churches are no farther than two hours' distance from each other.

Iloilo is a byword for its famous festival - the Dinagyang, a local mardi gras. Held every January in honor of the Infant Jesus, the festival is a major tourist attraction. Another event Iloilo is known for is the Paraw Regatta, which is participated in by local and foreign sportsmen.

Iloilo is a trove of historical sites. Tour the province's famous sunset strip, For San Pedro or the flower-decked La Villa Rica de Arevalo, site of the Hispanic governance. Or one can visit another historical landmark, Plaza Libertad in the central city district where the flag of the Philippine revolutionaries was first raised upon Spain's final surrender. Old paintings, tapestries, furniture and memorabilia may be viewed in the Museo Iloilo and also in private galleries deep in the heart of the city.

Iloilo may be relished by nature trips to its delightful beaches that are best for swimming, snorkeling and other water sports.

Igbaras, an hour and fifteen minutes' drive from the city is sure to captivate visitors with its waterfalls, climbing hills, crystal caves and springs. Another cafÚ haunt is Dingle, only 35 minutes from the city proper - it also boasts of a number of religious shrines and healing springwaters. Sicogon island and the Islas de Gigantes are nearby isles which are laced with shimmering sands and deep blue waters that teem with marine life and corals. Pavia, a ten minutes drive by jeepney, is noted for its red brick Church while memories of the past may be evoked by visits to Janiuay, where ruins of abbeys, cemeteries and watchtowers still stand to mesmerize the traveller. For a view of grand mountain canyons, a drop by at Bucari Mountain Ranges in Leon 28 kilometers away is simply thrilling.

Visits to the colleges of agriculture in Leon and Lambunao, and the fisheries college of Barotac Nuevo, show that the province is a hive of economic progress.

Today, Iloilo still reigns as the gateway to the Visayan belt. Its riches are plentiful than ever on the combined merits of industrial significance, historical antiquity and natural poetry. (Source: Iloilo: Visitor's Guide)

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