Iloilo and Negros OccidentalDubbed the ‘City of Love’ for its friendly, gentle and soft-spoken inhabitants, the 7 districts all have their own character thanks to colonial influences. Top 10 Activities
All you need to know about Iloilo & Negros Occidental
This province is a mecca for outdoor activities, including hiking and diving.
The island of Sicogon in the north, accessible by bus and then boat from Iloilo City, is being developed as an eco-destination.
Iloilo City is also the access point to the beach paradise of Guimaras with its water sports and boat hopping to outlying islands.
Relatively wealthy for its sugar production, Negros Occidental is a centre of arts and culture, with Silay City north of the capital of Bacolod City dubbed ‘the Paris of Negros’ for its heritage houses. But it has its own beautiful pristine beaches: the seaside city of Sipalay is seen by some as an alternative to Boracay and is renowned for its diving as well.
Why it’s more fun in Iloilo and Negros Occidental
There are plenty of opportunities for activity packed day-trips and short breaks within Iloilo province: hiking in forests and to waterfalls, snorkelling or scuba-diving in the Kuliatan Marine Sanctuary, and sailing to caves and a saltwater lagoon. Guimaras is renowned for its water sports and island-hopping, while diving is a big draw of Sipalay in Negros Occidental.
The Ruins, Talisay City, Negros Occidental Brian Kairuz
Culture & Food
Dubbed the ‘Province of Festivals’, Iloilo has plenty to entertain, divert and educate, whether it be museums of local history or the lively bar and nightlife scene. But it’s Negros Occidental that is the region’s true cultural highlight, with splendid architecture – including the Palacio Episcopal, San Sebastian Cathedral, the Capitol Building, and Spanish and other churches – plus steam locomotives bearing witness to the province’s affluent golden age.
Eating here is a joy. Don’t miss the local classics of batchoy (pork and noodle soup), lechon manok (chicken spit-roast over charcoal), talaba (oysters), pancit molo (pork wonton soup), ‘Kadyos, Baboy, at Langka’ or KBL (pork, pigeon pea and jackfruit stew) and laswa (a clear vegetable soup). Then, of course, there are the sweet mangoes for which Guimaras is known.
Top Events & Festivals
- Dinagyang Festival, Iloilo City -January
Parades and street dances in honour of Santo Niño.
- Panaad sa Negros Festival, Bacolod – April
The ‘Festival of Festivals’, showcasing the region’s history, arts and culture, tourism, trade, games and sports.
- Pasundayag Festival, all towns in Iloilo province – April
Traditional dances, parades, singing and displays of tribal clothes.
- Manggahan Festival (Mango Festival) Island, Guimaras – May
A showcase of the famous food, with street dancing and dance and drama competitions.
- MassKara Festival, Bacolod – October
One of the biggest festivals in the Philippines, with sporting events, music concerts, food festivals, garden shows, agriculture-trade fairs and more.
- Haw-As Festival, Dumangas, Iloilo province – October
A celebration of the local fishing industry, with performances and displays of the regional marine bounty including milkfish, crabs and tiger prawns.
Tropical, with an average annual temperature of 27°C. February and August are the driest and wettest months respectively.
Check out the weather today in Iloilo
Top 10 things to do in Iloilo and Negros Occidental
Nelly Garden Iloilo City
1. Miag-ao Church
Tour the UNESCO-listed Miag-ao Church in Miag-ao 45mins from Iloilo City.
2. Museo Iloilo
In Iloilo City, visit the Museo Iloilo, the Nelly Garden heritage mansion and Jaro Cathedral, and wander along the lloilo River Esplanade.
3. Garin Farm
Venture to the pilgrimage, agricultural and leisure site of Garin Farm an hour from the city.
Guimaras Cristina Ong
4. Bucari Pine Forest and Nadsadjan Falls
Hike in Bucari Pine Forest in Leon and Nadsadjan Falls in Igbaras, both 90mins from Iloilo City.
5. Kuliatan Marine Sanctuary
Snorkel or scuba dive in the Kuliatan Marine Sanctuary with its gigantic rock formations, two hours from Iloilo City.
6. Pawikan Cave and Tangke saltwater lagoon
From Iloilo City, sail to Isla de Gigantes to discover Pawikan Cave and the Tangke saltwater lagoon.
7. Island hopping
Discover the water sports and beach paradise of Guimaras, then go island-hopping from Guimaras to Inampulugan, Guiwanon, Panobolon, Natunga, Nadulao and other surrounding islets; don’t miss the fascinating Igang Marine Station of the Southeast Asian Fisheries Development Center.
Turtle Negros Occidental Giachen’s World
8. Art District in Bacolod
Discover the friendly, rapidly modernising Negros Occidental capital of Bacolod, voted among the best places to live in the Philippines, with a vibrant Art District, sporting scene and museums.
9. Silay City
Visit Silay City, nicknamed ‘the Paris of Negros’ for its 29 heritage houses including Balay Negrense.
10. Dive with Whale Sharks and Turtles
Dive to see whale sharks, turtles and other marine life at Sipalay and Danjugan Island for its protected reefs and rich marine life.
Where to stay in Iloilo and
City Proper: Most of Iloilo City’s longer-established hotels are clustered in City Proper, but it is compact and uncongested enough for you to explore easily wherever you stay. Upmarket hotels are opening in Mandurriao’s burgeoning business parks, while Jaro and La Paz are popular with budget travellers, and Molo and Villa Arevalo have larger beach resorts.
Guimaras: Guimaras is also known for its relaxed beach resorts, as is Sipalay in Negros Occidental.
Bacolod: Bacolod has plenty of good-value, comfortable accommodation around the cathedral, Public Plaza and general central area.
Getting there & away
Iloilo has easy flight connections to Manila (75mins), Cebu (55mins), Hong Kong (2hrs 40mins) and Singapore (3hrs 35mins) Bacolod City is a 50min flight from Manila and a 30min flight from Cebu.
Jeepneys, tricycles (motorised taxis) and buses are the most common ways of getting around the city and province as a whole.
Catch a ferry from Manila, taking 18hrs. There are also fast ferries to Bacolod from Iloilo City. Jordan in Guimaras is 20-25mins from Ortiz Wharf in Iloilo City by pump boat, or there are local ferries from Parola Wharf in Iloilo City to Buenavista.
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