If you’re planning a trip to Iloilo, it’s likely that a visit to the UNESCO World Heritage 17th-century Baroque church, Miag-ao, is already on your itinerary. Cross this must-see site on your list plus many lesser known things to do only in Iloilo – in one day.

Iloilo, or fondly known as the City of Love, has distinctive culinary treasures, cultural scenes, and historic churches, not to mention well-dressed and well-mannered people. Here are 5 best things to do in Iloilo for a day (there’s no pressure to follow this itinerary – you can spend more days in Iloilo as you please):

Step back in time in Jaro

Jaro Cathedral or the Church of St. Elizabeth of Hungary, one of the must-visit heritage churches of Iloilo.

Jaro, bathed in history, is the largest and arguably the most significant of Iloilo City’s seven districts. This district boasts a wealth of Spanish colonial architecture, making it a haven for history buffs.

Jaro offers a delightful mix of old and new. Search for affordable stays near Jaro Plaza, the iconic Jaro Cathedral, and beautifully preserved Spanish-era mansions using Google Maps. We personally recommend El Haciendero Private Hotel (P1,300/night, sometime in Septemer) for its convenient location near Robinsons Mall, delicious eateries, and ancestral houses.

Experience the Heart of Jaro

Rise with the sun and witness Jaro come alive. As early as 6 am, you’ll find locals jogging at the plaza or attending mass at the magnificent Jaro Cathedral. This Romanesque Revival masterpiece, constructed in 1864, is a sight to behold. Don’t miss the imposing belfry standing proudly across the street – it’s impossible to overlook!

Savor the Signature Batchoy at La Paz

La Paz Batchoy – one of Iloilo’s signature dishes

There is no need to book a table. Just go straight to La Paz Market as early as 8 AM, and you’ll be sure to find an open eatery to enjoy La Paz Batchoy—a signature Ilonggo dish named after the district where it originated: La Paz.

To unsuspecting tourists like us, the eateries in La Paz Market seemed to offer the same fare: a bowl of soup with sliced pork, pig’s innards, noodles, and pan de sal. Each serving was big enough to keep us full until lunch. The budget for three people was below P500, which is a bargain, right?

See a UNESCO World Heritage Church: Miag-ao

Facade of Miagao Church. Completed in 1797 in Baroque Romanesque architectural style.

Miag-ao, a 17th-century church designated a UNESCO World Heritage site, attracted me to fly to Iloilo. Despite the church’s unsavory history (it was built by forced labor under the leadership of a parish priest, Francisco Gonzales, and then Spanish gobernadorcillo, Domingo Libo-on), it has remained a fascinating sight to this day.

The facade of Miag-ao church was well-preserved, and the intricate details were still so clear and intriguing that we spent over an hour just marveling at its beauty. I’m glad it still stands proud (despite earthquakes) for devout Catholics and explorers to see.

HOW TO GET to Miag-ao Church from Iloilo Downtown: Take a jeepney to San Agustin University then another one to Iloilo Supermart (in front of Molo Plaza), then get on another one with a Miag-ao signage. Locals are helpful so feel free to ask (in Tagalog).

Garin Farm’s version of heaven.

Take a Side Trip to Garin Farm – A Modern Pilgrimage Site

Don’t be fooled by first impressions! Garin Farm, located near Miag-ao Church, offers more than just your typical farm experience with poultry, livestock, and a charming Bahay-Kubo. This unique destination has become a popular pilgrimage site, attracting visitors with its spiritual pathway.

While the life-size Bahay-Kubo and farm activities are delightful, the main draw is the Stairway to Heaven. This 480-step climb leads visitors on a spiritual journey, culminating in a breathtaking panoramic view. The name might be playful, but the experience is open to all, regardless of religious background.

Finding Your Way to Enlightenment (and a Great View)

Reaching Garin Farm is easy! From Miag-ao Church, simply hop on a bus or jeepney and ask the locals or bus conductor for directions – they’re known for their helpfulness.

Discover Molo’s Great Appeal

The MOLO Mansion is a restored heritage house in Molo, Iloilo.

Exhausted from exploring the wonders of Southern Iloilo, our three-person crew craved nothing more than a relaxing soak, mindless TV, and a hearty meal. However, a chance encounter with the Molo Mansion reignited our curiosity. This beautifully restored heritage house, also known as the Yusay-Consing Mansion, wasn’t on our original itinerary, but its grandeur was impossible to ignore thanks to SM Inc.’s development efforts to restore it to its former glory.

Stepping inside, we discovered a charming souvenir shop filled with affordable local treasures. Outside, a tempting array of eateries beckoned with the promise of delicious coffee, snacks, and even dinner.

Following a local recommendation, we delved into steaming bowls of Pancit Molo. We couldn’t resist complementing it with savory dinuguan and fluffy puto, creating a soul-warming feast. It rivaled the La Paz Batchoy we enjoyed that morning – a testament to the incredible culinary experiences hidden within Iloilo’s unassuming eateries.

Molo Church Iloilo
Iloilo’s feminist church with red spires crowning its two bell towers.

After dining, we visited the Molo Church, which conveniently sat across from the Molo Plaza and the Molo Mansion. From a quick check online, I found that this was a feminist church (due to the all-female saint ensembles) and that it was notable for its Neo-Gothic colonial architecture.We went to Iloilo without expecting to see much. After exploring the city for a day, we fell in love with its signature dishes, heritage churches, and good people. I feel that you’ll fall in love with the city, too.

By Issa

2 thoughts on “Beyond Batchoy: Unveiling Hidden Gems in Iloilo City (Day Trip Itinerary)”

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