Travel Spots in Western Visayas


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The little island of coralline limestone is barely a thousand hectares in area, but visitors have a wide range of accommodation facilities--from hotels and resorts to simple cottages fashioned by the islanders' skillful and artistic use of local palms and grasses.   Cottages cluster for convenience mainly along White Beach on the island's west shores.  Most have tree-shaded nooks and hibiscus-enclosed sunbathing gardens.   At night, lighting is provided only by candle or by kerosene lamp, and one can experience the charm of sleeping under a sheer mosquito net while keeping cool with nothing but sea breezes.  

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On any day, the residents are outnumbered by tourists who come for the main attractions of the island's beaches--the powdery white sand with a texture as fine as confectioner's sugar--and the surrounding crystal clear waters.



La Paz and Jaro

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The real La Paz batchoy (a tasty variation of the Chinese mee noodles) is served in the restaurants around the  market on the way to Jaro, an elite residential center about three kilometers from downtown Iloilo.  The streets around the town plaza are flanked by several fine mansions that belonged to 19th-century sugar barons.  Among the impressive old buildings is a ruined red-brick belfry that stands separately from a Gothic-style cathedral, a mute testimony to the primacy of Iloilo as a Spanish settlement and base for the colonization of the islands.

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Jaro has been the traditional center for loom-weaving and hand embroidery of piņa and jusi, delicate fabrics used for the barong tagalog and other Filipino costumes.

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The Southeast Asian Fisheries Development Center, a multinational aquaculture research facility, is based in this fishing town.  Studies include the artificial breeding of prawns and milkfish.  Nearby Mt. Bucari was a key guerilla base during World War II.




miagaochurch_apa80.jpg (23693 bytes) This town's unique fortress-like church is one of the finest in the Philippines. It was originally completed in 1797. But, following damage at different times by revolution, fire, and earthquake, it has been rebuilt to its present four-meter-thick walls of honey-colored sandstone bricks.  The towers are dissimilar because the first priest-foreman died before his work was completed, and his successor deviated from the original design.   The superbly carved facade features St. Christopher carrying the Infant Jesus amid palms, papaya, and guava trees.

  In the nearby town of San Joaquin stands another old church, dating from 1869, with yet another fascinating facade.  Intricately carved stonework, originally pigmented red, blue, and yellow, depicts the 1859 Battle of Tetuan in Morocco at which Spain defeated the Moors, likened by the Spaniards to the Moros of Mindanao and Sulu.

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Guimaras Island

Between the islands of Panay and Negros and accessible by pumpboat from Iloilo is the small island of Guimaras, known to Visayans as the site of the much-admired Roca Encantada (Enchanted Rock), summer house of the distinguished Lopez family of Iloilo.   The house is perched on a promontory overlooking Guimaras Strait.  Across the promontory is a picturesque group of coral islets called Siete Pecados (Isles of the Seven Sins), a curious counterpoint to the attractions of spiritual value in Guimaras.   Near the capital town of Jordan is a Trappist Monastery, the only one in the Philippines; and Bala-an Bukid (Holy Mountain), a favorite Catholic pilgrimage site where a 30-minute climb up a stairway leads to a huge cross and chapel at the top.  The town of Nueva Valencia, 20 kilometers south of Jordan, is host to Catilaran Cave, from where Ming jars have been unearthed and where on Good Friday the pangalap ritual is held.   Hundreds of devotees recite prayers in Latin while crawling through the half-kilometer-long cave in the belief that they shall acquire supernatural powers, particularly for use against evil spirits.

pagtaltal2_pal90.jpg (7773 bytes) pagtaltal_pal90.jpg (10533 bytes) Also on Good Friday, a Visayan version of the passion play is held at Jordan.  Called Ang Pagtaltal, the festival climaxes in a one-kilometer long procession of devotees in biblical costumes, accompanied by flagellants performing penance and depicting the journey of Christ to Calvary.  The procession winds up at the large cross on the summit of Bala-an Bukid.



St. Joseph the Worker Chapel 

Off the Negros Occidental capital of Bacolod (34 kilometers to the north) is the town of Victorias where an integrated sugar mill-and-refinery is reputedly the largest in the world.  Within the mill estate, which is a town in itself, the St. Joseph the Worker Chapel, built in 1948, is famed for its mural depicting an angry Christ on Judgment Day surrounded by Filipinized saints.

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The colorful mural is a mosaic made of broken beer and pop bottles by Belgian-born American artist Ade de Bethune.  The estate also has a handicraft workshop where kapis-shell chandeliers, and place mats are made.


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