The rich socioeconomic history of Iloilo will surely entice more local and international tourists to visit this part of the country, according to a professional tour guide here.
San Jose Catholic School
“You have not been to Iloilo if you have not visited Jaro Cathedral, Molo Church, ancestral houses and our food and delicacies,” Mario A. Lazarito of the Iloilo Tour Guides Cooperative said.
He said that in one month, he could tour at least six buses full of tourists. He noted that currently, there are 14 of them serving as active professional tour guides in Iloilo.
“There’s a great volume of tourist arrivals in Iloilo City,” he said.
Lazarito added that they can provide a tour package because tourists are not familiar with what places to visit when they reach a certain place.
The Jaro Archdiocese is one of the oldest dioceses in the country. It serves as a seat of Roman Catholicism in Western Visayas.
The Jaro Cathedral is unique not only because it is the only church in the country with a belfry that is separated from the main structure but it also plays host to mostly male saints.
The image of the Our Lady of Candles mounted in a terrace before the cathedrals’ façade was the only Marian icon in the Philippines that was canonically crowned by Blessed Pope John Paul II and was recently declared as a National Shrine.
In contrast, the Molo Church is being referred to as the “women’s church” as it houses 16 near life-sized images of female saints. It is believed that national hero Jose P. Rizal dropped by the church on his way to Dapitan.
Various heritage buildings and ancestral houses are scattered in several districts of Iloilo: a manifestation of the many affluent Ilonggo families during the Spanish period. Some landed and powerful families in Negros Occidental traced their roots from this city, particularly in Jaro district.
Further, Iloilo City takes pride of being the gastronomic capital of Western Visayas, with each of the city’s seven districts having their own specialized delicacy, the most famous of which are the batchoy in Lapaz district, molo soup from Molo district and the Bischocho from Jaro district.
Meantime, Lazarito hopes that with the boom in the tourism industry, the city government could act fast on the proposed amendment on the Perimeter Boundary Ordinance that prevents the entry of big buses in the city’s downtown area.
The downtown area, also known as the Central Business District (CBD), takes pride of its heritage buildings which are currently being restored.
Lazarito said that while the city is ready in terms of accommodation facilities due to sufficient hotels and pension houses, it is yet to act on the proposal that would make downtown Iloilo friendly to tourists.
Currently, tour operators are lobbying before the Sangguniang Panlungsod that buses with a measurement of 10.5 to 11 meters long be allowed entry. But according to Lazarito, the council is not keen on giving in to their proposal as the counter offer is only 10.2 meters or similar to mini-buses.
Lazarito said that if the city so decides with the 10.2 meters, then they would be asking for a moratorium to allow enough time for operators to produce such mode of transportation.
Vice Mayor Jose Espinosa, on the other hand, said that they would try to come up with a win-win solution such that they could properly respond to the need of the tourism industry without disregarding the interest of other sectors.
Espinosa admitted that there are apprehensions as regard the length of buses because it would also mean appropriate infrastructure to accommodate the facility.
“We asked Councilor Nielex Tupas to study further the repercussions, identifying destination areas,” he said.
Meanwhile, Mayor Jed Patrick Mabilog assured that he will sit down with members of the city council to discuss the issue.
Earlier, the mayor announced that the city is ready for tourists following the successful tour that was held for delegates of the Philippines International River Summit here recently.
The delegates were offered a city tour by the cooperative visiting churches, heritage buildings and houses in Molo and Jaro districts, River esplanade and the Iloilo City Wetland and Bird Sanctuary.
On the other hand, Iloilo will be more accessible to tourists with the slated opening of international flights to Hong Kong and Singapore from the Iloilo airport of international standard sometime on the third quarter of this year
A direct domestic flight from General Santos City is currently available and soon from Puerto Prinsesa City once the international flights kick off.