The historic beauty and local charm of Southern Iloilo

Text and photos by: Bombette G. Marin

Aside from delicious local gastronomy and charming culture, the best thing about rural Iloilo is its history.

At its peak, Iloilo was one of the influential, most progressive provinces outside Manila. Today, sights such as Roman Catholic churches, Watchtowers, Spanish Bridges, Cemeteries and Colonial houses remind us of Iloilo’s illustrious past.

Encounter centuries of heritage as you travel to rural Iloilo’s top historical sites in the south where colorful history lives on in its gorgeous architecture. A paradise for the history lover, a trip to Iloilo will never be complete without exploring the area’s rich history.



ST. JOHN OF SAHAGUN PARISH Church in Tigbauan is of Mexican plateresque architectural style. The first church was built under the supervision of Father Fernando Camporredondo.

Made of sandstone and coral, it was said to be so strong enough to have withstood a powerful earthquake on July 13, 1787.

The present church and its convent were built by Father Fernando Martin in 1867. It is said to be a reconstruction of the “parochial church.” In 1975, a historical marker of the National Historical Institute was placed in the churchyard identifying the site where the first Jesuit boarding school for boys in the Philippines was established.

In 1994, under the direction of Rev. Fr. Eleuterio Rojo Carton, the interior of the church was renovated with a wide array of carefully laden tile mosaic.



The BANTAYAN or Moro watchtower is one of the most valuable structures built in Guimbal in the 18th century. They lasted for hundreds of years with remarkable strength. The town has four such towers that remain to this day.



ST. THOMAS OF VILLANOVA PARISH Church in Miagao is of Baroque-Romanesque architectural style.

The original church, convent and municipal hall were built in 1734 in a lowland plateau by the sea called Ubos. However, it was burned by Muslim pirates in 1741. Another church was built from 1744 to 1750 under the supervision of Father Fernando Camporredondo but it was again burned by Muslim pirates in 1754.

The present church is the third structure built under the supervision of Father Francisco Gonzales Maximo in 1786 and completed in 1797. It boasts of a native façade with a unique explosion of botanical motif: coconut, banana, papaya tree and a stylized guava tree.

Its centerpiece is San Cristobal in rolled pants carrying the child Jesus.

In February 16, 1963 a historical marker by the National Historical Institute was placed on the church and was declared a National Shrine through Presidential Decree No. 260, dated August 1, 1973.

In 1993 it was included in the World Heritage List, the only one in the Visayas and Mindanao.

TAYTAY BONI in Barangay Igtuba, Miagao is an old stone bridge about a kilometre away from the poblacion.

Named after Boni Neular, a construction foreman and major carpenter, the bridge was constructed in 1854. Made of stone blocks locally known as tablea, each block measured 12 inches in length and 6 inches in width and is 3 inches thick.

The bridge is approximately 43.81 meters long and 6.71 meters wide with an area totaling to 233.58 square meters. It is six meters high with walls a meter thick. Its waterway is said to have a dimension of 2.44 meters high and 2.74 meters wide.

The bridge, which connected Miagao to neighboring Guimbal, was still used after World War II but was damaged in 1948 by the Lady Caycay earthquake.



The ROMAN CATHOLIC CEMETERY OF SAN JOAQUIN in San Joaquin is of Neo-Gothic architectural style. It was built in 1892 under the leadership of Father Mariano Wamba.

This coral stone-walled cemetery with an iron gate is fenced by wrought iron with walls of carved stone. The two pillars supporting the decorative archway were ornately carved with flowers and tendrils showing the influence of Gothic architecture.

Its 20-step ascending stairway is flanked by stone balustrades on both sides leading to the grandiose hexagonal mortuary chapel popularly known as “Camposanto.”

The ROMAN CATHOLIC CHURCH OF SAN JOAQUIN in San Joaquin is of Baroque architectural style. The first church was said to have been finished earlier than 1850. The present church was built on the same foundation with the old church in 1869 under the supervision of Father Tomas Santaren and was assisted by a Spanish engineer named Felipe Diez.

Considered the most militaristic church in the Philippines, the pediment’s bass relief sculpture entitled “Rendicion de Tetuan” commemorates the 1859 victory of the Spanish over the forces of Morroco in Tetuan, North Africa.

It revealed the cavalry and infantry led by St. James, the Moor slayer, breaking the Moorish defenses under a minaret tower over a landscape of date palms. The sculpture is so intricate that even the expression of wounded soldiers is visible.

The church is made of gleaming coral stone called “sillar” that were rectangularly shaped into a given dimension. Skilled masons and craftsmen, famous sculptors and painters from Spain and Mexico were employed to work for the construction of the church.

The limestone used in the construction of the church is found along the seashores on Punta Talisayan, Punta Malagting Tubus, Talus and Sinugbuhan in San Joaquin. The church was used as a fort during the Muslim raids. It was burned in January 29, 1943 and was rocked by the 1948 Lady Caycay earthquake. It was declared a Historical Landmark in 1974.

Know more of historic places to visit on the 13th Tumandok on September 21-24 at the fountain area of Robinsons Iloilo main mall. The event is annually organized the Provincial Culture, Arts, History and Tourism Office, DOT-VI and Robinsons Place Iloilo with the Iloilo Tourism Officers Association, Inc. (ITOA, ISAT-University and The Daily Guardian.



Promote Ilonggo culture through food

By: Leonard T. Pineda I

A CELEBRITY chef and culinary consultant said a great way to promote Ilonggo culture is through food.

During the Culinary Festival 2017, Filipino chef and food advocate, Michelle Adrillana said Ilonggo cuisine is an important component of Iloilo culture.

“Ilonggo cuisine has a lot of story to tell and very rich in history and culture,” she said.

She said that there is more that Ilonggos can do to promote native culinary specialties and local dishes here and abroad in terms of advertising and marketing.

As a food advocate, Adrillana has been working with the government in promoting the Philippines through cultural diplomacy.

“I promote the country through cultural diplomacy in countries such as Qatar, Korea, Australia, and China,” she said.

She also encouraged Ilonggos to embrace fusion in Ilonggo specialty dishes.

“I believe fusion is innovation. If you want to further promote it in different parts of the country or overseas, you have to attract the attention of the global market,” she said.

She said that what better way to attract their attention is through making something interesting for foreign clients.

“Once you get their attention, that’s the time we can show to them how Filipino food is prepared at home,” she added.

The Culinary Festival 2017, one of the biggest culinary events in Western Visayas from Sept 18 to 24, is spearheaded by the Department of Tourism-6, in partnership with SM City Iloilo. (PIA-Iloilo)

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