Wednesday, July 24, 2013

First District: Iloilo’s Heritage Destination

CASA REAL (Provincial Capitol) Museo Iloilo Archive
Iloilo is one of the most incredible provinces to visit for history lovers. It is full of historic monuments centered around the city. The towns are blessed with a great variety of Spanish influence where every location offers a range of superb churches, cemeteries, watchtowers and bridges. Exploring each town visitors will enjoy a privileged journey back in time where you can discover Iloilo's important cultural heritage.

In the First District of the province of Iloilo you will find unique places where one live history at each step. Visitors will discover outstanding examples of Spain's rich, varied cultural treasures.

We start in the town of Oton being the gateway of Christianity, along with Cebu and Manila as the focus of Spanish colonial domination. It was recorded that Miguel Lopez de Legaspi brought knowledge of Spain to Ogtong (now Oton) in 1566. They settled in the area where it became the center of administration of Iloilo. The town also expresses their pride as a once flourishing Malay Port (somewhere near the Batiano River) where regular trade and cultural contacts already existed even before the coming of Spanish authorities in the country. Written records reveal that Chinese and Southeast Asian ceramics found in the Oton tell the story of how the town forged social and commercial ties with China and its neighbors. In the 1960s anthropologists Alfredo Evangelista and F. Landa Jocano excavated in Barangay San Antonio and found a death mask made of very thin gold with one piece used to cover the eye and the other piece placed on the nose. Pre-Spanish ceramic trade wares had also been retrieved. Golden necklaces and other semi-precious stones were also recovered. Oton is 10.2 kilometers from the city.


photo by Jose de Luna
The iconic ST. JOHN OF SAHAGUN PARISH in Tigbauan is considered to be the oldest existing church in Western Visayas. Constructed in 1578, it is the only church of Latin-American Churriguesque style, a lavish piling up of surface ornamentation, especially stone carvings. Inside the church is a wide array of carefully laden tile mosaics such as the station of the cross and the altar bearing Dante’s interpretation of heaven and hell. On its churchyard remained a marker of what used to be the site of the first Jesuit boarding school for boys in the Philippines established in 1592 and renowned that time for their liturgical music during church services. Tigbauan is 22.5 kilometers away from the city.


photo by Vincent Angelo Gefes
The Bantayan or Moro watchtower is one of the most valuable ruins Guimbal built centuries ago. They have lasted the centuries with remarkable strength. The town has three such towers that remain to this day and that you can still see with your eyes are found in Barangays Tuguisan, C. Colon and Pescadores where one can get an unfettered and more authentic look.

Taytay Tigre is an old stone bridge where tiger stone structures are placed in both sides of the bridge. Built by Augustinian priests during the Spanish rule, it is the smallest in Iloilo with its 4.5-meter length. It was also known as the Spanish Arch Bridge and is situated along the highway a few meters away from the town plaza.

photo by Bombette G. Marin

The St. Nicolas of Tolentine Parish or Roman Catholic Church of Guimbal occupies an area of 1.22 hectares and was built in 1774 by Father Campos. Its outside walls are of yellow sandstone made of adobe blocks locally known as Igang. The facade of the church is flanked by two round pilasters with white floral carvings. The church belfry of 4-storey high was also built as a watchtower for incoming raids from Moro pirates. It was originally facing the street across which is the sea. When the municipal plaza was built at its back, the back side was converted into the front side to make it the church facing the plaza. Guimbal is 29 kilometers from the city.


photo by Jun Fuerte

The municipality of Miagao is more well- known than the other places on this list. Situated 40.5 kilometers away from the city, Miagao is a UNESCO World Heritage site. The Baroque-Romanesque style of ST. THOMAS OF VILLANOVA PARISH was constructed in 1786 and completed in 1797. It was built as a place of worship and as a watchtower to protect the natives from Muslim pirates that regularly pillaged the town. The huge stone blocks were quarried at Sitio Tubog in San Joaquin and in the mountains of Igbaras. The church sinks six meters deep in the ground with walls 2.5meters thick including the outside buttresses. It boasts of its native façade with a unique explosion of botanical motif: coconut, banana, papaya tree and a stylized guava fruit. Its centerpiece is San Cristobal in rolled pants carrying the child Jesus. It was declared as a National Shrine in 1973 and was included in the World Heritage List, the only one in the Visayas and Mindanao, under UNESCO in 1993.

photo by Jun Fuerte

TAYTAY BONI in Barangay Igtuba, Miagao is considered to be one of the nine surviving Spanish bridges in the Philippines. Named after Boni Neular, the construction foreman and major carpenter, it was constructed in 1854. Made of stone blocks, the bridge connected Miagao to neighboring Guimbal. It was still used after World War II but was damaged in 1948 by a strong earthquake that resulted to the destruction of the middle part of the bridge and the crumbling of its walls. It is approximately six meters high with walls a meter thick. Its waterway is said to have a dimension of 2.44 meters high and 2.74 meters wide.


photo by Jun Fuerte

San Joaquin is situated 53 kilometers from the city, on the edge of the southern portion of Iloilo bordering the Province of Antique. Its most impressive feature is the ROMAN CATHOLIC CHURCH OF SAN JOAQUIN.  Built in 1859, it is considered as the most militaristic church in the Philippines where the pediment’s bas relief sculpture entitled “Rendicion de Tetuan” reveals the cavalry and infantry led by St. James, the Moor-slayer, breaking the Moorish defenses under a minaret tower against a landscape of date palms. The sculpture was so intricate that even the expression of wounded soldiers is visible. Skilled masons, famous sculptors and celebrated painters and craftsmen from Spain and Mexico were employed for the construction of the church. It was constructed in 1859 and finished in 1869.The limestone used in the construction of the church is found along the seashores on Punta Talisayan, Punta Malagting Tubus, Talus and Sinugbuhan in San Joaquin. Father Tomas Santaren, a Spanish priest, built the church with himself as master architect, assisted by a layman engineer, Don Felipe Diaz, and with an array of skilled masons, famous sculpture, celebrated painters and craftsmen from Spain and Mexico. The church is made of gleaming coral stone called “sillar,” shaped rectangularly into a given dimension. On February 4, 1896, Father Santaren died and was buried right under the altar of the church. In 1974, the church was declared a national shrine. In 1982, reconstruction and restoration of the church was initiated by the National Historical Committee.

photo by Jun Fuerte

A little further down from the church along the highway is the fantastically preserved ROMAN CATHOLIC CEMETERY OF SAN JOAQUIN. For any history lover, this is a fantastic place to visit on a day trip. This coral stone walled cemetery with an iron gate is fenced by wrought iron with walls of carved stone. The two pillars supporting the decorative archway were ornately carved with flowers and tendrils showing the influence of Gothic architecture. Its 20-steps ascending stairway is flanked a stone balustrade on both sides leading you to the grandiose hexagonal mortuary chapel popularly known as "Camposanto." Made of coral rock, it was built in 1892 and was recently restored.

For the history enthusiast, this south country-side tour allows visitors to appreciate the beauty and history of the first district that should not be missed in every visit to Iloilo. For more information, please contact the Office of Culture, Arts, History and Tourism, Iloilo Province at (033) 3384910.

Sunday, July 21, 2013

Enjoying the Shores to the Max in Concepcion

Agho Island, Concepcion, Iloilo, photo by Bombette G.Marin

A huge percentage of Iloilo Province’s tourists go to the beaches because it provides a place for relaxation and with assortment of activities, including water sports, scuba diving, snorkeling and fishing, among others.

The northern district of Iloilo’s extensive northern coastline opens up to different bodies of water and there are beautiful beaches you can find in the area, all offering different pleasures. One of the most popular beaches in the area lies in Concepcion.

The municipality of Concepcion is located on the northern portion of Iloilo, and although the town has several beautiful island beaches, they often get overlooked by many Ilonggos. This could be a great reason to visit the area as you will get a great spot to relax in your Iloilo vacation while at the same time spend just a fraction of the money that you would anywhere else.

Lumpatan Concepcion, Iloilo, photo by Bombette G. Marin

When visiting the island beaches in the area one of the biggest decisions that you will have to make is which island beach you should visit. There are 11 island and are approximately a 30-minutes motorized boat-ride apart and have great reasons to visit them.

Lumpatan, Concepcion, Iloilo, photo by Bombette G. Marin

LUMPATAN is one of the nicer island beach stop in Concepcion. This side of the Island is mainly made up of granite rocks. The first thing visitors will probably want to do when in the area is to walk to its 300-meter trail that frames almost half of the island. The beach, however, is rocky, with corals and pebbles, but is a place for a gentle swim capped by happy hours of sunbathing. It is a great spot to relax where its turquoise waves crash upon its huge rocks.

Agho Island, Concepcion, Iloilo, photo by Bombette G. Marin

Agho is more secluded and private that is why it offers a more tranquil beach holiday, as this destination is typically less developed and less well-known. This 9-hectare beach has white powdery, soft sands and is a great place for those looking to spend some relaxing time. This is also a great beach to go for a swim because it has clear blue waters—an ideal escape for anyone looking for a beach vacation to get away from everyday life. The water is calm so the snorkeling condition is excellent here. The island provides its visitors with ample beach space and access to as volleyball and basketball. It also provides visitors with sweeping views of the islands of Igbon, Mangalabang and Tambaliza. And if you are looking for a place to get some sun at one of the hottest Iloilo beaches, Agho Island is definitely a spot you should consider. It has five native open cottages good for 4 persons at P100 each cottage; 1 open cottage good for 6-7 persons at P700; 1 Open cottage good for 8-10 persons at P800; another cottage good for 10-12 persons at P1,000 and a tree-house for an overnight stay at P1,500 good for 6 persons. A minimal entrance fee of P25 is charged to every visitor to the island. It is only accessible by a motorized boat from the Municipal Fish Port.

Bulubadiangan Island, Concepcion, Iloilo, photo by Norman Posecion (USA-PALI)

Bulubadiangan is a 21-hectare private owned island famous for its beautiful 200-meter stretch of sandbar. It is a beautiful place to walk through and view the waters from up close.    It is simply a must for every incoming tourist to Concepcion since it is actually considered as its main island beach destination. It is renowned for its backpacker outlook. If you are looking for a bit of peace and quiet, Bulubadiangan Island is probably the place for you. It has 3 native cottages perfect for an overnight stay. Entrance fee is at P25 per person.

The best time to go to the beaches of Concepcion is generally from March to May. Holidays also attract a lot of tourists. So when it comes to swimming, sunbathing and relaxing, especially if you are trying to travel on a budget, Concepcion is the place to be.

Lumpatan, Concepcion, Iloilo, photo by BombetteG. Marin

The municipality of Concepcion is located 111.4km from the city of Iloilo. It is possible to take a bus or van from Tagbak Terminal in Jaro. The trip from Iloilo City takes close to 2 hours. For more information, please contact Mr. Jim Pendon – Municipal Tourism Officer at 09997710086 or at the Office of Culture, Arts, History and Tourism, Province of Iloilo at telefax (033) 3384910.

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Banate's Best!

photo by Clinton Clyde Belleza

The fisherfolks of Banate are lucky living and fishing in the area; it may be a little slower in pace than some of its neighboring towns but the community is blessed with kilometers of coastline that, even in times of declining fish stocks, fisherman have bountiful rewards.

If there is two species that reaches iconic status in Banate it is the succulent blue crab and whiting. These are much sought after species caught in good numbers right along their coastline. And it is just lucky for the blue crab and whiting-mad public Banate’s fertile, and nutrient rich waters ensure that blue crabs and whiting continues to live, breed and thrive.

photo by Clinton Clyde Belleza

Banate has long been known for its bounty of blue crabs popularly known as kasag in Hiligaynon. A major Ilonggo seafood resource, blue crabs are most notably associated with this town.  The town is among the highest contributors to the blue crab industry of Iloilo. Crabbing is part of this town's heritage, and a local favorite that is why the local festival is even named after it.

In spite of their colorful name, blue crabs are mostly grayish to bluish green. Only the claws are blue, and the claws of mature females also have bright orange-red tips.

photo by Clinton Clyde Belleza

Banate Maxwell Seafoods in Barangay Carmelo is the most popular crab processing plant in the area. From the catchers, the crabs are brought to the plant where they are steamed and their meat is picked out and packed for shipment to Cebu for canning and export. Presently, the processing plant employs 50 pickers. It produces 30 boxes of crabs with 15 kilos of crabmeat a day. The crab meat is shipped to Cebu and sold to exporters for the international market.

Another popular seafood resource in the area is the whiting fish popularly known as Aso-os in Hiligaynon. It is a slender fish found mostly along the beaches. They are small and often weigh less than 10oz. Whiting fishing is a favorite and one of the most popular among fishermen because they are plentiful,  it is common to find schools of over 100 fish feeding in an area. They are also easy to catch since they are found even on sand and mud-bottom areas.

photo by Clinton Clyde Belleza

Aso-os is a cheap fish that is why it is regarded as food for the poor or for pets. But it is now more highly valued especially by the fisherfolks. A study on the acceptability of a powdered milk candy popularly known as polvoron from Aso-os was made.  The study found out that it was the best fish species due to its acceptable color, flavor, odor, and texture.

Polvoron is a Philippine dessert or snack popular for “pasalubong” or homecoming gifts. Bay’s nutrifood polvoron is a semi-sweet concoction made of fish protein concentrate, flour, buttermilk, sugar and iodized salt. There are several polvoron recipes available today. There are the cookies and cream polvoron, peanut polvoron, chocolate polvoron, and many more.

photo by Clinton Clyde Belleza

The protein rich fish polvoron produced by BAY’S Nutrifood is a product of the project financed by the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) in 2009. A processing plant was constructed along with the financial aid given through the Banate Bay Integrated Small Fisherfolk Multi-purpose Cooperative. Though production stopped in 2011, concerned individuals along with the aid extended by the Iloilo Provincial Government managed to support its operation.

Presently, it employs 3 fisherfolks for its operation producing 250 pieces of dark and white chocolate coated fish polvoron daily. It has a selling price of P6.00 per piece. A box for 4 dark chocolate and 4 white chocolate-coated polvoron is also available. The chocolate coated polvoron has a life span of 3 months.

Banate is a town 50 kilometers north from Iloilo City. To get to Banate, one can take a bus or van at Tagbak Terminal in Jaro, Iloilo City. For more information, please contact Miss Roselle Bactung at 09164002420 or at 3620068 or call the Office of Culture, Arts, History and Tourism of the Iloilo Provincial Government at telefax (033) 3384910.

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

MOLO: A Celebration of Iloilo’s History and Beauty

For some Ilonggos unmindful of its rich history, the district of Molo possesses some of Iloilo city’s most pronounced attractions. It has an elegance derived from its beautiful Gothic church and numerous examples of early 19th century architecture with exclusive residential neighborhoods sprawling beyond the historic central areas in all directions.

Discovery and exploration over the past several hundred years by the Chinese and Spanish means that the area offers a wealth of historic landmarks, cultural diversity and other attractions.

It has a flourishing economy actively engaged in local and international trade. It was called Parian (Chinatown) and was an important economic center where a significant Chinese community, attracted by the prospect of commerce in the area, established their residence and businesses.

In 1857, Chinese mestizos totaled to 1,106 from Molo’s total population count numbering to 16,428 (Iloilo Heritage of Greatness, Museo Iloilo). Spain’s growing influence encouraged frequent Muslims raids mostly originating from Mindanao. Parian was later changed to Moro which later evolved to its present name. Molo was chartered as a district when Iloilo gained its city-hood status in 1937.

photo by Vincent Angelo Gefes
Molo is a major visitor destination. The grand monument that distinguished it is concentrated on its district plaza, in the central area. Over the centuries, the much-admired PARISH OF ST. ANNE, constructed in 1831, stood magnificently. It is one of the very few dedicated churches in Iloilo. Outside the church, the only of its kind outside of Manila, it boasts of its Gothic feature with two main towers, where a tower is said to have been destroyed by the Americans suspecting it was used for military purposes by the Japanese during World War II. Inside is a unique feature found nowhere else in the Philippines, with its two rows lined with life-size statues of beautifully carved 16 female saints on Greek columns on the way to the main altar. It is said that in August 4, 1886, Dr. Jose Rizal, on his way back to Manila from his exile in Dapitan dropped at the church to pray. The National Historical Institute declared it a national landmark in 1992.

photo by Harold Agustin Ziegenhohn
Combine a visit to Molo church with a trip to PANADERIA DE MOLO in Barangay North Avancena where you can buy cookies that are up to the present baked using the original equipment in the olden days. It is well known to many Filipinos and has a growing and loyal clientele, all attracted by enthusiastic word-of-mouth reports that have been doing the rounds since the later part of the 19th century. History of the bakeshop dates back in the 1800s. Masons used egg whites to cement bricks that make up the walls of churches; so as not to waste the rest of the egg, women in their idle time would use the yolks to bake cookies. For many visiting tourists, the obligatory pasalubong purchase is their best-selling creamy galletas.

photo by Harold Agustin Ziegenhohn
The ROSENDO MEJICA MUSEUM in Lopez Jaena Street in Baluarte is a family-owned museum set in the original house of Rosendo Mejica and features the furniture and other furnishings, clothing and the extensive papers and his collections. Rosendo Mejica He was a newspaperman, printer and a philanthropist. He founded the Makinaugalingon Press in Iloilo City that stresses the awareness and educates Filipino of the Hiligaynon Literature. Mejica was also responsible in translating Rizal's Noli Me Tangere and El Filibusterismo from Spanish to Visayan. He founded and built the First Public Elementary School in the Philippines, the Baluarte Elementary School in 1905. The museum opens daily every weekday from 9:00am – 5:00pm.

photo by Vincent Angelo Gefes
Iloilo history is abundant with notable people. And Molo, long known as the Athens of the Philippines, have produced names whose significant efforts in fostering goodwill and enhancing and promoting the image of an Ilonggo as competent, dignified and responsible individual are etched on the Ilonggo consciousness: Senators Francisco Villanueva, Esteban de la Rama, Esperidion Guanco, Jose Ma. Arroyo, Francisco Zulueta, Jose Zulueta and Rodolfo Ganzon; Supreme Court Justices Raymund Melliza, Gregorio Araneta, Felicisimo Feria and Ramon Avanceña): and Governors Raymundo Melliza, Amando Avanceña, Gregorio Yulo; Mariano Arroyo, Jose Yulo-Regalado, Timoteo Consing and Jose Zulueta. They are remembered for greatly contributing to the socio-economic development of Iloilo and the Philippines as a whole.

It was also home to private schools such as the Instituto Inseñana de Molo; the all-girl school founded by the Avanceña sisters, the Colegio de la Santa Ana; and the Centro Escolar de Molo.

Annually celebrating its Patronal Fiesta every 26th of July, Molo’s unique local culture blends Filipino, Malay, Chinese and Spanish influences with beautiful architecture and culinary traditions.

photo by Vincent Angelo Gefes

Molo, comprised of 25 barangays, is one of the most exciting and beautiful districts in the city of Iloilo today.  It has a cosmopolitan outlook with the right combination of facilities, attractions and friendly people. It is an economic, social, educational and cultural center of Iloilo that offers a kaleidoscopic variety of experiences for everyone. It has style, color and charm where history and beauty come together.

Celebrating Tubungan’s Colorful and Vibrant Cultural Festival

Tubungan, Iloilo on its 250th Foundation Anniversary will celebrate the 17th Tubong-Tubong Festival, the town’s tradition that runs ...