Iloilo City, the capital city of the province of Iloilo and the regional center of Western Visayas, is definitely one of the highlights of Panay island, Philippines. Saturated with many spectacular festivals and celebrations, unbelievably kind people and delicious food for almost ridiculously low prices, this city is always filled with relaxed yet joyful atmosphere. If you thought that there is no other place people are celebrating fiestas like in Spain: broadly, even a little bit wastefully, but always heatedly, affectionately and cheerfully, you thought wrong. Filipinos love their fiestas as much as Spanish. When it comes to holidays, living here reminded me of living in Tenerife, as I remember it felt like they have more fiestas that working days per year in Tenerife.
What are the biggest reasons you should choose Iloilo for living over other cities in Philippines? Keep on reading and I’ll tell you the advantages of living in Iloilo City!
10. Extremely Kind People
The kindness of Filipinos is something I’m experiencing in every place I visit in Philippines. Still Filipinos living in Iloilo beat them all. They are welcoming every foreigner with sincerity. Everywhere I go people are willing to help me, if I look lost or confused which is normal for a newbie in town. Smiling faces, greetings and helpfulness are features you don’t see everywhere so often but soon get used to them here. It’s just howmost of the people are in Iloilo City: sincere and kind. Other thing you will probably find unusual at first is people wanting to get to know you and asking lots of questions about your country, language etc. in all kinds of places, even on the street, at supermarket etc. That seemed weird at first for a western thinking person like me and even made me become suspicious. That’s because of my European culture. We are not used to such kindness and curiosity, since we are usually more closed and tend to keep many things to ourselves. However soon enough I learned more about Filipino culture. Knowing that’s just how they are, wiped away my suspicion and let me open up to the locals, easily gaining new friends.
9. Zumba Classes..FOR FREE
This was actually one of the biggest surprises I had. You heard me, they are for FREE!!! (or symbolic maintenance fee in some places, 10-20 php). There are several places around the city where free zumba classes are organized outdoors a few times per week. All you have to do is choose your favorite and jump in. For me that are the classes organized at Plazuela de Iloilo. Why? The professionalism, engagement and ardency showed by instructors, especially Georey, the lead instructor. The huge work he must be invested to bring these classes to the existing level, it’s just unbelievable. It’s not like I’m making decision on my favorite zumba place in Iloilo City without checking out other popular places. I also took a look at the zumba happening in Sports Complex and once participated the one taking place at the Esplanade. They are not bad, don’t get me wrong. They’re just not as good in my opinion. I am enchanted by the magic Georey and his team is radiating. Dance moves are rhythmic, original and quite easy to perform, and the part I like the most, you can relax and have fun while burning a lot of calories. Perfect! The schedule is: Tuesday and Thursday at 5:45 PM and Saturday 6:00 AM.
I wonder why something like that is not organized so much in Europe? Sport activities and dance classes are usually quite pricey. It seems like here in Iloilo City they really care about keeping their people healthy and fit. That’s something we could learn from.
8. Food is Sooo Good
Another great advantage of living in Iloilo City, is food! It’s just heavenly good. As a City located at the coast side of Panay island, fishing is one of the major industries here. That means lots and lots of delicious seafood restaurants! I would recommend Ponsyon at Plazuela de Iloilo. They have the best garlic buttered shrimps and grilled Bangus (milkfish) is just excellent there. Fresh, deliciously cooked seafood and refreshing buko juice (coconut water): what more can you ask for?
Besides Ponsyon, Steps of Rome is also a nice place for dinner at Plazuela. Then of course there is the famous Breakthrough at Villa Beach. And there are also many great restaurants at Smallville and along the Esplanade.
7. Home City for Dinagyang Festival
Dinagyang Festival, organized every year on the forth weekend of January, is definitely the biggest highlight of Iloilo. It’s what this City is famous for and there’s a damn good reason for it. Spectacular tribal dancing performances, rhythmical drum beats, impressive decorations and colorful costumes draws you into completely different world of Filipino religion, history and culture. If you haven’t attended this festival yet, you should add it to a calendar for next year. Other major festivals you could check out here are Paraw Regatta and Jaro Fiesta.
6. Less Traffic = Happier People
To be honest there are several traffic jams every day in Iloilo City, but if you have ever visited Philippines, you now how bad it can get, especially in the big cities. Manila was even named as the world’s third worst city for driving by CNN’s travel website CNNGo.com. When it comes to traffic it is so much better in Iloilo City. Even though there are a few traffic jams during the day, due to less people and vehicles on the streets as well as the relatively small size of the city, they are reasonable, so you can still get from one point to another without the need to pull out your hair from stress. Less time spent on going to work is probably why people seem much more happier here than in Manila.
Less traffic jams is certainly a huge advantage for people living in Iloilo City, since Filipinos perceive traffic congestion as their number one problem. Other huge problem Filipinos are facing with is flooding. In 2009 the The Iloilo Flood Control Project was initiated in Iloilo City as a the long-term solution to the perennial flooding in the city and outlying areas. They managed to solve most of the flooding problems in the area, which has lead to increase of development and investments coming into Iloilo City. Downside is that The floodway has also been blamed for erosion of creeks and riverbanks in Pavia, Iloilo.
5. Iloilo River Esplanade for Relaxing Walks
One of the cleanest and most beautiful areas for having a relaxing evening walks or jogging is Iloilo River Esplanade. Opened quite recently, on August 18, 2012, it serves as a park development on one of the riverbanks of Iloilo River. The best time for walking is early morning (around 5 AM until 7 AM) or evening (starting from 5 PM) to avoid the hot sun. However in this time of the day it can get quite crowded since it a preferred place for many citizens of Iloilo City. If you want to escape the crowds and spend some time alone with your thoughts, the best time to visit this beautiful embankment is just the opposite to the one mentioned before.
4. Boracay is Sooo Close
Boracay, one of the most beautiful islands in Philippines that has lots of incredibly beautiful white sand beaches with crystal clear, turquoise blue water, is just a few hours away from Iloilo City. The best way to go there from Iloilo is to take a bus going to Caticlan at Tagbak terminal in Jaro, Iloilo. There is at least one bus every hour going to Caticlan, first one leaves at 3 AM, last at 1 PM. It’s about a 6 hour drive. After the bus trip, you have to take a ferry at Caticlan Jetty Port going to Boracay. After about 10-15 minutes you’ll step a foot on the beautiful Boracay island.
3. Guimaras is Even Closer
Iloilo location is just perfect for exploring many stunning places of Philippines. Guimaras is without a doubt one of the most beautiful and undamaged tropical places I have ever seen. Lush green trees, many hidden beaches and great hiking and biking places are some of the best features Guimaras is holding, making it the perfect place for getaway to a secluded beach with your friends. And the best part is, this island group is still undiscovered by the masses, keeping it’s natural serenity and seclusion. And the second best part is, it is so close to Iloilo City! Just a 15 minute ferry ride from Ortiz Wharf in Iloilo City to Jordan Wharf in Guimaras and entering the green, tropical world of Guimaras, you have escaped from all the hustle and bustle in the city. Schedules and rates for ferry can be found on Guimaras official website.
2. Active and Healthy People
This city is really paying attention to its people’s health. There are countless running and cycling events (fun runs, marathons, call them how you want, that’s still awesome!) happening all over the area. More detailed information of the dates and locations for running events can be found on RunClub Iloilo Facebook page. When it comes to cycling Iloilo City is aiming to become a bike-friendly city by promoting the use of bicycles as a daily transport to work or school or simply for hobby. The bike festival held on March 30, 2014 was a success revealing the people’s appreciation on the use of bicycles in Iloilo City.
1. City of Opportunities
More and more investors are noticing the great location and the big potential this city is holding. It’s developing very fast, especially in the last few years, after taking care of most of the flooding problems in the area. iloilo City is gradually turning into next big business center. Lots of good schools and universities here provides companies with smart, intelligent employees. Today Iloilo City is preparing to do the honor of hosting two meetings of the Asia Pacific Economic Council (Apec) conference in October 2015. This is a very big event for people in Iloilo, especially when it comes to drawing attention to more investors of the city.
And More and More
Ok, I was mistaken. There are more great reasons for living in Iloilo City. I just can’t stop coming up with them. Another gorgeous place with great beaches, a group of islands called Isla de Gigantes is located just a few hours from the city. There are also many sightseeing places in Iloilo, like plazas and churches. Iloilo Museum is a nice place to visit if you want to get to know more about the history and culture of Iloilo. There are not many exhibits, but the people in charge of the place are making up for it, telling interesting stories about the history.
And still there are many places to visit and lots of other reasons for living there, but the ones revealed before are the most outstanding ones. I’m actually not a big city person and would rather live closer to the nature in a little town next to the beach or in the mountains. However when it comes to a city life, Iloilo City is definitely the best city to live in Philippines.
Have you ever visited Iloilo City? I would be happy to hear what are the things you liked the most about this city. Please share your insights using the comment section below.