Two years ago, I went on a trip to Iloilo, Guimaras, and Kalibo with my besties Hanna and Liza. It was our first out of Luzon trip. It was supposed to be just me and Liza. We booked the flight during AirAsia’s seat sale and the plan was to explore Iloilo and Boracay. Unfortunately that year, Boracay was closed for rehabilitation. So we had to change plans.
And then a few weeks before our trip, we were able to convince Hanna to join us. But she couldn’t take a vacation leave so she called in sick to work when we were already in Iloilo. The funny thing is she posts a lot on Instagram when she’s traveling but during that trip, she didn’t post any.
We didn’t do much planning for that trip, but we still had a great time. There were no fights, no drama, just lots of craziness, pictures, and fun time. Read ahead as I share with you what we did in our five days trip to Panay Island.
Our 5 Days Iloilo-Guimaras-Kalibo Itinerary
Iloilo is known for being home to many beautiful and historic Spanish-colonial churches and grand vintage houses. Guimaras is an island province famous for producing one of the sweetest mangoes of the world while Kalibo is known for the annual Ati-Atihan Festival every January and homes an international airport, known to be the second-best (next to Caticlan) entry point of tourists going to the white island beach of Boracay.
Day 1: Flight to Iloilo, Iloilo Day Tour
Our flight to Iloilo was super early, 4:05 AM. We didn’t sleep anymore prior to the flight. Hanna went straight to the airport from work (she had been working really long hours at that time). At 5:15 AM, we were already in Iloilo.
But check-in time at GT Hotel Iloilo is at 2:00 PM. They were also fully booked at that time so we had no choice but to stay in the hotel lobby and wait.
We didn’t want to just stay at the hotel until 2:00 PM so we decided to go on a city tour. The receptionist helped us find a private car for the tour and even gave us an itinerary. At 8:00 AM, the driver picked us up at the hotel.
Breakfast at Tatoy’s Manokan and Seafood Restaurant
Our first stop was Tatoy’s Manokan and Seafood Restaurant. It was highly recommended by Hanna’s friend so we were super excited. I think we were their first customer that day. We ordered a plate of Lechon Baboy and Tatoy’s Lechon Manok and rice.
How was the food? Let’s just say it wasn’t as good as we expected it. Tatoy’s is highly recommended by most blogs though so maybe you should still give it a try.
Camiña Balay Nga Bato
Camiña Balay Nga Bato is an ancestral house in Iloilo built in 1860. It is famous for its chocolate drink and Iloilo delicacies. On the ground floor is what they call The Almacen, Spanish term for a store or warehouse. Here you can buy handmade crafts and food. At the Almacen you will see a functioning grand piano, which is the oldest piano in Iloilo. On the second floor, you’ll see a collection of arts, architecture, and artifacts from the 1860s.
With an entrance fee of Php 100 (~US$ 2), you can tour the whole house, or Php 150 (~US$ 3), if you want to experience the thick and sweet chocolate after the tour. Just don’t get too excited to take pictures when you get inside the Almacen if you don’t want to be scolded by the lady in charge. (I’m not joking, the lady was quite rude to us.)
St. Anne Parish Church, generally known as Molo Church, is a European Gothic-inspired church that is famous for its two pyramidal red spires. It was built in 1831. It was made from coral rocks and limestone, and egg white with sand was used to prop it all up because cement was not yet readily available at that time.
Facing the Molo Church is the Molo Plaza. The most prominent landmark in the plaza is the gazebo housing six Greek goddesses.
Built in the 1920s by the forefathers of the Consing family of Iloilo, the Molo Mansion was once a dilapidated mansion that was recently restored by its current owner, the SM Group. The first floor of the house was repurposed as Kultura Filipino, a cultural souvenir and gift shop. The second floor is not open to visitors.
Outside you can find the Molo Mansion Cafe and the Sabor Ilonggo Restaurant. Hanna didn’t join us inside the mansion and instead went to the cafe to eat flower ice cream.
The Church of St. Elizabeth of Hungary, generally known as the Jaro Cathedral was built in 1864. It was destroyed in the quake of January 1948 and was restored in 1956. The structure projects a nice baroque style, with the addition of Gothic elements over many renovations.
Built in 1937 by Don Emiliano Lizares for his wife Conchita Gamboa, the family left for a safe hiding place when World War II broke out. The mansion was then used as the headquarters of the Japanese army. The compound along with the mansion was sold to the Dominicans in 1962. It became the home of Angelicum School Iloilo from 1978.
Casa Mariquit is a two-story ancestral home built in 1803 by a banker, Ramon Javellana. It is considered the oldest heritage house in Iloilo. It was named after his granddaughter, Mariquit. Mariquit is the wife of Fernando Lopez, the Vice President of the Philippines in the 1950s, and built an empire comprising of ABS-CBN Corporation, Manila Chronicle, and Meralco with his brother Eugenio.
The house is well-maintained and still contains many of its original furniture and old framed photographs hanging on the wall. It is full of memorabilia such as telephone, old cameras, gramophone, and grandfather clock, to name a few. There is an entrance fee of Php 50 (~US$ 1) to tour the house.
Lunch at La Paz Public Market- Netong’s
After our visit to Casa Mariquit, we went back to the hotel to check-in and freshen up. Then we continued our tour. Our next stop was Netong’s located at La Paz Public Market. They serve really good La Paz Batchoy. It was so good I finished two bowls.
Nelly’s Garden is a heritage house built in 1928 by an Ilonggo statesman Don Vicente Lopez and his wife, Doña Elena Hofileña. It was named after their eldest daughter, Lilia Lopez y Hofileña. It was declared as a National Historical Landmark by the National Historical Institute on March 28, 2004.
Our last stop for our city tour was the Museo Iloilo. Built in 1971 to pay tribute to Ilonggo ancestors, it features various fossils, artifacts, paintings, and sculptures.
Dinner at Ramboy’s
After our tiring city tour, we decided to go back to the hotel to rest for a bit, then went out for dinner. We took a taxi to Riverside Boardwalk, where Ramboy’s is located. Ramboy’s originated in Aklan and is best known for its liempo or the grilled pork belly. It has a rich taste with a very crunchy skin – something me and my friends love a lot.
Day 2: Guimaras Day Tour, Travel to Kalibo
On the second day of our trip, we went on a day trip to Guimaras. After having breakfast, we checked out of the hotel. Good thing they have a storage room where we could leave our bags.
From the hotel, we took a taxi to the wharf. There we bought a ticket for the ferry to Jordan, Guimaras. The ticket costs Php 15 per person and the ferry ride to Guimaras Island is just 20 minutes.
Just like for Iloilo, we didn’t prepare any itinerary for Guimaras too. All we wanted to do was go to the beach, and do some island hopping. When we reached the port of Jordan, there were tricycle drivers offering an island tour. One guy approached us and told us if we took the tour with him he will take us to the wind farm, the Trappist abbey, the lighthouse ruin, and the beach. We didn’t know those places exist in Guimaras (seriously, I never researched for this trip).
San Lorenzo Windfarm
The San Lorenzo Wind Farm is the first wind farm in Visayas. It began operations with its 27 wind turbines each generating 2 MW in December 2014. It spans 14 kilometers across four barangays in the municipality of San Lorenzo in Guimaras Island.
The Our Lady of the Philippines Monastery is a Trappist monastery in Guimaras and the only Trappist monastery in the country. It was founded in 1972. The order takes its name from La Trappe Abbey in the French province of Normandy. It is a monastic institute wholly ordered to contemplation.
The place is very quiet and peaceful. There is a gift shop where you can buy pasalubong such as otap, polvoron, mango goodies, bags, key chains, and many more.
Guisi Lighthouse and Spanish Outpost Ruins
The Guisi Lighthouse (Faro de Punta Luzaran) was built in 1894-1896 by the Spanish government located at the Guisi Point of Barangay Dolores in Nueva Valencia. It was built to guide mariners passing the Iloilo and Guimaras strait. It is the second oldest lighthouse in the country lighted up for the first time in 1894. This lighthouse is already dilapidated. Beside this is a new and modern lighthouse.
Also found in Guisi Point is the ruins of an old Spanish-colonial outpost. This place has a perfect view of the Guisi Beach.
From the lighthouse on the way back to where our tricycle was parked, there are stairs leading to the beach. We went down to check the view and took pictures.
Alubihod Beach Resort
Our last stop in our Guimaras day trip was Alubihod Beach Resort. We had our lunch in their restaurant. Much as we wanted to try the famous mango of Guimaras, it wasn’t available in the restaurant.
When it was time to inquire about the island hopping tour, we were told that there is no island hopping tour because it wasn’t safe due to the big waves. We had no choice but to just hang out at the beach.
After our day tour in Guimaras, we went back to the hotel to have dinner and get our things. That night we took the passenger van to Kalibo. The trip was supposed to be about four hours, but the van driver managed to make the trip less than 3 hours.
In Kalibo, we were picked up by Hanna’s friend Jay’s driver. We were given free accommodation at their hotel, the Royal Suites Condotel.
Day 3: Kalibo Day Tour
The third day was Liza’s birthday. While we were having breakfast, we surprised Liza with a birthday cake, with the help of Jay. After breakfast, Jay showed us around Kalibo.
Cathedral of St. John the Baptist
Our first stop was the Cathedral of St. John the Baptist. It is located in the heart of Kalibo, fronting Kalibo Plaza.
Pink Sister’s Convent
About 20 minutes’ drive from Kalibo, this church and compound is the home of Pink Sisters of Aklan.
Sampaguita Gardens Resort
Sampaguita Gardens is a resort hotel with a restaurant, convention center, butterfly farm, swimming pool, and chapel. At the center of the resort is Jojo’s Christmas Cottage. It has a Precious Moments store in the ground floor where you can buy dolls and other souvenir items, and the JCC Museum of Christmas in the upper floors showcasing Precious Moments collectibles.
Unfortunately, the Sampaguita Gardens is already closed, permanently according to Jay.
Bakhawan Eco Park
The Bakhawan Eco-Park is a 220 hectares mangrove forest in Kalibo, Aklan. It was hailed as the most successful mangrove project in the Philippines. It has a 1.3-km trail surrounded by different kinds of mangroves. The walkway is made of wood and bamboo.
If you are feeling adventurous, you can try eating tamilok or woodworm. Just ask one of the staff there. Tamilok can be found from the trunks of the mangrove trees. Locals eat it as pulutan (finger food) during a drinking session. They believe it is an aphrodisiac.
Lunch at Lei’s Sugbahan
After a tiring walk at the Bakhawan Eco-Park, Jay brought us to Lei’s Sugbahan. It is a popular barbecue restaurant and the food was great.
Jawili Falls is a tourist destination found at Barangay Jawili in Tangalan, Aklan. It is famous for its naturally endowed seven water basins, each of which are tiered and winding upwards by a distance of about 20 feet. But we didn’t stay long, we just took some pictures. The rocks were slippery and Hanna was wearing high-heeled sandals (I think).
From Jawili Falls, Jay took us to Tangalan Beach. But before going there, we stopped somewhere along Tangalan Coastal Road to take a picture. It was a nice spot overlooking Tangalan Beach.
Liza and I wanted to go swimming but when we got there it looked like it was going to rain. So we just hung out by the shore. Hanna walked to the boat near the water, and Liza followed her. Minutes later, it started to rain. They got super wet.
We waited for the rain to stop so we could leave, but it just won’t stop. We had to borrow an umbrella from Jay’s friend so we could go to his car that was parked a few meters away from Jay’s friend’s cottage.
Dinner at Royal S Cafe
Royal S Cafe is the restaurant in Royal Suites Condotel. Jay recommended some foods for us to try, one of which is kansi. Kansi is a popular Ilonggo beef soup made with beef shank, bone marrow, and jackfruit boiled until gelatinous. It is uniquely slightly soured with fruits like tamarind. It was my first time to eat kansi, and it was really good. I also love their chicharron bituka (intestine). Just looking at the picture now is making me super hungry. I highly recommend Royal S Cafe on your trip to Kalibo, not because Jay sponsored our stay there and showed us around, but because the food there is really good. It also has a very nice ambience and the staff are very polite.
Day 4: Travel back to Iloilo; free day
The fourth day was our free day. We took the bus from Kalibo back to Iloilo. The travel was around four hours. From the bus station, we took a taxi to Injap Tower Hotel. The hotel is located opposite SM City Iloilo Mall.
We had nothing planned for the day because Liza was meeting her sister for late lunch. Hanna and I decided to try the kansi at Pat-pat’s. But before the three of us went out, we first went to the pool of the hotel to have a pictorial session. I had a tattoo done on my back 4 months prior to the trip, and I haven’t posted about it on Instagram yet. My super supportive friends helped me out with the “photoshoot”.
Pat-pat’s Kansi House
Located near Jaro Plaza, the place is not attractive because it is already really old. But the food is good.
Hanna and Liza went to watch a movie at the mall after Liza’s meet-up with her sister. I didn’t join them because I already saw the movie. While waiting for them, I went to check out Plazuela Iloilo and the 10000 roses at City Times Square.
10000 Roses at City Times Square
Day 5: Visited Miag-ao Church, Guimbal Church, and Guimbal Vanishing Mansion; travel back to Manila
Our flight back to Manila was at 3:55 in the afternoon. We still had plenty of time in the morning so Hanna and I went to check out Miag-ao Church and on our way back, we dropped by Guimbal Church and Guimbal Vanishing Mansion. Liza was not feeling well that day so she just stayed at the hotel to take a rest.
Miag-ao Church, also known as the Sto. Tomas de Villanueva Parish Church is a Roman Catholic Church declared as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1993. It was built in 1786 designed with the baroque features with touches of Chinese and Filipino style. Since its completion, it served as a place of worship and a fortress against Muslim raiders.
One of the oldest churches in the country, Guimbal Church is made from adobe and coral stones quarried from Guimaras. It was built in 1774. Its vintage belfry also served as a watchtower during the Spanish occupation against ravaging Moro pirates. The belfry is 4 storeys high.
Guimbal Vanishing Mansion
Located in the town of Guimbal, locals say a mysterious mansion sometimes appears at midnight, replacing the century-old acacia tree. One popular story about the place is of a taxi driver who said he dropped off a lady in a white dress from downtown Iloilo City to Guimbal. The driver said he dropped the lady in a beautiful mansion. But when he checked again, the mansion was already gone and there was only a tree.
After visiting these spots, we went back to the hotel to prepare our things, went to SM for lunch, went back to the hotel to get our things, and made our way to the airport.
Hope you enjoyed reading this post. Writing this post and seeing all our pictures from the trip brought a lot of happy memories and made me miss my friends even more. Hoping this pandemic will be over so we could see each other and do crazy and childish things again.
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