LAGAW ILOILO KAG GUIMARAS
A 3D/2N suggested itinerary for budget travelers who love the journey more than the destination. A heritage tour down south of Iloilo, beach bumming in Guimaras or just a walking tour along Iloilo City’s old streets plus food suggestions along the way.
“Lagaw” means “wander” or “travel” with special focus on the experience while on the journey and less on the destination itself. Are you ready to make “lagaw?” Tara at mag-lagaw-lagaw na sa Iloilo kag Guimaras (C’mon and let’s wander in Iloilo and Guimaras).
DAY 1 (Southern Iloilo Heritage Tour)
Start the day right and early for you are bound to experience the Southern Iloilo Heritage Tour. But before that why not sooth yourself with some hot batchoy (pork or chicken noodle soup) for breakfast. Ted’s and Deco’s always come to mind whenever I’m in Iloilo. After that soup you are now ready to go South.
Take a jeepney, the most popular mode of transportation to San Joaquin, at the Supermarket, Iloilo City. Go ask the locals to be sure of you’re destination. The signage tells “San Joaquin.” San Joaquin is about 54 kilometers away or about an hour ride from Iloilo city proper. Along the way, you will observe the old churches and might be tempted to get off and take those souvenir pictures. Please don’t, you will stop at those beautiful sites going back to the city. For now enjoy the trip to the southernmost part of Iloilo.
First stop, San Joaquin Church. There are at least two places you should
visit in San Joaquin- the Old Catholic Church and Campo Santo. A lot of tourists miss this place because they end their trip at Maig-ao, so you’re one of the lucky few who will see for yourself this hidden gem. The Church of San Joaquin took a decade to finish (1859-1869), the only church in the Philippines with a militaristic motif on her façade, it is said to be that this beautiful artwork is done to honor the architect’s father who was part of the war between the Christians and the Moors. Go touch with your bare hands this living monument of a charged bygone era.
Travel Tip: I went to San Joaquin Tourism Office and ask for more information about San Joaquin. The officer is more that helpful to discuss more of their town’s attraction.
Second stop, Campo Santo. Literally, the Field of Saints, Campo Santo sits atop a hill about a kilometer away from the Old Church on your way back to Iloilo City. This 19th century cemetery is still being used by the locals to bury their dead. Well, if you’re not terrified I think this is a perfect place to do your pre-nuptial photo shoot. Overlooking the vast sea on the south, this place is heavenly (of course, you’re surrounded with saints)!
Third stop, Miag-ao. After the white tombs we are now off to the famed yellow UNESCO World Heritage Church of Miag-ao also known as St. Thomas of Villanova Parish. Built in 1786, this church has a “Pinoy” frontage because you will see a uniquely carved banana and papaya trees on its façade, supported by two high belfries on each side. This fortress church is used by the locals to defend themselves from the Moro raids replete during their era.
Fourth stop, Guimbal Church. Built in 1774 this yellow sandstone church of Guimbal is a must visit too. They say that the natives were required to bring chicken eggs to be used as bonding material to the stones as they are building their parish.
Fifth stop, Tigbauan Church. I learned an invaluable lesson on judging the church by its façade, yes it’s a sad story. Anyway, I don’t want you to miss this last stop before having your much awaited dinner. The Parish of Saint John of Sahagun houses the most intricate of statutes and mosaics inside so don’t be fooled by its unadorned façade.
Dinner: Tatoy’s Manokan and Seafood at Villa. Eat to your stomach’s content and enjoy Iloilo’s chicken inasal and some grilled seafood.
Go back to your hotel or pension house to freshen up, take a power nap for you still have to experience Iloilo’s night life at Smallville. If you’re not into that, rest for tomorrow beach trip.
DAY 2 (Beach Trip at Guimaras)
Maayong aga! Now ready for the next adventure. Why not pack your
swimsuits and board shorts for we are going to the beach. Let’s start early and head towards Ortiz Wharf in Iloilo City. There we will find pumpboats going to Guimaras, it would not take you 15 minutes before you find your slippers stepping on another island- Guimaras. This Island Province boasts not only the sweetest mangoes in the world but also unexplored and unspoiled white beaches so please don’t leave your trash anywhere.
From Jordan Wharf, Rizal, Guimaras find jeepneys going to Nueva Valencia (1 hour ride). Take that and tell the driver to bring you to Guisi Crossing, from Guisi Crossing you will find lot of motorcycles “habal-habal” that will bring you to Guisi Lighthouse and Heritage Cottage (PhP20/each).
If you want to buy something from along the way, have a quick stopover at the Trappist Monastery and buy mango jam or flavored piayas.
Now let’s go back to Guisi. I encourage you to spend a night here in Guisi, it will be your most unforgettable experience while doing this trip, (trust me, I’ve been there). The Heritage Cottage can fit 6 people for only P1,500 not bad even if you are only 4. You would also notice the old lighthouse built by the Spanish to guide their ships navigating off Iloilo Strait. If you’re not yet convinced to stay here, how about imagining yourself waking up with the stunning view of clear blue sea and the three lighthouses built just near each other.
Anyway, spend the rest of your day beach bumming and snorkeling on the golden yellow sands of this beach. Play with the shells like when you’re 5-year old and wait until the sky turns violet and orange during the sunset. How lovely!
DAY 3 (Iloilo City Walking Tours)
Leave early and go back to Iloilo City. Just trace back how you get to Guisi- take the jeepney going back to Jordan Wharf and then go back to Ortiz Wharf, Iloilo City. When you’re back in the city try doing…
D-I-Y Iloilo City Walking Tour. Start at Km.0, visit the Iloilo Museum beside the Provincial Capitol then walk along Muelle St. enjoying the Iloilo River on your left. Turn right to Arroyo St. and feast on the Chinese stores, these stores have been doing business for decades now, find something for pasalubong. Continue walking and go towards JM Basa St., if you are keen enough you notice the long lines in Roberto’s Siopao. You should buy their Queen Siopao and bring some more home. End the walk when you see Plaza Libertad. Here you can now take a jeepney to Jaro.
D-I-Y Jaro Walking Tour. While on the jeepney tell the driver to drop you to Nelly’s Garden along E. Lopez St., continue your walking tour northbound until your reach Antillan Old House and then the magnificent White House of Ramon Lopez. You can have your lunch near the White House or get caffeinated before continuing to the Cathedral and the Old Belfry (in the afternoon, home-made bibingkas are being sold in front of the
old house just beside the Cathedral, you will love it too) just near the Plaza and ending it the Lopez-Jaena’s birthplace.
By now, I think you are ready to go back to Manila. Take a taxi that will bring you to the airport while savoring the memories of a nice vacation. You can now review your shots while waiting for your flight back home.
I believe that this itinerary would be of great help to you. This is especially made for budget travelers and those who want to explore these two stunning provinces on their own. Just be sure to travel light to enjoy the trip.
Recommended Pension Houses in Iloilo: Le Cateau D’ Iloilo or El Jardin Café & Inn
Guisi Lighthouse and Heritage Cottage Contact Person: Ms. Amparo Buncad/Ms. Henrietta Dulla (0928-9611031/0917-7305874/0920-5470288)
JourneyingJames is backpacking the Philippines (and Southeast Asia). One day he dreams to write (or co-write) a book on “Backpacking the Philippines: Off-the-beaten-path destinations.” He is open for commissioned travel works. Read more about his travel discoveries and adventures at journeyingjames.com