Southern Iloilo Countryside
By Atty. Helen J.
Department of Tourism, Region VI
most intricate designs on a church in Western
Visayas is found in the Miag-ao Church. Photo by
Kathy M. Villalon.
Let's say you're a visitor with but a day to
spare off your hectic sojourn. Or you may be one
who came to enjoy Iloilo to the fullest. Or
perhaps, you are a local who simply wants to let
go of the daily routine. If you are any of these,
then this do-it-yourself tour may just be the
right thing for you to do.
Take a day off. Go on a Southern Iloilo
Countryside Tour. The itinerary will include the
towns of Oton, Tigbauan, Guimbal, Miag-ao and San
Whether taking a private car, a tourist van or
a public transport it is suggested that you go to
the farthest town first-San Joaquin, 53.5 kms.
south of Iloilo City. Start early in the morning
say 8:00 or 8:30. Travel time is approximately
one hour and a half. Go on a leisurely speed and
enjoy the scenery along the way. Then on the way
back to Iloilo City stop at each of the towns and
visit local points of interest.
SAN JOAQUIN'S Premier attraction is its church,
the only one in the Philippines sporting on its
facade a bas relief of the historic battle
between the Christians of Spain and the Moors, in
Tetuan, Morocco in 1859. Considered the most
militaristic church in the Philippines, the bas
relief sculpture is marked "Rendicion d'
Tetuan". The sculpture is so intricate that
even the pained expression of wounded soldiers is
Original pigments of yellow, blue and red have
remained on the stone unfaded through the years.
Fr. Tomas Santaren, an Augustinian friar, was
responsible for the construction of the church.
You may opt to visit farther onward south to
Siwaragan River, where, according to legend, the
ten (10) Bornean datus landed in the middle of
the 13th century and bought the island of Panay
with a beaten gold hat and a long necklace from
the Negrito chieftain Marikudo, long before
Indians sold Manhattan to European settlers.
Along the way, marvel at the magnificence of San
San Joaquin Cemetery is charming, a never eerie.
It was built in 1892 of coral rock. A hexagonal
chapel known as "campo santo" crowns
the 20 step staircase flanked by a stone
ballustrade with rose windows at the main
For those who want to go swimming, San Joaquin
beaches offer clear waters, native cottages and
private swimming areas.
MIAG-AO, According to historical accounts, its
church, almost 38m wide and 72m long was built in
1979 by an Augustinian priest both as a place of
worship and as a fortress against pirates then
terrorizing the coastal towns of Panay.
Centerpiece of the facade is an oval cavity,
which has the statue of St. Thomas de Villanova,
patron saint of the town. Decorating the pediment
is a relief carving of St. Christopher carrying
the Baby Jesus on his shoulder amidst native
papaya and coconut symbolizing fertility. The Art
of the Philippines calls this " a unique
explosion of botanical motif curiously
reminiscent of Aztec art."
The church's twin towers are dissimilar
because the first foreman priest died before he
could finish both and his successor deviated from
the original plan.
In 1953, the church was declared a historical
monument and awarded a plaque by the Philippine
Historical Commission. It was declared a national
landmark by PD 360 on August 1, 1973.
Old looms, some of which were used by a number
of generations of various clans can be viewed at
the Southern of Iloilo Polytechnic College.
Visit the spacious University of the
Philippines in the Visayas campus and see its
modern facilities. Prior arrangement may be
GUIMBAL is noted for its sweet mangoes (it's
mango season, anyway) and town plaza considered
by many as the most beautiful in the whole of
Panay. Across the plaza is the yellow sandstone
church of Spanish Filipino vintage built by Fr.
There are three stone watchtowers, two of
which are in the poblacion. Called bantayan by
the natives, they were built during the Spanish
era to warn the townspeople of marauding pirates.
The town has outstanding resorts the most
popular of which are Racso's Woodland Island
Resort, Bantayan Beach Resort and Shamrock Beach
TIGBAUAN. A must-see in this town is the
Southeast Asia Fisheries Development Center.
Prior arrangement is suggested. One of the most
important researches undertaken is the breeding
of prawns and milkfish in captivity.
The town boasts of its old Baroque Church, a
fragment of the facade of which remains
attractive. At the back of the church next to the
rectory was located the first Jesuit boarding
school for boys in the Philippines, established
by Pedro Chirino in 1592,
Have a glimpse of history. Visit the
historical marker in Barangay Parara. There the
American forces landed on March 18, 1945 and
together with Filipino guerillas, liberated Panay
from the Japanese.
OTON has a lovely park for outdoor cultural
presentations and relaxation. Called the "People's
Amphitheater", it was built through the
cooperation of the townspeople. It has a high
relief mural depicting high points in the town's
The town of Oton is the last stop in your
itinerary. By the time you get back in Iloilo
City, it would probably be about 5:00 p.m.
Of course, you do not want to miss your lunch
along the way. If you want to make sure, you can
take your packed lunch with you. But why bother?
The resorts along the way offer excellent meals
for reasonable prices. Or you can venture into
any of the town's market places for a fill of
local delicacies. After all there's a saying,
"if you want to know more about the culture
of a place, visit its public market place."
Market days are as follows:
San Joaquin - Wednesday and Friday
Miag-ao - Saturday
Guimbal - Thursday
Tigbauan - Sunday
Oton - Monday
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