Malipayon nga pag-abot sa Iloilo

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Text and photos by Zsarlene B. Chua, Reporter

The recent opening of Courtyard by Marriott in Iloilo all but signaled the transition of the bustling provincial city of Iloilo into a metropolitan city rivaling Cebu and Davao.

The 326-room hotel is the first international hotel in the city and because of its proximity to the 3,700-seat Iloilo Convention Center, it’s natural to assume that the Courtyard is positioned as a business hotel but Bruce Winton, cluster general manager of Marriott International in the Philippines, said that they are also expecting tourists to flock to the city to see its considerable sights: from the centuries-old churches to museums and galleries, and the beautiful waters of Panay Island. (Guimaras island, known for having the sweetest mangoes in the country — and arguably the world — is a mere 15-minute boat ride away from the city’s Jordan Wharf.)

And because it’s not a terribly big city — only 70.3 square kilometers — tourists spots and destinations can be reached in about 15 to 20 minutes, which makes it perfect for those visiting for the weekend.

So for those who are tired of the heavy traffic in Metro Manila (and Metro Cebu, for that matter), experience the “Most Loyal and Noble City” of Iloilo and see some of its sites we’ve listed below.

(Trivia: The title “Most Loyal and Noble City” was granted via a royal decree by Queen Regent Maria Cristina of Spain after Iloilo City maintained its loyalty to the Spanish crown during the Philippine Revolution.)

Molo Church
A Neo-Gothic church built in 1831, Molo Church (St. Anne Parish Church) also bears the nickname “The Women’s Church” because of the 16 images of female saints located on pedestals on either side of the church leading to the altar, including St. Apollonia, St. Clara, St. Genoveva and St. Teresa, to name a few.

Built in the honor of its patron saint, St. Anne, the mother of the Blessed Virgin Mary, the church features two belfries containing 30 bells of different sizes.

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Molo Mansion
Located directly across of the Molo Church on Locsin St. is the Molo Mansion, or the Yusay-Consing Mansion, a 1920s-era mansion which was originally the residence of Doña Petra Lacson and Estanislao Yusay, a Manila judge in the court of first instance, before it became home to Timoteo Consing, Sr., who served as Iloilo governor from 1935 to 1937.

Built in 1926, the Spanish colonial mansion, with its sweeping arches and whitewashed facade, fell into disrepair and was initially tagged for demolition before it was renovated by architect Augusto “Toti” Villalon and turned into what is arguably the most beautiful SM outlet in the country by SM Land Inc. in 2016.

The mansion’s first floor was converted into SM’s cultural retail store, Kultura, which features products made from indigenous materials including modern Filipiniana attire and accessories.

In the back is a small coffee shop and in its expansive garden are a number of food stalls focusing on local goodies.

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Jaro Cathedral
If Molo Church is the church of female saints, then it would only be appropriate to call Jaro Cathedral the church of male saints.

The cathedral (formerly called the Church of St. Elizabeth of Hungary and now the National Shrine of Our Lady of the Candles), built in 1874, was designed in the Romanesque Revival style and features two rows of statues of male saints broken only by the presence of the Lady of the Candles.

Another interesting feature of the cathedral is its belfry which was built in front of the church rather than its side as it was said not only to have been used to house the church bells, but also serve as a watchtower against intruders.

Iloilo Museum of Contemporary Art
Beyond its churches and heritage houses, Iloilo City is also home to a considerable number of museums, one of its newest being the Iloilo Museum of Contemporary Art (ILOMOCA).

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Located within the Iloilo Business Park, ILOMOCA — which opened in late March — is said to be the first contemporary art museum in the region, with a 3,000-square meter floor area inside the three-story Casa de Emperador building.

There are five exhibitions ongoing including the Ilonggo Country exhibit in Gallery 1 on the second floor which features works by “established and emerging Filipino artists who trace their roots to Iloilo or Western Visayas,” according to the museum brochure. These include National Artist Jerry Elizalde Navarro, Manny Garibay, Mark Justiani and Brenda Fajardo, among others.

Meanwhile, the adjacent Gallery 2 features works by major foreign artists such as Joan Miro and Salvador Dali.

Gallery 3 features works by National Artists including Benedicto “BenCab” Cabrera, Abdulmari Asia Imao, and Arturo Luz, and a sculpture by Ramon Orlina.

The third floor houses the Adoracion Valencia Gallery which contains artworks chosen by the museum’s patron, Edwin Valencia. This space contains works by Ronald Ventura, Rodel Tapaya, and Mideo Cruz, among others.

Located at the first floor is Hulot, a space which pays tribute to Ilonggo hero Martin Delgado and other works with patriotic themes.

The entrance fee is P100, with student tickets priced at P50.

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National Museum Western Visayas
Housed in a structure built in 1911 to serve as the city’s prison — and it continued as such until 2006 when the prisoners were transferred to another facility in another town — the National Museum Western Visayas is the 5th regional extension of the country’s National Museum.

Located along Bonifacio Dr., the National Museum spent P80 million to convert the former prison into a museum containing hundreds of archaeological artifacts, fossils, and textiles, among other cultural relics.

The museum will also house the Oton Death Mask, a pre-Hispanic gold mask found in a grave site in Oton town, which is currently kept in the vault of the National Museum in Manila.

Entrance to the museum is free.