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Things to Do in Iloilo: A Christmas Celebration Guide

Take the less-travelled path and see what the City of Love has in store for you this Christmas 2018!

By: Viktor Austria | November 09, 2018
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Due to changing quarantine measures, the activities, destination/s, store/s, establishment/s featured in this article might be temporarily prohibited or closed under the latest government policies. LGUs might also implement health protocols and travel requirements. Please get in touch with the establishment/s before visiting. Stay safe!

things to do in Iloilo

Image: Iloilo Queen City of the South Facebook page

At first glance, Iloilo City might not seem like an obvious destination of choice for your Christmas season escapade. Don’t let this fool you, though: no matter the month, there’s always tons of things to do and places to see in the colorful City of Love.

In fact, Iloilo City can make your Christmas more special with its rich heritage, mouth-watering Ilonggo cuisines, and exquisite festivals. And the best part? It’s the perfect place to escape the congested streets and shopping complexes of the metro!

So go out of your usual holiday humdrum and see these rare offerings in the Heart of the Philippines. To know where to go and what to eat, read on and see the best things to do in Iloilo this Christmas.

1. Tour around the city’s various historical sites.

things to do in Iloilo

Revere Iloilo’s rich heritage through its centuries-old churches and chapels.

Image: Jaro Cathedral’s Facebook Page

Not only is Iloilo regarded as Panay Island’s portal to the past, but it also contains a wealth of chapels and churches that have been recognized as national heritage sites.

Take Miag-ao Church for example. Technically named the Sto. Tomas de Villanueva Church, this enormous structure made it to UNESCO’s list of World Heritage Sites in 1993. Bearing a Baroque-Romanesque architectural style, Miag-ao Church depicts an ornate sculpture of St. Christopher carrying Jesus beneath a coconut tree which symbolizes the “tree of life.”

Another local religious structure is the Jaro Metropolitan Cathedral. Originally known as the Church of St. Elizabeth of Hungary and the National Shrine of Our Lady of Candles, the Jaro Cathedral stands as the first and only cathedral in the entire province.

The Molo Church, or the St. Anne Parish Church as it was originally called, is also a site worth visiting. Completed in 1881, the whole structure is built with white coral rock and is deemed as one of the most beautiful churches across the archipelago.

2. Find the perfect soul food.

things to do in Iloilo

Warm up through the cold and cuddly weather with a brisk bowl of Iloilo’s best batchoy.

Image: TOTO Batchoy’s Facebook Page

An exploration of the Ilonggo dining table starts with a piping-hot bowl of batchoy (egg noodles topped with fried garlic, crushed fried pork skin, scallions, rinds of pork meat, intestines, liver, and a spoonful of bone marrow). The secret to making the Ilonggo batchoy stand out is the broth, which is made from slow-cooked pork and beef shanks and marrows. A big bowl of batchoy from Netong’s, located inside La Paz Public Market, or from Teodorico’s at Iloilo Festive Walk along the Iloilo Business Park, can both sit with the best batchoys out there.

Why not pair this with the best lechon manok (charcoal roasted chicken) as well? What makes this Ilonggo dish (locally called “daraag”) more remarkable is that it is leaner and has less fat, so it’s more gamey and sumptuous. Tatoy’s Manokan and Seafoods, located at Santo Nino Sur Arevalo, can probably serve you proof.

For a quick meal, you can take a sip of their famous pancit molo (soup with meat-filled dumplings, shredded chicken, and thick broth) paired with their equally famous tsokolate de batirol (hot chocolate). Camiña Balay nga Bato in the Villa Arevalo District conveniently offers a hefty and satisfying serving of both these local favorites.

3. Lose yourself in the night life.

things to do in Iloilo

Enter the hippest nightclubs and dens down south for an unforgettable night out with friends.

Image: The Office Pantry’s Facebook Page

Who would have imagined that a province so peaceably tucked and historically revered would have a thriving nightlife?

Take Smallville, Iloilo’s nightlife capital, as the best example. The whole district is teeming with places where you can have a great night. You can dance all night in the upscale club that is Flow Superclub or Aura. If you prefer a more casual setting and a larger crowd, party away at MO2. Perhaps you prefer your night to be accompanied by a live band: there’s JAQs Bar for that too.

things to do in Iloilo

An evening out doesn’t always have to be wild; sharing a glass with your closest colleagues is just as good!

Image: The Office Pantry’s Facebook Page

Southpoint, found within SM City Iloilo, is also worth a visit for the more laidback visitors. The Office Pantry within Southpoint is where people can chill after a long day’s work and chat over a glass of Chilean wine. Meanwhile, Spicy Elements is the place to be for a more adventurous evening. It’s the only venue in Iloilo that serves spicy Bicolano dishes. Beat the heat with a glass of store-favorite beergarita or bull’s eye. Cheers!

4. Get away to Garin Farm

things to do in Iloilo

Who would have thought that such a place of purity is tucked somewhere in IloIlo City?

Image: Garin Farm Inland Resort’s Facebook Page

Situated at San Joaquin—the southernmost baranggay in the Iloilo Province—is the popular Garin Farm. Actually an agricultural landmark where various livestock and crops are bred, it fuses its being a functional farmland and a pilgrimage site to attract tourists from far and wide.

Foreign and local visitors flock to the place to visit Pilgrimage Hill, which features nine primary biblical scenes including the Nativity of Birth of Jesus, the Last Supper, the Agony in the Garden, and the Baptism of Christ, to name a few. The 456-step stairs lead to the peak, which depicts a heaven-like scenery. Meanwhile, going through the Dark Meditation Tunnel will get you to a divine installation of ivory angels, saints, and the holy trinity at the heart.

things to do in Iloilo

These ivory-white sculptures of saints and angels can make visitors feel spiritually revived.

Image: Garin Farm Inland Resort’s Facebook Page

Getting to Garin Farm will require you to take a van or a jeep bound for San Joaquin at Super, Molo, Mohon Terminal, or at Arevalo. Entrance fee is at P150 per person, but regular discounts to senior citizens, kids, and PWDs apply.

5. Escape to Iloilo Esplanade.

things to do in Iloilo

Take your friends and family to a carefree stroll to wrap up your sojourn through Iloilo.

Image: Esplanade River Ride’s Facebook Page

Perhaps the convenient venue connecting all these sights and sounds is the Iloilo River Esplanade. It’s a serene and scenic strip of walkway running along the Iloilo River. You can pay a visit to the historic Molo Church first, and end your stroll through the esplanade with a night out with friends at the Atria Park District or the famed Smallville Complex.

Or you can also take it all in by your own. Stroll leisurely through the esplanade during sunset, when the sun dips just over the horizon and serves as the perfect backdrop for a peaceful meditation or a romantic walk.

things to do in Iloilo

Leave your inhibitions behind for a moment and take a cruise on one of the rentable pedal boats in the Esplanade.

Image: Esplanade River Ride’s Facebook Page

You can reach the Iloilo Esplanade through two routes: you can enter from the west end, through Carpenter’s Bridge situated on the boundary of Molo and Mandurriao or from the east end, along Diversion Road.

So start planning your Christmas itinerary, and spend the season of love nowhere else but in the City of Love!

These things to do in Iloilo will definitely keep your Christmas merry. Which of these activities are you doing first? Share it with us in the comments section below!
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About Viktor Austria
Viktor would love to receive an extra hour a day as a Christmas gift. That way, he won’t have to struggle over splitting his 24 hours among making brand copies and campaigns, writing children’s stories, going to the gym, commuting around Taguig, and feeding his two overweight cats. He hates the hustle culture, that’s why he’s thankful for friends who have time to spare on weekends, preferably over spicy ramen and cold bottles of beer.
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