On the western part of the Visayas lies a nose-shaped strip of land that would become known as Iloilo, home to colorful festivals, great food, and yes, wonderful people.
The history of Iloilo must have begun in the 13th century upon the arrival of ten Bornean datus near the Siwaragan River, a coastal town now known as San Joaquin, Iloilo. Not much has been said and written about that until the 16th century during Spanish settlement.
Accordingly, the Spaniards first settled in a coastal town called Ogton (now Oton) in 1566, and then feeling unsafe the Spaniards moved to La Villa Rica de Arevalo, another coastal town which proved to be no safer for them than the previous one. So the Spaniards kept on moving, journeying along the length of the river until they reached the village of Irong-Irong, named as such because of its nose-like shape.
For many centuries thereafter, the Spaniards occupied the Philippines, and the province. Then the Americans came at the close of the 20th century and decades after, the Japanese. But the people in Iloilo fought hard for their independence, and finally in 1945, helped to liberate their beloved province from Japanese rule.
Iloilo is somewhere close to the heart of the Philippine archipelago. It forms part of the Island of Panay, an island which as a whole resembles an image of a lady bowing, as if praying. Iloilo is surrounded by Antique Province to its west and the Province of Capiz to its north. Between Capiz and Iloilo are rugged mountain ranges, many of them as high as 7,000 feet. Up on the western part are highlands and the rest are plains, islands, and islets.
Iloilo, being a part of a tropical country, has two seasons – the dry or the summer season and the wet or rainy season. Summer in Iloilo officially begins in March with temperatures peaking up to 35 in April and May. Around this time, it can be very dry, humid, and extremely hot.
The months of June to October are rainy. Storms and typhoons come and go, some devastating, others not. You’d think the Ilonggos are used to these by now, but nothing prepared them for the fury of Typhoon Frank, the typhoon that submerged the City of Iloilo and many towns in the province in dark, muddy waters, the typhoon that ravaged many homes, possessions, and lives in June of 2008.
By November, rain generally stops, and residents and tourists on vacation in Iloilo enjoy cooler temperatures until February.
The Ilonggos are typically friendly people. The women, especially those from the towns, are described to be soft-spoken and demure in their ways. They can be proud without being boastful, shy but not socially withdrawn, humble but not naïve, and feisty but oftentimes within reason. And yes, they are people with many talents, too. There are many Ilonggos who have made it big in the world of politics and showbusiness, among them Fernando Lopez (former Vice President of the Philippines), Franklin Drilon (senator), Miriam Defensor Santiago (senator), Jose Marie Chan (singer/composer), and Jed Madela (world-class singer).
Hiligaynon is the main language spoken by the Ilonggos. It is an Austronesian language noted for its sing-song intonation. Some Ilonggos, particularly those from the northern and southern parts and in mountainous regions, speak Kinaraya. Most Ilonggos are able to speak and understand Tagalog and English, so communication is basically not a problem in this province at all.
Yes, Iloilo embraces technology, too. Internet providers in Iloilo are many and they come in all budget sizes. Internet cafes can be found in close proximity to schools and universities, and most hotels and even malls have Wi-Fi internet connection, too. Needless to say, when booking or making reservations in a hotel, find out for sure what type of internet connection is available and the extent to which you can make use of it.
There are many interesting sights in Iloilo, among them:
Iloilo is blessed with historic and splendid churches, most notable of which are:
The different festivals in Iloilo mirror the province’s rich culture and history. Here is a schedule of the major and biggest festivals in Iloilo:
Dinagyang Festival, Iloilo City. The world-famous Dinagyang Festival is a must-watch. Schedule your vacation to ensure you are in Iloilo City on the fourth Saturday and Sunday of January to witness and experience how Ilonggos give honor to Senor Sto. Nino with cultural dances, drumbeats, and colorful costumes.
Salakayan Festival, Miagao, Iloilo. The Salakayan Festival, held during the first week of February, is a week-long activity that highlights the customs, traditions, arts, delicacies, agricultural products and everything Miagao is known for. Quite interesting to watch are the Hablon and Patadyong Fashion Show, the painting exhibit, the fluvial parade, and the Higante parade where you can see gigantic mascots parading the streets.
Paraw Regatta, Villa, Iloilo City. Tourists, locals, and sailboat enthusiasts gather at Tatoy’s Manokan, Villa, Iloilo City, to witness another colorful festival, the Paraw Regatta. Held during the third Sunday this festival brings about many exciting activities, such as the sailboat race along the strait of Guimaras-Iloilo, Pinta Paraw, Pintawo (body painting contest), and Miss Paraw Regatta.
Carabao Carroza Race, Pavia, Iloilo. The Carabao Carroza Race held in Pavia as part of its fiesta week celebration in May is exactly what it sounds – a 400-meter race that have carabaos as participants!
Santacruzan Festival. Also being held in May (usually at the end of the month) in practically every part of the country, not just Iloilo, is the Santacruzan Festival, which features a grand procession of ladies in beautiful gowns carrying huge arches.
Cry of Sta. Barbara, Sta. Barbara, Iloilo. Ilonggos celebrate the Cry of Sta. Barbara every November 17, a commemoration of the first cry for revolution against the Spaniards.
Only in Iloilo will you experience some of the most affordable and best-tasting (but unfortunately heart-clogging?) dishes. Here’s a shortlist of restaurants where you can dine and not whine:
There are so many fun things to do in Iloilo at any time of the year. After sightseeing, church-hopping, or food tripping, make time to engage yourself in a conversation with a true-blue Ilongga so you will leave Iloilo with a bagful of wonderful memories and a desire to come back again and again or for good.