Commuting galore: Hello Iloilo!

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Dinagyang Festival, Iloilo | (c) Hey, Haeja
Here is how ate Mako and I ended up going to the Dinagyang festival in Iloilo...

Ate Mako: Ja, I want to go to the Dinagyang festival. I hear they also have an ati-atihan festival, but the crowd isn't as big as the one in Cebu.

Me: Okay!

And then we booked.

We went the day after my 27th birthday, sort of a birthday celebration/gift for myself as well. We decided to limit our spending to P10,000, including the expensive air fare. We ended up booking when there was no sale because we were afraid the seats would run out.

Since we were only in Iloilo for the weekend, we had to narrow down the places we were going to visit. Ate Mako did not want to ride a boat after our trip to El Nido, so we were limited to land-based attractions. We ended up going to all four towns of Iloilo City, and to Miagao, in the southern part of Iloilo.

The trip to Miagao took us two hours, one-way.

Miagao Church, Iloilo | (c) Hey, Haeja
Church of Sto. Tomas de Villanueva in Miagao, Iloilo
The Church of Sto. Tomas de Villanueva is one of only four churches in the Philippines granted a Unesco Heritage status. The other churches are the ones in Vigan, Paoay, and Intramuros.

Close-up view
Its design is Baroque, and definitely one of the most beautiful churches I've ever seen. It has been preserved throughout the years. They used to let people go up to the bell tower, but the admin has since closed it off for safety reasons.

How to commute to Miagao (from Mandurriao):
1) Ride a jeep to Super (you can also take a taxi but it's way cheaper to just take the jeepney).

2) Take the jeep bound for Miagao. Ask to be dropped off at the Sto. Tomas Cathedral (or we just said Miagao Church).

How to get back to Iloilo City:
1) Ride the jeepney that's parked right beside the Church. Ask if they are going to Iloilo City, or at least Arevalo.

2) From Arevalo, you can either ride a pedicab or jeep to go to the beach, where there are several restaurants like Beachside or Tatoy's, or take the jeep to Iloilo City.

*Tip: Ride beside or near the driver so he won't forget to drop you off your destination.

Tatoy's Iloilo | (c) Hey, Haeja
Since the jeep we rode from Miagao was only up to the terminal at Arevalo, and it was past lunch time by then, we decided to go to Tatoy's (in Arevalo), because we just kept hearing about it. We asked the locals and they directed us towards the next street to take a pedicab. It was marvelous that we managed to get around Iloilo just by asking the local drivers/policemen/guards.

Guimaras mangoes, Iloilo | (c) Hey, HaejaWe didn't realize Tatoy's was just across the beach, which was a happy coincidence since the beach was in one of my original itinerary. My sister and I ordered their roasted chicken, which was supposedly very popular, but was too dry for our taste. It cost us P320. Make sure that if you order rice, you specify if it's by cup or by platter, because they automatically serve you by platter.

Since we weren't planning to go to Guimaras, I had given up hope of tasting the famous Guimaras mangoes, but lo and behold, Tatoy's had them, both in green and ripe varieties. I was about to order a kilo, but I decided to taste it first. Luckily, they serve by piece too.

The beach in Arevalo, Iloilo
Unfortunately, it fell flat of my expectations. I was expecting the sweetest mangoes ever, but not every bite of it was sweet, and was slightly sour. The only exception is that it was ripened naturally. As an avid eater of mangoes, I can detect if it's naturally ripe or ripened by chemicals. It was the former, and that made me glad. I guess having tasted ripe mangoes plucked straight off a naturally-fertilized tree will make you have high standards when it comes to mango. Oh Kiblawan, how I miss your mangoes.

Before leaving, we decided to take a peek at the beach. It was ordinary, and we didn't see anyone swimming. I'm not sure if people actually swim there because it didn't look developed. But I've been told that the islands off the coast of Iloilo (i.e. Guimaras, Isla de Gigantes) are much better. They are actually part of the reason why I'm planning to go back to Iloilo.

Iloilo | (c) Hey, Haeja
We rode a jeepney that was passing through, since it was going to our next stop: St. Anne's Church in Molo.

We disembarked in front of this beautiful old house, but I don't know what landmark it is. I'm also not sure if you can go it, since it was gated and there were guards, but they were nice enough to let me slide my hands through the gates and take a picture. Iloilo City has a lot of beautiful heritage houses.

St. Anne's Church is known as the Feminist Church because of the 16 nearly life-sized images of female saints inside.

St. Anne's Church, Iloilo | (c) Hey, Haeja
St. Anne's Church, Molo, Iloilo
Interestingly enough, right outside the Church is a grecian temple with life-sized statues of greek goddesses Hera, Demeter, Aphrodite, Athena, Artemis and another goddess I am unable to identify. I have no idea why they have it, but it's a stark contrast (from this angle, at least) the the dark and forbidding façade brought about by the fusion of Romanesque and Baroque design elements.

This was our last stop because we were so tired. Our flight was supposed to be at 4:30am but was moved to 6:20am because of some slight delay with PAL. Talk about getting no sleep. I'm just thankful that we didn't get migraines even with the lack of sleep, constant traveling, and delayed eating times.

The next day, we didn't have any tour planned anymore because we thought the Dinagyang parade was going to take all day. But I scheduled us to have mass at The Metropolitan Cathedral in Jaro because I wanted to see and pray with the Lady of Candles.

The Metropolitan Cathedral, Jaro, Iloilo City | (c) Hey, Haeja
The Metropolitan Cathedral, Jaro, Iloilo City
Set against the azure sky that Sunday morning, the Cathedral just seemed so magnificent. The very high ceiling and the beautiful interior made me feel so small and left me in awe (and wondering if I can get married there someday).

Afterwards, we went straight to the parade and dances of Dinagyang. There was a lot of people and henna artists. Plenty of little trinkets were sold on the side, and there were booths giving away free wine and free Emperador light. I was amazed by the freebies. I think it's the first time I went to a place that offered free alcoholic drinks!

Miss Dinagyang 2015 | (c) Hey, Haeja

The carriage of the Miss Dinagyang (I think) also passed, which caused quite a stir. A lot of people wanted to take pictures with the escort, but I don't know who he is. All I know is that I wanted to ride the freaking Cinderella-inspired carriage. Lucky people.

Dinagyang Festival 2015 | (c) Hey, Haeja

Ate Mako and I were about to go back to the hotel because we had to check out of our room when one of the competitors passed us by. Since we were right on the street, we started taking photos with the dancers in the background. We didn't know they were actually posing behind us, which really delighted us. We were right in on the action, and it felt so fantastic. We thought we weren't going to actually see the parade since we didn't buy a ticket to the platform. But we found ourselves right there, so we took advantage of the moment and took pictures of them and with them. It was so spur-of-the-moment, it kinda took my breath away.

Some other photos I took during Dinagyang...

Dinagyang Festival 2015 | (c) Hey, Haeja
Hala bira, Dinagyang!

Dinagyang Festival 2015 | (c) Hey, Haeja

Dinagyang Festival 2015 | (c) Hey, Haeja
One of my favorite shots

If you're planning to get around Iloilo the adventurous way like we did, here are some tips:
1) Take lots of coins with you. It's easier and cheaper to take the jeepney instead of cabs.

2) There are two SM malls in Iloilo. One is SM City, which is in Mandurriao, the new CBD of Iloilo, and one in the actual city proper of Iloilo. Be clear where you're going because you might end up at the SM in the city, instead of at SM City.

3) Planning to take the shuttle van from the airport to the city? Just ask the guard outside the arrival where the vans are. It will only cost you P50, and will drop you off anywhere between the airport to SM City Mandurriao.

4) Vans from SM City Mandurriao to the Iloilo International airport are available for P70/pax.

5) If your flight isn't until late in the afternoon/evening, you can check in your luggage at SM City Mandurriao for P30/day until 9pm.

6) Slather on some suncreen, bring a bottle of water, and enjoy the journey.

Our trip to Iloilo is one of my favorite memories so far this 2015. Iloilo was surprisingly modern and the people were generally friendly. It was fairly easy for us to explore the town, considering that we didn't know how to actually go from one place to another, but we managed to get to our destinations anyway.

The food is one of the things I didn't enjoy, but maybe I just ate at the wrong places. I feel there's so much more to Iloilo that I can explore, so I'm hoping that one day, I'll get to visit again.

Thanks for the memories, you lovely city.

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