As soon as the plane touched down in Iloilo Airport, it felt as if my heart was going to burst anytime. I’ve been so excited about visiting the so-called Philippines’ City of Love, Iloilo, with a very sweet memory of love imprinted in my heart by my grandmother when I was a kid.
Leonora De Jesus (Lola Nora), my grandmother, met the love of her life and my grandfather, Caesar Vinluan (Lolo Caesar), when they were still teenagers. Both of them were serving the church as choir and altar boy respectively. Grandma was really lovely when she was young and with her voice, Lolo Caesar was totally captivated. The Sto. Tomas de Villanueva Parish, better known as the Miag-ao Church, in the town of Miag-ao was Lola Nora and Lolo Caesar’s witness to the blossoming of their endless love for each other. Lola Nora used to tell me that she never doubted the moment Lolo Caesar confessed his love for her in front of the altar. She thought that the angels whispered on her to say Yes to Lolo Caesar – it was indeed a love match made in heaven.
Bearing that beautiful love story in my heart made my journey in Iloilo a romantically nostalgic one. I never wasted time and made sure that I visited the beautiful and UNESCO World Heritage site Miag-ao Church. It was love at first sight that it was no wonder an endless love just like my Lola Nora and Lolo Caesar had taken place. I prayed and talked to Lola Nora and Lolo Caesar asking for their guidance to all couples who are having a blossoming love story just like theirs in the lovely church of Miag-ao.
Masadya diri sa Iloilo! (It is fun here in Iloilo!)
Iloilo City for me is a very promising place in the Philippines. From the old nostalgic churches in Jaro, Guimbal, San Joaquin and Miag-ao; and establishments rich in cultural heritage in Calle Real and Plaza Libertad to modern hotspots in Iloilo Esplanade and Iloilo Business Park, Iloilo is truly the center of the old and new.
Iloilo is also famous with its religious and cultural festival called the Dinagyang Festival. It is a feast of faith to honor the Sto Niño or the child Jesus celebrated every fourth Sunday of January. From simple foot and fluvial processions, Dinagyang Festival has gone big with street parties, beauty contests, medical missions, and food festivals. Too bad I missed the chance to witness it for the first time but I’ll try my luck next year to attend the Dinagyang Festival.
Aside from the sceneries to go to in Iloilo, I have also enjoyed the company of the Ilonggos I’ve met along the way. They have been so malambing that there have been times I almost fell like being cradled every time they were talking to me. These Ilonggos were so sweet, hospitable and kind-hearted to everyone, especially to someone who tours around like me. To all the Ilonggos, especially to Tessie, Danica, and the Tiangao family, you all are special to me. Salamat gid!
Here are some of the highlights during my stroll in the Philippines’ City of Love:
Richmonde Hotel Iloilo
From the Iloilo Airport, Tessie, my dear Filipina friend in the US who also happened to be in Iloilo during my trip, took me straight to the Richmonde Hotel. Tessie mentioned that the Richmonde Hotel opened last July 2015 under the development of Megaworld Corporation. Upon arrival, the hotel staff pleasantly greeted me and assisted me to my room. It was really a relaxing stay I had in Richmonde Hotel as well as very convenient since I had easy access on local transportation to the rest of my itinerary.
La Paz Batchoy
Since it was rainy season in the Philippines, I did not miss the chance to have one of the Iloilo’s famous noodle soup dish, the La Paz Batchoy. It has vegetables, miki noodles, pork meat and pork innards – yes, pork innards. I think I had La Paz Batchoy almost every meal during my stay in Iloilo. It did not only warm my stomach with the chilly weather in Iloilo because of the rains; it definitely also warmed my heart. Hindi lang pala talaga City of Love ang Iloilo dahil sa mga mapupuntahang lugar dito kundi dahil na rin sa mga pagkaing makakapagpasaya sa’yo tulad ng La Paz Batchoy. 🙂 ❤ Namit Ah talaga!
Plazuela de Iloilo
I had my sumptuous lunch that I looked forward to when I was planning this Iloilo trip at the Plazuela de Iloilo, a commercial establishment built with a Spanish-Italian structural design style and just a quick ride from Richmonde Hotel. There were lots of young ones hanging out all over the area. And then I saw a bunch of people flocking together and wondered what the commotion was all about. Until I tried to come near them and realized everyone’s on their phones, swiping their screens as if taking shots of whatever they see. I even saw someone taking shots of the leaves. I thought it was weird until I mentioned what I have observed with Tessie.
Tessie was with her youngest daughter, Danica, that time. When Danica realized what I have been talking about, she showed me her phone. Danica said to me that those people roaming around in groups were playing the latest mobile game called Pokemon GO.
I remember Pokemon. It was really famous in the US then. So there’s now an app where people can catch pokemons within the location detected through GPS. Danica asked me to try it using her phone when she saw a pokemon roaming beside me. It was so exciting and funny at the same time since it was difficult for me to catch the pokemon. If only I could just grab it and keep it. Haha! I did not even notice I was already a bit loud feeling intense catching the pokemon. Nakakahiya talaga. Hahaha!
During my last day in Iloilo, Tessie and I ate at Dova Brunch Café located near Richmonde Hotel. We had a sumptuous brunch that made me full enough to skip the dinner. While in the café, Tessie told me that the son of the Chairman and CEO of the company who developed the area where the Dova is located also enjoyed dining there.
Talking about how Iloilo has progressed over the years, Tessie mentioned that the area where Richmonde Hotel is located will be developed by Megaworld Corporation into an economic district called the Iloilo Business Park. It will be the 72-hectare new address for luxury residential condominiums, state-of-the-art BPO office towers, a lifestyle mall, a boutique hotel and commercial district, a 1.1-kilometer commercial and retail strip, and many more. Last year, Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) Ministerial Conference on Food Security was held at the Iloilo Convention Center, also located at the Iloilo Business Park.
Back packing for the Next Trip
Ang bilis ng araw! I can’t believe I’m done with my first leg here in Visayas region. From taking a love-filled stroll at the UNESCO-World-Heritage-site Miag-ao Church, now I am ready to get a beautiful makeover in the world’s most beautiful island of Boracay. Wow, come to think of it – I’m actually doing well with my back packing trip here in the Philippines with the guidance of DOT’s 15 Ways to Have More Fun in the Philippines.
Now, Boracay, if you can be kind enough to have a great weather for me, I am so excited just thinking about the beach, the locals, and the sleepless nights. Oh yes, sleepless nights at 50! I’m so excited to unleash the 23-year-old me doing the best things Boracay has to offer, hahaha! Boracay island, here I come!!!