As one of the premier Visayan provinces in the Philippines, Iloilo features different captivating natural, historical, as well as manmade tourist attractions. Every year, local and foreign tourists flock this wonderful province to experience these fascinating sightseeing destinations. For more information and better understanding of these interesting, historic, and alluring places, this quick overview introduces some of the most marvelous tourist destinations in the province of Iloilo.
For utmost enjoyment and entertainment, tourists and guests can visit several historic churches in Iloilo. Inside these wonderful places, they can spend some peaceful and quiet time as they marvel at the beauty and elegance of these captivating Catholic churches. Three of the most popular churches in the province are Miagao Church, Molo Church, and Guimbal Church, which are must-see especially for first-time visitors in the area.
Iloilo Customs House
Also known as the province’s Aduana, Iloilo’s Customs Facility was constructed during the American occupation of the 1900’s. It is considered as the second largest Customs House after the Customs Building of the country’s capital. The design of Iloilo’s Aduana is an exact replica of the immigration facility in Manila, which is mainly characterized by an immense tower constructed at the center of the establishment.
The Customs Building can be found in Muelle Loney and Aduana Street. Along the banks of the Iloilo River which also functions as a harbor for incoming merchandise from the surrounding areas of the province. The view from the Custom’s House tower is captivating as one can clearly see the Central Business District and River Wharf of Iloilo and the neighboring province of Guimaras.
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La Paz Church
The area of La Paz was previously known as Llaunon and then later on Iznart after Governor Manuel Iznart. It was founded as a parish in 1868. Fr. Candido Gonzales constructed a temporary church and convent made out of wood in 1847. The present La Paz church was built in 1870. The church bears some similarities to the church of San Jose in Iloilo. The most recent addition to the church is the two columns supporting a triangular pediment which was constructed in 1970.
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This small bridge was built during the Spanish period in the Philippines. It is known as “Taytay Tigre” because of the stone structure of Tiger placed at both of its approaches. The two stone lions act as sentinels for both sides of the bridge. Taytay Tigre can be found along the highway before visitors reach the Guimbal town plaza.
The bridge is considered as one of the earliest form of stone bridges made by Fr. Ramon Junco from the Augustinian order. It was remodeled with the help of a donation from a Guimbal native.
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Located at the town of Miagao in Iloilo, Miagao Church is also known as among local residents as Santo Tomas de Villanueva Parish Church, which is highly popular because of its mesmerizing architecture and interior design. In 1993, it was even included at the World Heritage List of UNESCO, mainly because of its elegance and attractiveness despite the test of time. One of the most fascinating facets of Miagao Church is its unique architectural design, which closely epitomizes the major characteristics of Philippine churches.
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In the meantime, Molo Church is another captivating historic religious structure that tourists can see in the province of Iloilo. Established in 1831 at the District of Molo, this church possesses major characteristics of European church architecture that dates back to the Renaissance period. Above all, this place is known for its female sculpture of saints, which is one of the major factors why some tourists refer to this religious structure as a feminist church.
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Guimbal Moro Watchtower
Persistent incursions of Moro invaders in the southern portion of Iloilo happened during the Spanish period. The natives of Guimbal decided to construct five watchtowers strategically placed in different areas of the province near the shoreline in the seventeenth century.
The sentinels at the watchtowers utilized drums to warned residents of the incoming pirates. The five towers stand as a symbol of bravery of native Guimbalanons. As of today, only three watchtowers survived and were restored through the efforts of the Department of Tourism and the office of Rep. Oscar Garin Sr. The Guimbal watchtowers were known as “bantayans”. One of these towers is constructed near the Bantayan Beach Resort.
Visitors can access the resort via the Jeepney Routes of Southern Iloilo. It is placed in front of the RACSOS Woodland Resort facility and a few kilometers from Guimbal.
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Santa Barbara Centennial Museum
The Centennial Museum and Information Hub of Santa Barbara can be found adjacent to the Santa Barbara Church and the town’s Municipal Hall. Aside from offering visitors the opportunity to learn the province’s history in a single place, it can also help tourists with their questions regarding their stay in the locale. The Museum also houses the different historical artifacts of the province of Iloilo.
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On the other hand, Guimbal Church is also a beautiful historic church found in the province of Iloilo. Primarily known for its fascinating watchtower and bells, this church never fails to captivate all the visiting tourists from all parts of the world. In the past, local residents use these facilities to warn others about upcoming dangers, disasters, and calamities. Furthermore, the magnificent interiors of this local church are major reasons why many people love to go to this historic location.
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Aside from the numerous beaches all over the area, another alluring natural attraction in the province of Iloilo is Lake Bito. Found at the municipality of Dingle in Iloilo, the lake is near to Bulabog Mountain, which offers travelers wonderful opportunities to enjoy exciting outdoor activities like trekking and hiking. For a wonderful and relaxing stay at Lake Bito, they can refresh and dine at some of the limestone cottages beside the lake.
Popularly called Mount Pan de Azucar, which means “sugar loaf,” because it is located on one of a string of scenic islands that dot the northeastern coast of Iloilo called Pan de Azucar Island. Legend has it that a giant named Toya used to inhabit a lagoon on the mountain’s summit which is inhabited by wild monkeys and white-breasted hawks. Called by the locals as “Taas Bukid,” or tall mountain, Mount Manaphag is the second tallest peak in Panay. It has spectacular crags and is, perhaps, the steepest peak in the country that is why it poses such a challenge to mountain climbers.
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Guimaras is an island province in the Philippines that is located in the Western Visayas region. It is considered to be one of the smallest provinces in the country and its capital is Jordan. Guimaras is located in the Panay Gulf, placed between Negros and Panay. To the northwestern part of Guimaras is Iloilo and to the southeastern part of Guimaras is Negros Occidental. The province can be found on the islands of Inampulugan and Guimaras. Guimaras used to be a sub-province of Iloilo until it was declared as a separate province on May 22nd, 1992. The natives of Guimaras are called Guimarasnon and the dominant languages are Hiligaynon and Kinaray-a, although a lot of natives understand and speak Filipino as well as English.
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Igbaras Mountain Ranges
The awe inspiring mountain ranges of Igbaras serves as a spectacular background for the municipality. The mountain range extends to Miag-ao to Tubungan. The scenery offers a fantastic view of Tarugan Falls that can easily see during the rainy season. Visitors can easily view the Igbaras Mountain Ranges from Barangay Signe and Sitio Cabubugan.
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To enhance the growth of its tourism sector, the provincial government of Iloilo has allotted numerous projects for the overall development and improvement of its manmade attractions. Two of the best manmade attractions that travelers can visit are Bulabog Puti-an National Park as well as Chameleon Butterfly.
Bulabog Puti-an National Park
Found at Barangay Moroboro within the municipality of Dingle in Iloilo, Bulabog Puti-an National Park is a great tourist destination that offers relaxing places where travelers can experience exciting outdoor recreational activities like hiking and trekking. Aside from admiring the beautiful trees surrounding the area, tourists can also see the 13 pristine and enticing caves within the national park.
Chameleon Butterfly Garden
Located at Barangay Sablogon within Passi City in Iloilo, Chameleon Butterfly Garden is an amazing tourist spot where tourists can see different kinds of butterflies all in one secluded area. Simultaneously, they can also learn numerous important things about these lovely gentle creatures, including their life cycle. Additionally, the staff at Chameleon Butterfly Garden teaches tourists different efficient ways of taking care of butterflies.
Leon Church is located on a fertile plateau in the inland town of Leon, the vegetable basket of Iloilo. Its history dates as far back as 1867 when work on a church of hewn stone was started when the town which was still known as Camando. It was then dedicated to Saint Catherine of Alexandria because the town at that time was part of the Parish of Sta. Catalina de Alexandria. It was envisioned to be the grandest church on Panay Island, but for some unknown reason, it was never completed—and to make matters worse, the church was damage during World War II. Today, the ruins of Leon Church still bear traces of the beauty it was dreamed to be. Its façade is divided into five bays with pillars decorated by windows and doors with multi-layered arches common in Byzantine architecture. The apse with unfinished “retablos” has intricate Corinthian stone carvings. Although unfinished, the ruins of Leon Church is compelling in design and massiveness.
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Built in 1927 at the intersection of Iznart and General Luna Street, the Arroyo Fountain is dedicated to the memory of the late Senator Jose Ma. Arroyo who authored Republic Act No. 3222 in 1925 which created the Iloilo Metropolitan Waterworks. Located right in front of the huge Casa Real de Iloilo, known as the Old Provincial Capitol, the fountain, which features four nude goddesses each carrying a fish, is one of the oldest landmarks in the city and marks kilometer zero, or the reference point for the whole island of Panay from which distances within the island are measured. The landmark was recently rehabilitated and restored to its former glory by the Metro Iloilo Water District. The fountain lights and water are controlled by digital timers. Water gushes out from 7:00 to 8:30 AM; 11:30 AM to 1:30 PM; and, 5:00 to 8:30 PM.
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Smallville is the hippest place in Iloilo City much like Eastwood City is to Metro Manila. This is a place that throbs with life when the sun sets. Locals and visitors alike flock to the music bars and restaurants to eat, drink, listen to live band music and have fun till the wee hours of the morning. What used to be a small row of clubs, bars and restaurants Smallville has grown into an upscale series of buildings that is less known as Pison Complex—thanks to the Pison family who developed what used to be a wide salt bed ten years ago into what it is today.
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Just 28 kilometers from Iloilo City, lies one of the newest attractions on the island of Panay. Casa Fiammetta is an inland resort owned and developed by Nonel Gemora of the Lopez clan where you can go horseback riding, camping, hold garden weddings or outdoor parties. If you are the adventurous type, you can go kayaking down by the scenic Jalaud River and if you are a Nature lover pull out your binoculars and watch migratory herons, wild ducks and hummingbirds on the bamboo groves that line the river.
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The town plaza of Tigbauan is located in the southern portion of the province of Iloilo. It has a unique old world feel, with the majestic Church of Tigbauan dominating the landscape. There are three immense stone pillars that welcome visitors to the plaza.
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Guimbal Old Cemetery
The old cemetery of Guimbal was constructed during the late nineteenth century near the Gibuangan highway. A granite buffer decorated with interesting pre-colonial designs secure the remains of native Guimbalanons that are interred there.
A churchyard resting place, believed to be one of the earliest cemeteries inside a churchyard in the Philippines, is reported to have been constructed in the southern portion of the modern day Guimbal Church. But concrete evidences of the cemetery’s existence have not been fully established.
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The Pototan Astrodome is probably the grandest and most modern in Western Visayas. Its first class facilities meet international standards and can seat 5,500 persons—3,000 on the bleachers and 2,500 on the upper portion. Its basketball court is covered with imported maple wood parquet and its electronic system is ultra modern. The stage on the other hand, has superb acoustics and excellent lighting making it a perfect venue for classical performances and cultural presentations.
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One of Iloilo’s landmarks, the famous Balaan Bukid that can be found above the mountain of Jordan, is considered to be a special location by Catholic pilgrims especially during the Lenten Season. On the top of the mountain is a big cross. It features a scenic sight of Iloilo City across the Guimaras Strait. On normal days, Balaan Bukid can be accessed by visitors through a fifteen minute boat ride from Ortiz Port(located at Ortiz St., Iloilo City)going to the Jordan Port(located at Jordan, Guimaras). Upon reaching the area, you can consult with the Department of Tourism outpost and request the tourism personnel to assist you in finding a tricycle for the fifteen minute ride to the foot of the Balaan Bukid. You must then climb for forty-five minutes to one hour to reach the top.
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An outstanding collection of the province’s cultural history which includes potteries from the Stone Age, jewelries and pottery from Siam and China, mementos from Second World War and contemporary art made by artists of the province are displayed at the museum.
What could interest any visitor to the Museo Iloilo is the image of the dead Christ with a white cloth placed around its head. The statue looks like a preserved dead body especially with the skin at the statue’s shoulder.
Other important artifacts found inside the museum include different religious reliefs, weapons made by Mondos, funeral urns, different tools from the prehistoric era, a depiction of the Last Supper and other things that have made the Museo Iloilo a must see destination outside of the national capital.
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The famous Jaro belfry, which was made in 1744, is made of bricks and corals. The belfry is a three-story tower. The 1st segment of the belfry used to feature statues of Catholic saints. On the second and third story of the belfry were the bells that symbolize the absolute power of the Catholic Church during those times. On July 17th, 1787, the campanario was damaged by a strong earthquake. It was damaged again in 1948 when a big earthquake hit the area. It was only restored during the 1990’s.
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Cathedral of Jaro
The Cathedral of Jaro is unique in a way that its belfry is separated from the main body of the church, which is built across the highway and built near the Jaro Plaza. The Jaro Cathedral was the lone cathedral in Panay that was made in 1864. This is where revolution hero Graciano-Lopez Jaena was baptized.
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Guisi Lighthouse and Ruins
The Guisi Lighthouse and Ruins can be found in Barangay Dolores, which is in the town of Nueva Valencia, Guimaras. The journey from Jordan Wharf to the Guisi Lighthouse will take around forty-five minutes to one hour. But the view along the way is very interesting. Big mango plantations can be seen in either side of the road along the highway. The Guisi Point Lighthouse was constructed during the eighteenth century to safely guide ships that are traveling the Guimaras Strait. The original tower is now deemed unsafe to climb because it is now full of rust.
The 2nd light facility was constructed just a few meters away from the original tower. The 2nd tower’s lamp possess the letters N SE O, which stands for Norte, Sur, Este and Oeste. It is the Spanish words for the primary directions. The 3rd lighthouse is constructed in between the original lighthouse and 2nd lighthouse. The 3rd tower is painted white and is in good condition. It is constructed beside the ruins of Guisi.
Another pride and joy of this place is its beaches. There are only a few people that can be found on the beach compared to the Guimaras Beach site in Alubihod. The Philippine Department of Tourism is planning to enhance Guisi and construct a viewing deck there by next year.
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Muelle Loney is the formal name of the province of Iloilo’s River Wharf and the street of western part of the Iloilo River. Nowadays, it is being used as a seaport for the inter-island mode of transportations like Roll-on Roll-off and ferries that are traversing the Iloilo and Bacolod route. Numerous passengers, casual pedestrians and motorists pass by Muelle Loney in a daily basis on their way to work. But unknown to these passengers is the rich and colorful history of Muelle Loney and its main role in building the sugar industry in the Visayas region during the 1800’s to 1900’s.
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Made more than 200 years ago or in 1797, the Miagao Church stands as a living evidence of the richness of culture and art during the Spanish times. It also represents the way of life of the resident of Miagao, hundreds of years ago, rooted firmly in the foundation of the Catholic faith. As most tourists would firmly agree, the Miagao Church is one of the Philippines’ architectural treasures because of its outstanding and unique design. The façade of the Miagao Church is richly decorated with the sculpture of St. Christopher carrying Jesus amidst guava, papaya and coconut plants. Like any other global influences, the architecture of majority of the colonial churches in the Philippines has undergone indigenization to meld the Catholic belief and the personal belief of the residents in an area.
Jaro is considered to be the most prominent district in Iloilo. It was also considered as a separate “ciudad”. Jaro is also the home of the 1st millionaire’s row in the Philippines since it is the home of the most prominent Ilonggo families during the heyday of the province. It was also in Jaro, particularly the Jaro Cemetery where they buried their love ones who have passed away. Even now, the old niches in the Jaro Cemetery is still well-preserved, showing the outstanding artistry of the Ilonggos have used to their cemeteries. Most of the old niches at the Jaro Cemetery bear the influence of gothic architecture.
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Even in its destroyed state, the Laguda House continues to capture the interest of onlookers with its aura that never fails to rekindle the memories of its heyday. This neoclassic structure can be found along the General Hughes highway, which used to be considered as the province’s “high street” and features seaside villas and mansions. The Laguda house is five hundred meters from Plaza Libertad and can be reached by visitors by riding a “Jaro CPU” jeepney in front of the Masonic Temple/NSO beside the Plaza Libertad.
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The Alimodia Church in Iloilo was built in the year 1787. The construction of the church can be attributed to the people of the parish and to a priest named Florencio Martin who probably commissioned the building of the church. The Alimodia Church was a sight to see even then in the Visayas as its bell tower boasts to be one of the tallest structures in the regions of Iloilo and Negros. Though the belfry went through three earthquakes in the years in the 18th and 19th century and came out unscathed, the earthquake of 1948 led to some of its levels collapsing which diminished its stature as one of the regions vertically-imposing buildings.
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Church of Igbaras
Though it is now a sight visited by tourists for being a picturesque ruin, the old Church of Igbaras was once one of the more prominent buildings in Iloilo as it housed one of the province’s largest convents and was the province’s longest church. Like Alimodia Church however, its glory was somehow ironically stripped away by an act of God. The earthquake of 1948 reduced the church into rubble, leaving only some parts of the church such as its altar and some sections of its wall standing. Now, these surviving parts are made into grottos and small chapels that serve as memoirs to what once was one of Iloilo’s greatest symbols of devotion to Catholicism.
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Santa Barbara Dam
Santa Barbara Dam is one of the legacies of the era of American Occupation as it was built in 1921 in the midst of the Commonwealth period. What makes the Santa Barbara one of the sights to be included in one’s itinerary is the fact that it is one of the first dams to be constructed in Iloilo and the first gravity-type one in the province. Despite earthquakes and the desolations brought about by war, the dam still stands and is still serving the farmers of Iloilo in irrigating their fields.
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La Paz District Plaza
Famous for its wide-open grounds and its expansive greeneries, La Paz District Plaza is another tourist sight in Iloilo. In a time where going to the mall is the norm for those who want to unwind, La Paz District Plaza is still frequented by people from all walks of life as it offers multiple recreational activities owing to the numerous facilities that it houses from covered courts and gyms to lagoons and gazebos. Whether one wants to indulge in sports such as volleyball and tennis or with just simple strolls in its open spaces, La Paz District Plaza is one of the best tourist sight destinations that Iloilo has to offer.
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Like La Paz District Plaza, Guimbal Plaza also has wide-open spaces to accommodate strollers. Made to become an even more beautiful sight by its superb landscaping and the assorted greeneries that make up its foliage, the plaza’s charm is complemented by the stately municipal hall that serves as it magnificent backdrop.
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Monument of General Martin T. Delgado
General Martin T. Delgado’s monument can be seen in the northwestern portion of the Santa Barbara plaza facing the Santa Barbara Municipal Hall. General Delgado is a hero of the Philippine rebellion against Spanish forces in the Visayas region. He also served as the commander of the Filipino army in the area that pushed out the Spaniards from Visayas on November 24th, 1898.
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