Iloilo City is located at the southern part of Panay Island in the Visayas region. It has a land area of 7,023 hectares or 70.23 square kilometer. The people are called Ilonggos. Their amiable faces embody a beautiful culture. They speak pleasing voices that echo a proud past. Their warm character irrors a scenic countryside. Such are the Ilonggos, a humble people with a rich heritage. They are the prime treasures of Iloilo, a historic and celebrated place.
Iloilo City is a useful transit point for Guimaras Island and has good ferry connections to many other Visayan islands, but there’s nothing to keep you here for more than a day or two. The city’s handful of sights include a couple of reasonably interesting heritage-style museums. If you’re visiting in January, the Dinagyang festival, loosely based on Kalibo’s Ati-Atihan, adds some extra frenzy to the city during the fourth weekend. Three kilometres out of town, the old areas of Molo and Jaro both make pleasant half-day trips. The former has a church made of coral and in the latter an impressive Spanish-era cathedral. In Jaro you can also wander among the old colonial homes of sugar barons and mooch through a number of dusty old Antique shops, where prices are lower than in Manila.
There are at least two churches in the vicinity of the city, besides the ones in Molo and Jaro, that you shouldn’t miss: Miag-ao Church and Santa Barbara Church. The latter, 16km to the north of town in Santa Barbara, is a Neoclassical red-brick and coral church where General Delgado convened the junta that raised the first cry of revolution against Spain. The neighbouring convent, built around a small rectangular garden, has a gallery that’s reminiscent of medieval England and thick brick columns that are vaguely Roman in style. To get to Santa Barbara, take any bus or jeepney from Iloilo heading inland through Pavia; the trip takes about forty minutes.
The name “Iloilo City” was derived from “irong-irong”, a reference to the native word “irong” which means “nose”. The name took after the nose-like configuration of the main settlement area during the pre-Spanish period as so shaped by the Iloilo River. Chinese traders who frequent the area and who mispronounce the “r” sounds with “l” sounds, soon popularized the term “ilong-ilong” which later evolved into the current name Iloilo Arial 9.5 The name is said to have also evolved from a local fish of the same name which was indigenous to the place and which was a staple in the early inhabitants’ daily meals. Iloilo City was also referred to as the “Most Loyal and Noble City” or “La Muy Leal Y Noble Ciuded de Iloilo” in Spanish. This is an inscription in the Coat of Arms from the Royal Decree of 1896 in recognition of the local people’s loyalty to the Spanish crown.
There’s nothing much of interest for tourists in and around Iloilo. Some run down churches and Spanish era graveyards at most. The church in Miagao has a nice facade, but it’s not worth the half day trip back and forth. Beaches that are closest to the city are not so nice. It’s usually dirty and very few people bathe there anymore. There are good beaches but these are found far from the Metro. Popular ones are usually in Guimbal. Other places around Panay do have decent beaches, and most tourists that come to Iloilo are on their way to Boracay, one of the most popular beaches/islands in the whole of the Philippines.