Iloilo is one province that will always be close to my heart because I associate it with moments with mom. Aklan doesn’t have a mall or fastfood so whenever mommy had to come to Iloilo, I would volunteer to accompany her. I had fond memories of us shopping together and dining in Jollibee or McDonald’s (this was a really big treat for a promdi kid back then). And during the long 5-hour bus ride (roads have since improved and travel time is now down to 3-4 hours), Mommy would let me rest my head on her lap so I could sleep (as a teen, I moved on to using her shoulder as my pillow). I liked to think that she cured my biyahilo too with our trips to Iloilo.
Last year, I decided to finally tour Iloilo. While I have gone here many times, I only got to tour Iloilo once in college when our class decided to discover Region 6, Western Visayas (we visited Capiz, Iloilo, Bacolod, and Boracay).
Jaro Metropolitan Cathedral
During this visit, we stayed at the house of my friend’s friend, which is just walking distance from Jaro Cathedral. This cathedral is also known as the National Shrine of our Lady of the Candles.
Originally built by Mariano Cuartero, the first Bishop of Jaro, in 1874, this was destroyed by an earthquake in January 1948 and repaired in 1956. Jaro Cathedral also holds the distinction as the only church in the Philippines whose Marian image of our Lady of the Candles was canonically crowned by the late John Paul II.
Here’s how the inside of the church looks like.
On the columns are all-male saints, with the exception of the Marian image located at the center.
Another interesting feature of this cathedral is its bell tower, which is located across the street (most other Philippine churches have their bell tower on the church itself, or beside it).
We just made a quick stop here because my friend, who is an Assumptionista, wanted to see how Assumption Iloilo looks like.
The above was a zoomed-in shot of its main building. Isn’t it impressive, what with its ornate details?
Lopez Heritage House/Nelly’s Gardens
Now this is one house that is not just stunning, but magnificently restored. We were told one cannot visit this place without prior arrangements, but because my friend’s friend knows the owner, we were allowed entry. Yey.
The house is also called Nelly’s Garden, after the eldest daughter of the owners, Don Vicente Lopez and Dona Elena Hofilena. It was built in 1928 and considered the Queen of Heritage Houses in Iloilo. In 2004, the National Historical Institute declared it a National Historical Landmark.
The lady of the house herself did our tour of the house and this is how it looks inside.
She said that aside from the facade, the house is known for its elaborate dining rooms and one can easily see why. The staircase looks lovely too, and while she was willing to tour us around longer, we were pressed for time so we did not linger.
Parish of St. Anne/Molo Church
Some consider this the feminists’ church because all the statues in the church are female. The church’s design is Gothic.
Built in 1831 and completed in 1888, this is the only Gothic Church in the Philippines that is outside of Manila. It is considered one of the most beautiful churches in the country, and I can see why. Personally, it reminds me of Saigon Church in Vietnam.
Here’s how it looks like inside. It looks like there were recent refurbishments so everything looks well-maintained.
Sto. Tomas de Villanueva Parish/Miag-ao Church
A UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1993, this Baroque Spanish-era church is also called Miag-o Fortress Church because it serves as a defensive tower of the town against Muslim raiders.
According to Wikipedia, its color is due to the materials used in its construction. These include adobe, eggs, coral, and limestone.
What I loved about this church is its facade. The bas-relief is a mixed influence of Medieval Spanish, Chinese, Muslim, and local traditions and elements.
I loved the details that went to each part of the church too, like the windows and the carvings on the wooden door. And yes, the very detailed bas-relief, though I noticed that parts of it were crumbling (see lower left photo).
They said the altar is the original altar from the 1700’s that was deemed lost during a fire in 1910, but recovered during repair excavations in 1982.
Here’s my parting shot of the church.
For further reading, click HERE.
San Joaquin Church
Built in 1969, this church is known for its facade with a cultural relief depicting Spanish victory over Moroccan forces in the Battle of Tetuan.
The church was undergoing renovation during our visit, so I wasn’t able to scrutinize the relief up close.
These photos are of the side portion of the church. We thought we could get in, but it was closed so we just snapped photos and headed back to Iloilo City.
On our way back, we passed by the private beach of our host. It had black sand, but very close to the beach (its backyard is literally the beach). I don’t remember the exact location, but we made a quick stopover here to watch the sunset.
The sky was already turning light yellow when we arrived.
And when the sun finally came down into the horizon, the skyline became orange-yellow.
And thus was how we spent our day in Iloilo before heading to Guimaras the following day.