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Why the Ilonggos return to their native land, again and again, and again Edit

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Lovely Ramos  • Contributor
Opinions expressed by Explora.ph Contributors are their own.

Almost every one of us knows someone from Iloilo—the jokers of the group, those who talk in a very gentle manner. But in between differences and stories, what people always hear from the Ilonggos in Manila or anywhere else is: “Babalik at babalik pa rin ako sa Iloilo” (I will always return to Iloilo). They would always smile after saying these words like there’s this certain longing for home and the memories that perpetually live in it.

It may take months or even years to fully appreciate a place and its culture. But in Iloilo City, travelers only need three to four days to understand where the Ilonggo’s love for their native land comes from, and here are some of the reasons why:


Angelicum School

Iloilo City has that old school vibe like no other. Capiz windows, wooden pillars, grand entrances, and beaux-arts are normal wonders along the streets of Iloilo City. A simple stroll could give one a glimpse of the country’s colonial years, particularly under the Spanish and American regimes.

In Jaro, 19th-century architecture is seen in its most celebrated ancestral properties, the Nelly Gardens and Lizares Mansion (Angelicum School). Seeing the façade alone could easily make one reimagine the lives of the royal families back then. But more importantly, touring both places could make one learn and understand how Ilonggos constantly try to preserve their cultural heritage—a trait that speaks of how the locals value their identity and their community.


Create Bistro

At the city proper, Iloilo City Hall doesn’t only stand as the center of power and governance, but an agent that promotes local heritage, a home that is open to all. In 2012, it opened its City Gallery to easily showcase the city’s famed festivals, awards, arts and crafts, and many more. After touring the exhibit room, guests could go straight to its roof deck for a mesmerizing 360-view of the entire city.


Miniature scale model of the Iloilo City Hall and Plaza

Of course, a visit to the city proper won’t be complete without a walk on Calle Real, which gives off that vintage appeal. After all the walking, locals simply rest and unwind by the Muelle Loney or at Plaza Libertad – an intimate time to pause and breathe for a while.

Iloilo keeps up with the new. 

Outdated who? Manila corporate giants such as Ayala, Megaworld, SM Development, and Visayas’ renowned Gaisano, have already landed in Iloilo City, resulting in commercial centers comprised of offices (local and international), malls, bars, and dining areas. 


Muelle Loney

The Festive Walk Mall exudes that Venice vibe when it comes to its architecture and modern cuisines fill-up the strip of restaurants. On the other hand, SM Centerpoint also features exciting bars and hangout places, such as The Office Pantry, a wine and whiskey drinking place which has this speakeasy feel.

More and more millennials also love the newest spots where they can simply chill or drink the night away. Favorites include LOCO, a coffee shop that serves local artisan coffee for as low as P80, and El Bigote, a promising stall that serves Fil-Mex food. Both are located at Iloilo Food Park in Molo, which easily pulls off this hipster ambiance.


Authentic Lapaz Batchoy

Drinking spots for the younger group also include The Rabbit Hole at the city proper, which has this house party setting, and Create Bistro in Mandurriao, which has these artsy interiors and cool gimmicks like free board games and weekend events.

Ilonggo offers food made from love. Buto-buto broth that has been slow-cooked for hours, fresh meat, bulalo mixed with guinamos or shrimp paste, crushed chicharon, garlic, egg noodles, liver, intestines, bone marrow, and other secret ingredients in one bowl? You can only find this authentic guilty pleasure in Iloilo. 

Some of the most popular batchoy in the city frequented by the locals include Netong’s, Ted’s, Deco’s, Inggo’s, and Lar’s Buko Batchoy.


San Jose Church

Crunchy barquillos from De Ocampo’s, signature Biscocho and butterscotch from The Original Biscocho Haus, and revel bars from JD’s Bakeshop are also sweet delights that remind Ilonggos of home. Plus, you don’t have to spend over P100 all the time just to enjoy seriously good food.

For heavy meals that one couldn’t find in other places are all-time contenders Tatoy’s, Breakthrough, and Pyt Stop. A local once shared that the distinct quality of Ilonggo dishes is that no additional spices or condiments are needed to enjoy a meal; the flavors are rich enough to stand on its own.

 And it’s true. Even siopao from Roberto’s doesn’t need an extravagant sauce to be complete—every food is made from love.


The hustle and bustle of the city is not easy to love. There are days when people appreciate it, but that emotional attachment doesn’t usually stay for a lifetime. Not in the case of Iloilo City.

It may be progressive but the core values remain intact: people treat each other nicely, locals live simply, establishments monitor price control as a sign of respect to Ilonggo’s value for their hard-earned money, cab drivers are trustworthy, and there is zero drug-related crime.

These signs show the perfect marriage of the past and the future; there is heart at the center of all the developments, and these explain why Iloilo City will always be home


Iloilo Commercial District

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