However, we went prepared and made sure we had a good taste of Iloilo by filling our minds with its rich culture, spoiling our eyes with the beautiful religious architectures and of course, making our tummies happy with its delicious food.
Here are four things that you have to do when visiting Iloilo:
1) Go Church Hopping
We told our Mom that Iloilo is simply the best place to be in during the Holy Week where we, Filipinos, would have the Visita Iglesia. This is an annual ritual of devout Catholics where we would visit seven churches during Maundy Thursday as we go through the Stations of the Cross.
Iloilo is known for its numerous churches with beautiful architectural designs. Imagine visiting at least seven churches for Visita Iglesia here in Iloilo would also enrich your cultural side as you also get to admire the beauty of how it was designed.
My sister and I were fortunate enough to be able to visit two churches near Iloilo City. The first was the Molo Church which has really pointed roofs. It is also called as the Feminist Church due to the statues of female saints that line the side aisles of the church.
The second church is the popular Miag-ao Church which is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. I was so happy to be able to visit this as the Miag-ao is the third of four Baroque Churches that I've visited which are being recognized by the UNESCO. The list includes the San Agustin Church in Intramuros, Manila, the lovely Paoay Church in Ilocos Norte and the La Nuestra Senora de la Asuncion Church in Ilocos Sur which I have yet to visit.
I fell in love with the beauty of the Miag-ao Church as it gives a bright yellow glow as the sunlight hits its facade. Every angle is truly photogenic :) I'm sure Paul will enjoy taking lots of photos of this beautiful church.
2) Dine at Esca's and fall in love with the Managat
For our last lunch in Iloilo, my sister and I took her best friend's advice of dining at Esca's. Hidden in one of Iloilo's subdivisions is a popular Filipino restaurants that holds a festive Sunday buffet lunch to the delight of its growing patrons. It's being operated by Afrique's which I believe is also a popular Filipino restaurant chain in the province.
Our lunch began with a platter of Crispy Kangkong (Php. 50). We both love crispy spinach and kangkong back when we were in high school and we couldn't pass up the chance not to order it here in Iloilo. Imagine P50 for a huge pile of crunchy deep-fried greens? Yum!
However, the main highlight was not the kangkong but a plate of Grilled Managat (Php. 240) topped with chopped tomatoes, onions and atchara. It was love at first taste -- the meat simply melts in your mouth and it was so buttery flavorful that I could definitely finish an entire fish on my own. We were actually hoping we got two orders but I'm sure we'd look really funny if we did.
We paired our delicious fish with a bowl of garlic rice each and a glass of their famous cucumber coolers. A perfect lunch to cap off our wonderful weekend in Iloilo.
Esca's is located inside the Aurora Subdivision, Iloilo City. Contact them at +63(922) 9222116 / +63(920) 9019908.
3) Go choco-loco at Nothing but Desserts
Luckily, my sister and I stayed in a hotel that's located inside a commercial district. Here, we had the luxury of checking out the various restaurants and coffee shop anytime hunger strikes. After dinner one evening, we went to Nothing but Desserts to enjoy a cup of Chocolate Trifle and Creme Brulee.
Choosing our dessert was definitely a challenge as everything looked truly mouthwatering from the dessert case!
I love the Chocolate Trifle which has several layers of cream and three types of chocolates : dark, milk and white. My Creme Brulee was pretty good too. I love the crunchy caramel top and the creamy custard. Though, there's really nothing spectacular about the creme brulee as opposed to the chocolate trifle which was worth raving about.
Check out Nothing but Desserts at The Avenue Complex, General Pison Ave., Diversion Road, Iloilo City. Call them at +63(33) 329-5815.
4) Bring home boxes of Mango Chewies and Biscocho!
One thing that I love about traveling is when I get to shop and bring home delicious goodies for my family and friends to enjoy. If Bacolod has El Ideal, Iloilo has Biscocho Haus and Mama's Kitchen where you can hoard up on boxes of delicious Mango Chewies and Biscocho (toasted bread coated with butter and garlic).
While I've known of Iloilo's delicious Biscocho prior to our trip, we only stumbled upon Mama's Kichen on our way back from our church visits. It's an old house that is also a sinamay (fiber) factory / museum where we saw a vintage car parked inside and finished products using this premium fiber material. They have different cookie flavors such as kasuy (cashew), mango, chocolate and a lot more. We both enjoyed the chewy buttery soft cookies with mango bits. It has just the right amount of sweetness that even my mom approved of.
The biscocho is a long time popular snack in Iloilo and no visit is complete without bringing home packs of the authentic toasted sweet bread from Biscocho Haus. While the original branch may be a bit far from the city, you can easily grab a pack before your flight home in their beautiful domestic airport.
Oh how thankful I am to live in this lovely country with 7,107 islands to explore. Each destination has a lot of story to tell and lots of dishes for you to enjoy. There's still more left to be discovered in Iloilo and I truly can't wait for my next visit as I reunite with my delicious Grilled Managat. ♥