Iglesia de San José de Placer (Church of San Jose), standing out at the Plaza Libertad with its Corinthian pillars and cross-shaped dome, is said to be the birthplace of the Dinagyang festival. Its most valued treasures are the image of the Nuestra Señora del Rosario (Our Lady of the Holy Rosary) that dates back to 1616, and a replica of the Sto. Niño of Cebu that was brought to Iloilo in 1968. The Sto. Niño de Arevalo Parish houses one of the three original images of the Sto. Niño. It’s believed to have arrived sometime in 1581, brought by the Augustinians who were establishing La Villa Rica de Arevalo (Villa Arevalo) as a Spanish settlement. The Parish of St. Anne (Church of San Jose) stands proudly at the plaza center. The only Gothic church outside Manila, its most interesting features are its coral rock walls and murals depict the crucifixion and the resurrection of Christ. The Jaro Belfry contains 30 bells.
Light a candle at the National Shrine of Our Lady of the Candles or Jaro Cathedral. It’s a historic landmark as declared by the National Historic Institute. And while you’re in Jaro, don’t forget to visit the art deco style mansion of Nelly’s Garden.
But churches aren’t the only things of historical value in Iloilo. The whole downtown area is full of history too. Start your tour at the Capitol complex, where you’ll see the new and the old Iloilo Capitol (Casa Gobyerno). Nearby, you’ll find the Iloilo Museum, which houses fossils, artifacts, traditional pottery, and old photos of Iloilo province.
An important landmark is the Arroyo Fountain — kilometer zero for the whole Panay Island. The majestic fountain also serves as a rotunda where important streets, including the historic Calle Real, converge. Wander around JM Basa Street. It’s full of old buildings. It’s also a shopping mecca for Ilonggos. Within walking distance is the Freedom Grandstand, the venue of Dinagyang Festival.
Climb to the top of the American-period imperial customs building known as Aduana for a stunning view of Iloilo’s Central Business District, Iloilo River Wharf and Guimaras Island. Muelle Loney is Iloilo’s river wharf that serves the RORO (roll-on, roll-off) ships that go to and from Bacolod City. Keep an eye out for statue of Nicholas Loney, the man considered to be the Father of the Philippine Sugar Industry after whom the wharf was named.
Resting on the southern shoulder of Calle Real is Plaza Libertad, which was built in honor of national hero Jose Rizal. Around it you’ll find important buildings such as the Lacson Ancestral House, the Masonic Temple, and the remnants of Botica Lacson and Iglesia de San Jose de Placer. There’s also Fort San Pedro, which protected Iloilo city from Moro raiders.
Iloilo is an emerging Meetings, Incentives, Conventions and Exhibitions (MICE) destination with a full range of attractions. With the fast development of is tourism facilities, a reliable track record of hosting, accessibility in terms of transport and communication, modern amenities and security, Iloilo City has what companies need. But the best thing that Iloilo has to offer is the entertainment after events end. If you’re lucky, you can even join one of the city’s colorful festivals!