Visit Iloilo: Spotlight on heritage, history



The Iloilo Festivals Foundation Inc. (IFFI) and partner tourism stakeholders from the private sector have put the spotlight on museums and heritage restaurants in the ongoing “Visit Iloilo” campaign, to encourage more tourists to explore the city, this year and beyond.

IFFI president Allan Tan said museums are the best places to learn one’s culture and tradition, in this case, of Iloilo City, which is home to over 20 galleries and museums, showcasing a rich variety of subjects, from vibrant contemporary art, to Philippine maritime history, and the rich craft of Spanish brandy-making.

Iloilo City Mayor Jerry Treñas and Iloilo Festivals Foundation Inc. president Allan Ryan Tan (5th and 4th from left, respectively) with Jogie Viceo (3rd from right) of Megaworld, and national and local media practitioners, who joined the “Visit Iloilo” familiarization tour May 14-16.
Evelyn Jiz (right), proprietor of the Arevalo Handwoven Products, which gets its supply of silk from Bago OISCA.
Prof. Martin G. Genodepa, UP Visayas museum curator

“Iloilo has long been recognized for its culture, heritage, and hospitality, and we want to continue sharing all these things,” Tan said. “Our Visit Iloilo campaign is an invitation for everyone to experience Iloilo’s rich history and premier attractions first-hand – especially our museums. I believe we may have the most number of museums in a single city, and that’s something to be truly proud of.”

Museums showcasing Iloilo’s rich history

The Museum of Philippine Maritime History is the first maritime museum of the national government that opened in January last year. It is under the National Historical Commission, and located at the ground floor of the Customs House in the city proper. It boasts of interactive exhibits, provides a comprehensive look at the seafaring history of Western Visayas, from ancient times to the present, and houses an impressive collection of artifacts, ship models, navigational maps and instruments, and many more.

The Museum of Philippine Maritime History under the National Historical Commission boasts of interactive exhibits and houses an impressive collection of artifacts, ship models, navigational maps and instruments, and many more.

One of the first American structures built in the Philippines is the National Museum Western Visayas-Iloilo Provincial Jail. Also known as the Iloilo Rehabilitation Center and Prison of Iloilo, it was built in 1911 and was used for incarceration until 2006. Designed by architect William Parsons, the jail was recognized for its exceptional architectural, cultural, and historical value, and the National Museum of the Philippines declared it an Important Cultural Property in 2016.

The Museo Iloilo, meanwhile, pays tribute to Ilonggo heroes and local ancestors. Built in 1971, it is the first government-sponsored museum outside of Metro Manila, and dubbed as the “Mother of Regional Public Museums”.

The National Historical Commission of the Philippines (NHCP) Museum of Philippine Economic History, located in the Old Ynchausti y Compania Building, has 13 galleries that showcase the rich economic history of the country.

Museo Iloilo pays tribute to Ilonggo heroes and ancestors, and is the first government-sponsored museum outside of Metro Manila
Marissa Ledesma Orallo of the National Museum of the Philippines Iloilo.
The Mt. Kanlaon volcanic rocks on display at the National Museum of the Philippines Iloilo.
These rocks are lavas from Mt. Silay from a very long time ago, and exhibited at NMP Iloilo.

Casa Gamboa, an initiative of the Tinukib Foundation, was opened to honor Patrocino Gamboa, or “Tia Patron”, one of the first revolutionaries in Panay Island to battle against Spain, and a founder of the Comite Central Revolucionario Visayas. Some of Tia Patron’s contributions to Philippine history was nursing wounded and sick soldiers on the battlefield; collecting contributions from donors; gathering food, medical supplies, and ammunition for the revolutionary forces; and preparing a replica of the Philippine flag for the inauguration of the revolutionary government of the Visayas in 1898 during the “Cry of Santa Barbara” in Iloilo.

Galleries of art and craftsmanship

Adoro is one of the newest additions to the city’s growing portfolio of museums and galleries. It is managed by the Valencia Family Foundation and showcases the collection of Ilonggo Ed Valencia, one of the country’s top art collectors. Its second group exhibition since it opened last year, dubbed “Redux”, featured 40 artworks, including that of famed Negrense artist Charlie Co.

Local products for sale at Tinukib

The Iloilo Museum of Contemporary Art (ILOMOCA) is also among the most visited museums in the city, where works of local and foreign artists are showcased. This three-story museum features separate galleries – the Hulot Exhibit, The Gallery, Adoracion Valencia Gallery, and The Box.

Along the Festival Walk Parade, meanwhile, is the Brandy Museum, which allows visitors to dive deep into the world of Spanish spirits. Admission is free and open for all, who would like to be transported into a Spanish bodega and learn more about the craft of distilling liquor.

Ancestral houses-turned-museums

Among the ancestral houses-turned-museums in Iloilo is the Avanceña-Camiña Balay nga Bato, a century-old ancestral house that serves authentic tablea chocolate and the town’s famous pancit molo. Constructed during the 1860s, it is one of the most prominent ancestral houses in Iloilo that showcases a collection of ancient and historical artifacts.

Luth Camiña of the Avanceña-Camiña Balay nga Bato, one of the most prominent and well-preserved ancestral houses in Iloilo.
This brown cloth that touched the uncorrupted body of St. Padre Pio can be seen at Agatona 1927; right photos, the special altar at the Jalandoni-Montinola Ancestral Home in Jaro, Iloilo, later named as Agatona 1927, in tribute to the matriarch, Doña Agatona Arguelles de Jalandoni, a fervent Catholic, whose countless endeavors to support the church and its civic causes, became the legacy of faith of the family.

The Jalandoni-Montinola Ancestral Home, meanwhile, was built in January 1927 by Dona Agatona Arguelles de Jalandoni and her husband, Don Ruperto Jalandoni. Nearing its centennial anniversary, the ancestral home was fittingly named Agatona 1927 as tribute to the matriarch, a fervent Catholic, whose countless endeavors to support the church and its civic causes, became the legacy of faith of the family.

There are several other places of interest in Iloilo, like the Arevalo handwoven products, Balay Remedios, the Lizares Mansion, Nelly’s Garden, Glory’s Cafe Arevalo, the John B. Lacson Foundation Maritime University, and the UP Visayas Museum.

The Iloilo River sunset cruise is also a must, as well as visit to churches, like the Jaro Cathedral.

The Jaro Cathedral, seat of Catholicism in Western Visayas and center of devotion to the Our Lady of the Candles.
Chef Miguel Cordova of Balay Remedios; at right, “sala-sala” demonstration at Glory’s Cafe, home of traditional heritage Iloilo black coffee and the sansaw signature drink

Tourists can also look forward to their fill of signature delicacies, with Iloilo City officially recognized as a UNESCO Creative City of Gastronomy in 2023, thanks to the city’s efforts to champion heritage cuisine.

“Visit Iloilo is more than just a showcase of our heritage, food, and festivals,” Tan stressed. “It is our way of building our legacy and giving back to the Ilonggos, whose collective efforts have molded Iloilo into what it is and what it’s yet to become. We are very excited to share who we are, not only to the whole country, but to the rest of the world.”

Aside from IFFI, among the multi-sectoral groups supporting the campaign are the Department of Tourism Region 6, the Tourism Promotions Board, the Philippine Chamber of Commerce and Industry of Iloilo, the Iloilo Meetings, Incentives, Conventions, and Exhibitions Alliance, and property giant Megaworld.

The “Visit Iloilo” official accommodation partners are Courtyard By Marriott Iloilo and Richmonde Hotel Iloilo, while Cebu Pacific and Southwest Tours are the official transportation partners. | CGC photos