Your Essential Iloilo Itinerary For This Year’s Dinagyang Festival
What’s the best way to greet the start of the year? Why with another festivity of course! As Christmas and New Year celebrations have withered away, the Dinagyang Festival in Iloilo City is just getting started. The charming Iloilo will woo you with its freshest seafood, historical churches, and latest attractions. Discover what this fine city has to offer using this quintessential Iloilo itinerary in hand.
How to get to Iloilo City
There are daily flights to Iloilo City from Manila via Philippine Airlines or Cebu Pacific. The early bird who catches an early flight deserves a head start in this magnificent city!
Day 1: Explore and eat your way through Iloilo City
Grab a cup of tsokolate at Camiña Balay Nga Bato
Originally known as the 1865 Avanceña house, Camiña Balay Nga Bato is an ancestral house well-preserved of its time. A special tour centers on the house’s meticulous features that are sure to transport you back to the pre-colonial Philippines. The house served as a venue that once produced for textile products to be transported to the surrounding towns. End the tour with kinihad, a native biscuit somewhat reminiscent of biscocho, dipped in thick tsokolate de batirol. Before leaving, grab a unique antique or souvenir from Lola Rufina’s Heritage Curio Shop on the ground floor.
Go church hopping at Iloilo’s finest churches and cathedrals
Iloilo City is home to Miagao Church, one of the few Baroque churches in the country. Don’t skip this one out because Miagao Church has been declared as a world heritage site. Observe its beautiful architecture as a result of both Spanish and Filipino influences. Another Spanish-colonial church worth visiting is the Molo Church. Taking selfies at the Molo Plaza is a must! You’ll fall in love with the combination of Neo-Gothic and Romanesque architecture. It’s even considered to be a feminist church because only female saints rule in terms of decor. Consider visiting the Jaro Cathedral that is considered to be the only of its kind on Panay Island.
Sample some famous La Paz Batchoy and Pancit Molo
No Iloilo itinerary is complete without some real La Paz Batchoy! Try the original at the La Paz Market. Imagine a steaming bowl of pork bits and feast noodles swimming in tasty broth topped with crunchy chicharon. Another Ilonggo dish that you’ll crave for is their Pancit Molo, similar to a localized wonton soup. It doesn’t have actual noodles since pancit can also refer to the dough’s wrapper. All the flavors infuse together when you put a great deal of chopped scallion and toasted garlic.
Discover heritage sites
Your love for beautiful old buildings will be rekindled in Iloilo. Make a short stop at the city’s former business district Calle Real (now J.M. Basa Street). The building was restored to keep its Art Deco look in contrast to the surrounding contemporary buildings. Casa Mariquit is another beautifully preserved house-slash-bank worth exploring on your list. There are all sorts of antiques in every nook and cranny of this red bricked dwelling. One place worthy of your time is the Lizares Mansion (now Angelicum College). It was built in the 1930s and its appearance consists of Spanish and American influences. Return in December, and you will see how magical the mansion is at night! Going back in time is probably one of the highlights of this Iloilo itinerary!
Enjoy a sumptuous feast at Tatoy’s Manokan and Seafoods
Let’s get down and dirty! Don’t be afraid to use your hands to reach for your favorite seafood dishes at the famous Tatoy’s Manokan and Seafoods. With the surrounding waters of the island providing a rich source of fish and crustaceans, you’ll be tempted to order everything. If there’s still room, try to squeeze in their famous native lechon manok. Time to order that extra cup of rice then!
Unwind with a drink at Brewery Gastropub
No night would be complete without a beer at Brewery Gastropub. They have a great selection of local, imported, and craft beers in the city. Sample their original Dinagyang-Festival-Inspired Handcraft Gourmet Beer. Also, make sure you are dressed in a decent attire (meaning don’t wear sando, shorts, or slippers) otherwise you won’t be able to enter.
Day 2: Have the time of your life at the Dinagyang festival!
Grab something quick to eat at Dova Brunch Café
Not a morning person? That’s okay. If you like to sleep in, make sure you grab brunch over at Dova Brunch Café. You might want to head there a bit early because this simple yet cozy café can get packed during peak hours. Drool over favorites like Original French Toast, Bleu Cheese Burger, or Strawberries and Banana Waffles. The best way to get all of that down is with a cup of hot java or refreshing fruit juice.
Shake your booty at the Dinagyang Festival
This year’s much awaited Dinagyang Festival is held on January 20-22. You’re extremely lucky if you find yourself in Iloilo around this time. Dubbed as Iloilo Ati-Atihan, the festival commemorates the first replica of Señor Santo Niño originally from Cebu. You’ll be greeted by the colorful costumes worn by smiling locals moving to the upbeat music. This is one heart-pumping party you won’t want to miss out on! Aren’t you glad to have this Iloilo itinerary in hand?
Indulge in a seafood feast at Breakthrough
If there’s one thing about the Ilonggo cuisine, it’s rich in seafood. Forget your diet for the rest of your stay. Just keep loading on that fresh talaba (oysters), baked scallops, or stuffed squid!
Take a leisurely stroll at Iloilo Esplanade
We know a long day of partying can drain your energy. Good thing there’s a romantic riverside you can escape to. Iloilo Esplanade is at its best during late afternoons just as the sun is about to set. Be there when the lights are on, and the entire place seems like a magical getaway. If you feel guilty about all that seafood you ate earlier, go for an evening jog!
Enjoy a quiet dinner at Afrique’s
Take a break from all that seafood and spend a lovely evening at Afrique’s. You really can’t go with Italian so why not order some pizza, pasta, and a steak? If you’re craving for some chicken wings, just pay PHP 199 for an unlimited session of rice and wings! If that’s not enough, go for their signature baby back ribs.
Day 3: Soak up some sun
Go island hopping at Gigantes Islands
Of course, our Iloilo itinerary is never complete without a pit stop at the beach. In this case, you don’t want to leave Iloilo without visiting Gigantes Islands. Wake up early, grab a quick bite, and head for the Estancia Port. It is recommended to spend a night or two at Gigantes because you’ll need an entire day to go island hopping. Whatever you decide, do visit Antonia Beach, Cabugao Gamay Island, Bantigue Island, and Tangke.
ALTERNATIVE: Splash around at Waterworld Iloilo
If you don’t have the time and energy to go to Gigantes Islands, you can still take a dip at Waterworld Iloilo. This water amusement park opened last December 2016. Feel the inner kid in you by deciding which colorful water slide you’d want to go on first. Fight that urge to push kids in front of you (lol!).
Eat your heart out at Griller’s Oyster House
As if you haven’t had enough seafood with this Iloilo itinerary, Griller’s Oyster House promises to deliver fresh and quality oysters to the table. You’d be tempted to buy a bottle of beer to go with it!. There are lots of variants when it comes to these oysters. One thing’s for sure is that it won’t leave a hole in your pocket. Their sisig and baby back ribs are also worth trying. Located in Smallville Complex, the surrounding nightlife is about to get started.
Explore the nightlife at Smallville Complex
Don’t mistake Iloilo for a sleepy town. Its nightlife will be somewhat a relief for you. For caffeine addicts, you can hang out at coffee shops like Coffee Break or Bluejay. Belt out a few tunes at KTV bars like Smallville21, MO2 Annex, or Club21. For partygoers who love to dance the night away, check out Flow, MO2 Ice, or Aura.
Did we just tickle your wanderlust? Come on, hop on a plane, and explore this wonderful city! Get lost in Iloilo for a couple of days with this handy Iloilo itinerary. We promise you, you won’t regret it!
Did we miss out on any of the best spots to visit in Iloilo? If so, share with Philihappy your favorite locations by dropping a comment below or by tagging @Philihappy on Instagram!