From a 2-day OB in Gensan, I flew to Iloilo for another 3-days of extended OB. Before flying, I was searching for some guided walk tour which I may to do after work. There was none. I know how rich and grand the heritage of Iloilo is and I would like to do a walk to see, learn and appreciate Iloilo as far as my foot can take me with my limited time.
Touchdown Iloilo at 3PM, May 15, 2013. From the airport, I checked-in at Century-21 Hotel along Quezon Street, rested, and ready for work the morning after. After work the next day, I already wanted to do the walk. Not being familiar with the city and no one to accompany me, I went to the Department of TOURISM Regional Office [For Western Visayas] along Bonifacio Drive, some 3-blocks away from my hotel. At the tourism office, I was entertained by Third and Pam, big thanks to them for accommodating me and for being generous to give me a city map and some flyers. After informing them that I am doing a solo walk of the downtown, they marked establishments, places and landmarks of historical and cultural significance I shouldn’t miss. While I originally planned for a downtown walk tour only, I continued to ask places I should see in JARO as well. I know I can walk it too which I actually did the next day after work, including LA PAZ.
With my pair of dependable sandals, some sun protection, cellphone and few cash checked, most importantly camera loaded and charged, I was ready for my SOLO WALK of downtown Iloilo City!
With a map on hand, I started as soon as I stepped out of the tourism office. Instead of turning left going downtown, I turned right to Forbes Bridge [1-block away] to take a day view of the Iloilo River – the bridge is 1 of 5 crossing the river. Looking at the Iloilo River, I can only wish that I was looking at Pasig River. I am amazed and must applaud the city government and its people for their concerted efforts to maintain the river despite industrial and commercial establishment along the riverside. In fact, a promenade was established to showcase the Ilongo’s love for their river. It’s called the Esplanade.
After few moments in the bridge, I turned my way back to go downtown. Along the way and before the tourism office, there is the CASTLE HOTEL to the right. It is no longer operational and I can only take pictures from outside. I asked if I can go inside even only on the grounds but I was refused. That was fine, photography ethics. This is actually the first of several structures that I was refused entry and only allowed take pictures from outside. Most ancestral homes in the city or structures with significance need appointment with an average fee of 100-200/pax, minimum of 5, as a rule of thumb. If you go solo, you may negotiate for the price. The Castle Hotel now houses a Korean Learning Center. There is a 2-storey wooden mansion just beside Castle Hotel – failed to take a picture but it’s the VILLANUEVA MANSION. It’s well-preserved. [Picture of Castle Hotel below].
Continuing my walk past the tourism office is the MUSEU ILOILO and the PROVINCIAL CAPITOL [new and old buildings]. I took notice of the Museu Iloilo’s structure – quite a deviation from the old architecture that Iloilo is known for. It’s simple but looked modern, close to futuristic but not quite. An entrance of P15 is more than it’s worth if only to know first-hand the history, culture and heritage of Iloilo in one stop.
Beside the Museu is the Provincial Capitol. The new building is facing Bonifacio drive while the old capitol [just beside the new one and good they preserved it!] faces Iznart Street heading downtown. In front of the old capitol and at the start of Iznart Street is a ARROYO FOUNTAIN also referred to as the starting point of KILOMETER ZERO [KM 0]. Kilometer Zero signifies the starting point of all roads from and to any point in Iloilo. [Photos below: Provincial Capitol-left; Arroyo Fountain/Kilometer Zero-right].
Walking through Iznart are commercial establishments like banks, restaurants, hardware stores, hotels, etc. At the end of it is the main intersection of Iznart, JM Basa, Ledesma and Arroyo Streets called PLAZOLETA GAY. At the center of intersection is a white obelisk-like structure with a dove perched on top. It was erected to honor an Iloilo ancestral family and may now be referred to as Iloilo’s freedom park (note: not Freedom Grandstand, it’s different) as it is usually the venue for rallies and freedom demonstrations.
From the monument, I walked to JM BASA [also known as CALLE REAL] where old commercial buildings still stand and some even undergoing repairs and improvements while maintaining old and original fascade. If Divisoria is to Manila, Colon is to Cebu, San Pedro is to Davao, JM Basa is to Iloilo. Prepare to witness what is left of the City’s commercial grandeur during the Spanish Era along JM Basa and here are pictures along Iloilo’s main commercial street.
Just an observation, I noticed that when I was asking locals in the street where Calle Real is, most of them didn’t know. The reason maybe is because Calle Real is no longer used at present to refer to the main commercial street, now known as JM Basa.
Along JM Basa is ROBERTO’S. It’s famous for its Siopao but they also serve basic chinese dishes like noodles and lumpia. Siopao made Roberto’s famous and Roberto’s has become part of Iloilo’s culture since 1972. I passed by around 2PM and there was a long queue of people ordering. I originally planned to take my snacks here but because of the long line, I temporarily forego with it and decided to come back after my walk.
I went back at Roberto’s about 6.30PM but there was still a line! I had no choice, I need to taste the siopao that made Roberto’s famous and the siopao that has become part of an Ilongo’s way of life. Siopao prices start at P45, and the most expensive at P70. I ordered for a Queen because it has pork asado, eggs, Chinese sausage and ham but it was no longer available. I settled for the King without the ham at P70. It’s well-stuffed and the additional filling adds a little more excitement to the taste – that may have justified its price.
Interestingly, I saw this man along JM Basa. I wanted to talk to him when I passed by to ask how old is he but he was sleeping on his chair back on the wall. The second time I passed by later in the afternoon, he was busy doing something. If only I was able to talk to him, for sure he should have told me much more about JM Basa [Calle Real] than what my eyes have seen.
I continued my walk to the CITY HALL and passed by REGENT CINEMA, the oldest cinema in the province of Iloilo built in 1928. It’s still operational and now showing double movies – ST film during that time. Adjacent to Regent is the FREEDOM GRANDSTAND where the final stop of the Dinagyang Festival street dance competition is held every year. At the back of the grandstand is the Dinagyang Lounge where costumes of participating contingents from the recent Dinagyang are displayed and also houses the city tourism office. [Photos below, clockwise: Regent Cinema, Freedom Grandstand, Dinagyang Costumes, Regent Cinema].
Few steps from the Freedom Grandstand is the new city hall but before that, I took a short right turn on the street immediately before the City Hall [Ortiz Street] going to Rizal Street for the LEDESMA MANSION. The mansion has eagles on its fence posts that made it grander. The manong whom I bought bottled water from refer to is as – “bahay na may agila!”
I then headed back to the city hall. It’s not only new, it’s huge, and it’s green! I went inside and immediately to the left is the City Gallery. I had a little tour of the gallery and was assisted by Ice who also brought me to the city hall’s roofdeck. The first thing that was referred to me was the statue of a lady on top of the city hall’s dome. They call her LIN-AY, standing 15-feet on a 3-feet pedestal, the bronze statue that symbolizes Iloilo’s culture, heritage and prosperity is at 1.7-tons, sculpted by Ed Defensor and erected in 2011 during the term of incumbent and now re-elected mayor, Jed Patrick Mabilog [May 2013 as of date].
The view from the roof deck is breathtaking and I can only imagine Iloilo’s beauty at sunset. However, the city hall closes at 5PM and its impossible to spend my sunset here. From the top, I feasted on a 360-view of Iloilo City. From a view of JM Basa and downtown, turning right is MEULLE LONEY and the island of Lapuz District which Ice told me that it’s shaped like a nose. In Ilongo, nose is “irong” where the city’s name ILOILO is believed to have been derived. Turning farther right is a view of LACSON HERITAGE HOUSE and the JOSE PLACER CHURCH, in front of the city hall is the PLAZA LIBERTAD and completing the 360-view is the MASON TEMPLE and a glimpse of Guimaras Island.
From the exit of the city hall, I continued my walk to places nearby and as I have seen from the roof deck. To the left are the Muelle Loney –a river wharf traversing Iloilo River, the OLD CUSTOMS BUILDING, Lacson Heritage House and beside it is the San Jose Placer Church. According to Ice, the church was where the Dinagyang started. Fronting the City Hall is the Plaza Libertad where the first Philippine Flag was hoisted after Spain surrendered her last city of Iloilo in 1898 and to the right is the Masonic Temple.
Other interesting facts about the city hall – I was also informed by Ice that 70% of the City Hall’s power is generated by solar energy and water supply for toilets are from deposited rainwater from the rooftop.
After visiting places around the city hall, I then continued my walk to FORT SAN PEDRO, my last stop. The walk from the City Hall to the Fort is quite a long walk but you can take the jeep with signboard CPU for P7, just tell the driver to drop you at the Fort or just be observant. If you see lamp posts along a paved sidewalk overlooking the sea to the right [there is an island and that’s Guimaras] with a statue of Christ the King at the farther end, and shanties to your left, it’s already Fort San Pedro. I opted to still walk. Upon reaching the Fort, it was nostalgic. I was here in 2010 [left photo], my first visit in Iloilo and in my second [right photo], I tried to recreate a photo I have taken 2-years back. I think I failed :(.
Below are [recent] photos taken from Fort San Pedro:
There goes my SOLO Iloilo downtown city walk tour. It started from the FORBES BRIDGE [near the regional tourism office] and ended at FORT SAN PEDRO. Four major stops and 3-hours [inclusive] of walking under the scorching heat of Iloilo sun. I saw, I witnessed. I learned, I was entertained! Tired but never gave me second thoughts to proceed with my JARO WALK including LA PAZ the next day. I am not given ample opportunity to do things like this every time and I make the most out of it when given a chance. Thank you durable sandals!
MY 4-MAJOR STOPS:
First Stop: Regional Tourism Office-nearby are the Provincial Capitol, Arroyo Fountain/Kilometer Zero [round fountain] Forbes Bridge and Castle Hotel.
Second Stop: Plazoleta Gay, JM Basa, Regent Cinema Freedom Grandstand and Ledesma Mansion.
Third Stop: City Hall, Muelle Loney, Lacson Heritage House, San Jose Placer Church, Plaza Libertad and Masonic Temple.
Fourth Stop: Fort San Pedro.
Some observations I have noticed during my walk: It’s hot – I have to buy an umbrella the next day! It’s clean and roads are wide. Food is generally marked-up than the usual. Example – 1-serving of meat dish which I can get for P25-P30 in Davao, Cebu or even Manila is P50 in Iloilo. One serving of batchoy at Deco’s is P70, A siopao at Roberto’s can cost P70. My observation was seconded when an officemate confirmed that indeed, food in Iloilo is generally more expensive. Public utility jeeps are cool! 24-seater lowered locally assembled at 300K on the average. Anti-smoking ordinance implemented.
[The sunset photos above were taken the next day as I arrived quite early at the Fort after my downtown walk].
READ MORE OF ILOILO THIS BLOG:
OTHER WALK TOURS-THIS BLOG:
Map below indicating my 4-stops. Click to open. Click again to enlarge: