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Your Three-Point Guide to the Classic Iloilo Experience

) Katrina Gadong |

Iloilo City, with its emerging establishments and events in its rising business districts attracting visitors old and new, still is a destination for those who hope to take part in the classic Ilonggo way of living.

One of the oldest cities in the Philippines, Western Visayas' "City of Love's" notably rich history and culture significantly shaped the city's identity. Even with the steady developments evident in the last few years, Iloilo City still proudly upholds its heritage. Nevertheless, Iloilo City now boasts of a fast-growing economy, offering a unique environment where the past and the future meets the present.

“Old” becomes timeless in this side of the country, and every experience can feel brand new. Sometimes, they can even make locals end up playing tourists in their own hometown. From a local to you, dear readers, here are the top three things you need to do while savoring the City of Love that is Iloilo City.

Food trip
Ilonggos take pride in their gratifying flavorful dishes. Take a soulful journey through your stomach as you feast in the culinary specialties of Iloilo such as the famed batchoy (noodle soup with sliced pork and pig’s innards) or pancit molo (pork dumpling soup). Restaurants by the beach, serving fresh seafood, hits the spot in this coastal city, especially with the popular Tatoy's or Breakthrough. And also serving hearty meat soups like KBL or kadyos (pigeon peas), baboy (pork), and langka (green jackfruit) and chicken binakol (Tagalog Tinola with coconut water and milk). Don’t forget to stop by Roberto's Siopao most especially.

Church tours
Centuries-old Catholic churches abound in this historic city with a great Spanish influence. In fact, they sit right at the heart of every municipality, usually across the town plaza and next to the local school. Jaro Cathedral, for example, was completed in 1874, destroyed by an earthquake in 1948, and fully repaired by 1956. Meanwhile, Molo Church, tagged as "Church of the Women" because of its all-female saints statues, was built in 1831. Located about 30 kilometers out of the city but still in Iloilo province, the Miag-ao Church, a fortress church against Moro attacks, was constructed in 1787. In 1993, it was declared as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, the only one outside Luzon. Make sure to see and revel in each one.

Beach hop
Last but not the least, what's a coastal city without its beautiful beaches? Highly urbanized Iloilo City serves as the gateway and main jump-off point to picturesque islands. These are easily accessible by land travel or a motorized bangka (outrigger) or ferry ride. Guimaras, a neighboring island province, can be reached via Iloilo City and is home to sweet mangoes and rich marine biodiversity. Islas Gigantes, off the coast of the towns of Carles and Estancia in Iloilo, rivals Boracay's powdery white sand and pristine blue waters. Do not miss out on the opportunity to visit!*