A couple of weeks ago found me on a rather spontaneous trip to Iloilo. The hubby invited me prior to the trip but my work schedule has been unpredictable as of late that it was quite impossible for me to say yes until about two days before the flight. But, you can’t really keep the wanderlust at bay, right?
I didn’t have an agenda prepared for this (so unlike me), other than to visit the Miagao Church, the last Unesco-listed baroque church in the country that I haven’t been to, and to sleep, so when our hotel arranged for a city-tour, I was more than happy to go.
We originally planned on hearing mass at Miag-ao but most of our group woke up late (guilty as charged), we decided to just tour around and hear mass at the next town.
What can I say? The Sto. Tomas de Villanueva Parish Church in Miagao is indeed very beautiful. Completed towards the end of the 18th century and situated at the highest point of the town, the church is also called the Miagao Fortress Church, as it served another purpose as a defensive tower against Muslim raids. Four-meter thick flying buttresses further fortify its 1.5 meter inch walls. A mixture of adobe, limestone and coral used for its walls provides it with its pale pink/orange hue.
The facade of the church has a bas relief, of which the most noticeable feature is a carving of a coconut tree, the tree of life, to which St. Christopher hangs on to. Beneath him is a carving of the town’s patron saint, Saint Thomas de Villanueva.
What I love about going to the provinces is that they have many well-preserved old churches. Iloilo is one such place. The next church on our list is the San Joaquin Church, found along the borders of Iloilo and Antique. Built in the latter part of the 19th century, what sets this church apart is the large bas relief depicting the Battle of Tetuan between the Spanish and Moroccan Moors. It is the only church in the country to have a militaristic theme.
Flanking the entrance to the church are statues of Saint Francis of Assissi and Saint Peter Regalado, the latter being the patron saint of bullfighters – quite apt at the time as San Joaquin was famous for bullfights during feasts.
Our third and last for the day, and where we heard mass, was the Jaro Cathedral, or the Santuario Nacional de Nuestra Señora de la Calendaria, which was completed in 1874. It is quite unique in that there is a grand staircase in front with a shrine of Our Lady of the Candles. This Marian image holds the distinction of being canonically crowned by Pope John Paul II during his 1981 visit.
The belfry of the church stands right across the street from it. Curiously, this wasn’t originally its bell tower. An old church used to stand beside the tower but it has since been destroyed, leaving just its bell tower.
Our city tour wasn’t just confined to Iloilo – a three-hour van ride (one-way) found us on the other end of Panay island, in Antique. I honestly thought I was mistaken when I saw sign boards saying Boracay. 😅 Apparently, our guide wanted us to swim in the Siraan hot springs. Except that we only had fifteen minutes at the place so I wasn’t exactly sure how she thought we could do that. So we just stood there, snapped some pics, and settled back for the three-hour ride back to Iloilo.
Pardon the sarcasm. Up to now, I still could not figure out why we had to go there in the first place. Plus, not that I am a snob or anything, the place kind of looked unsanitary.
Back in Iloilo, our last stop found us lining up at the “I Am Iloilo” signage for picture-taking. I thought it was some big structure you can climb, like the one in Amsterdam (which I think is the progenitor of this fad). So we hauled ourselves to the Iloilo River Esplanade for this:
Well, I would have climbed on top of it if I thought it could support me – but the letters were actually just about two or so feet each and I am not sure if it was even made of thick steel so the picture above would have to do. The esplanade reminded me of Manila Bay, where you can walk and have fish balls while listening to the waves crashing; except that this one is beside a river so no chance really of crashing waves. They do have restaurants and some kiosks selling food.
After a 10-hour day, of which six were spent riding a cramped and hot van, we ended our tour with a visit to Ted’s for a taste of the famed La Paz Batchoy. I heard so many raves about this hand-made noodle dish that I had to have a bowl to myself (yeah, and that huge block of chocolate you could spy in the background was mine as well). Verdict? The soup was rich – oily, as you would expect noodles and anything with beef in it – and the noodle was tasty, an intriguing mix of sweet/salty with a very light but distinct bitter aftertaste. However, it’s not for me. I still prefer the lowly lomi and those Japanese ramen.
There are a lot more churches and natural wonders to visit not just in Iloilo but in the entire island. Iloilo also serves as the perfect jump off point to Guimaras, which is a short boat ride away so I just might visit in the near future.