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Swimsuit by Tavik Swimwear; photos by Jelito De Leon

My memory of Iloilo is pristine. The first time I flew to the City of Love earlier this year, I took part in the annual Dinagyang Festival. It should have been a given that we became night lurkers attending the festival’s most hyped parties left and right with little time during daylight to actually roam the city. So though I had a great time, I didn’t see much of Iloilo.

I recently got a chance to go back to the city and really see what it has to offer. Quite literally too but more on that later. We were invited by the generous Injap Tower Hotel to stay with them for two days while they toured us around the city. A 20 minute ride from the airport, the hotel was the most formidable building in Iloilo towering over the city with its 21 floors. A 4AM flight does demand some time to recuperate so I trudged to my triple-sharing room for one with two beds. The struggle to decide where to sleep was real so I had to dub one the dirty bed for when I nap without changing and the clean bed reserved for after-shower Zzzs.

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The first day was spent touring the city. We went to the gorgeous Miag-ao church built in the 1800s. I’ve been to many, many churches (I can’t reiterate how many, in many different places and pilgrimages) but I was really impressed with this church. Made of coral and intricately designed, it didn’t look nor feel like a typical Filipino church. We also tried going to Jaro church but didn’t make it in time.

We then headed to the first ever branch of Mang Inasal for lunch, an interesting choice, I know, but apparently the owner of Injap Hotel used to own Mang Inasal before it was sold to conglomerate Jollibee. Good choice, it was actually much better than the newer branches in Manila.

Another stop was at Iloilo’s Provincial Capitol which was a beautiful white building. I was pleasantly surprised that IloIlo has such amazing preserved structures. The intricacies per building make each structure so photogenic and even in random streets and markets you see building after beautiful building. I sincerely wish we had that in Manila or at least invest in preserving the decaying ones that we do.

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The gorgeous Miag-ao Church
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Scenes from the Provincial Capitol

When we headed back to Injap Tower Hotel they prepared a special surprise for us. We were asked to go up to the helipad to have champagne and take in the glorious view. I knew I planned on seeing Iloilo this trip I just didnt know it would come true in such a literal manner – we were literally on top of the sole tall building in Iloilo looking over the city with a pink sunset with a Moet in hand and it was perfect. I was a little scared going up because I think I’m starting to get acrophobia but it was well worth it in the end. We even did a fun shoot because not taking opportunity of the view would have been stupid. We capped off the night with dinner at the in-house Horizon Cafe. My personal favorite was the Shrimp with egg flakes. That is my must-try. Actually, I recommend the restaurant even if you end up staying somewhere else. We ended up hanging out by the swimming pool and called it a night shortly after.

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Our second day started very early. We were out by 6AM to go to Guimaras Island which entailed a boat ride and a drive to the port. The sight of the beach was immediately relaxing and the news that we were going island hopping was even better. We went to a couple of gorgeous islands. The first stop was Ave Maria Island which was small but had fine white sand. We snorkeled for a bit to take in the beautiful marine life. Although to be honest, the water was extremely itchy – like there were planktons biting us non-stop. The next stop was Baras Cave which was also rather gorgeous. I’m not very adventurous so this was the first time I was actually inside a cave. There were bats and I screeched a bit but the photos were worth it. We also made our way to SEAFDEC Research Center where different kinds of fish are bred and studied to promote sustainable fisheries development in the region. We fed different types of fish and I personally got to feed a huge milkfish (or bangus.) I kid you not, that fish was at least 3 feet long. There was one sweetheart who liked to be pet so I did get to pet the fish a few times. Slimy but interesting. I get to tick something off my bucket list that I didn’t even know was on it. #Life.

Here’s where it gets even more interesting and a lot less slimy. Guimaras is known for its sweet mangoes and apparently they put mangoes in EVERYTHING. And when I say everything it includes pizza. So we headed to The Pitstop to taste the Mango Pizza. It was weird looking but very good. It’s like Jollibee’s peach mango pie but with cheese. I’d definitely go back for it. They also serve Bulalo with Mangoes and Pork Sisig with Mangoes and the sisig was also pretty good. Obviously we all had mango shakes and they really do taste better in Guimaras. No BS, it was a different kind of sweet.

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We went back to Iloilo after lunch and ate multiple times after. We headed to Deco’s to try their famous Batchoy (yes, it hails from Iloilo) and then some. Then headed straight to PYT Stop Cafe for a boodle fight. I’ve only ever tried boodle once so this was a treat. Boodle is essentially when all the food is laid out on a stretch of banana leaves and you get your hands dirty and eat off of the leaves. You find your spot and grab whatever dish you like and literally dig in. It was so good, everything was amazing. We then went to Fuel.ph for a quick cup of coffee and then hung out a bit more in the city. And it was the perfect nightcap and a sweet ending to the trip.

A big thanks to Injap Tower Hotel for organizing such a beautiful trip. I cannot wait to go back to Iloilo and stay with you guys. Special thanks to Brian Ong (you’re the best!) and the rest of the staff of the Injap Tower. You guys are the absolute sweetest and you made the trip so memorable. Big shoutout to my blogger travel buddies: Dani Barretto, Mikyle Quizon, Melo Villareal, Jelito de Leon, Kimi Juan and Thomas Caja! 

Injap Tower Hotel is on Diversion Roas, Mandurriao, Iloilo City. Contact them at 09223821635 or [email protected]; www.injaptowerhotel.com.ph