My Iloilo: Jose Espinosa III

    We asked the newly-appointed Iloilo City Mayor Jose Espinosa III about this year's Dinagyang Festival and how best to enjoy the city

    Photo courtesy of Iloilo City Mayor's Office. Dinagyang photos by Jun Rojas

    What is special about the Dinagyang Festival in 2018?
    This 2018, Iloilo Dinagyang Festival celebrates its 50th Anniversary. It started in 1968 when a replica of the image of Señor Santo Niño was brought to Iloilo from Cebu. This year, the festival branded as Dinagyang@50, has invited President Rodrigo Duterte as guest of honor. 

    What is the highlight of this coming festival?
    The highlights are scheduled on January 26-28, 2018. January 26, Friday, will see the Tambor Trumpa Martsa Musika (drum & bugle parade), fluvial procession, the International Cultural night with performances by festival dancers from New Zealand, South Korea and Hawaii, and  then the Luces in the Sky (fireworks contest).  On January 27 it’s the DOT’s Fiesta Pilipinas: Kasadyahan Regional Festival Competition which will see various festivals from Western Visayas competing. Other events include the Sponsors’ Mardi Gas, Dinagyang@50: Parade of Lights, showcasing 50 brightly adorned motorized carriages along the city streets; Mayor’s Dinagyang Welcome Dinner; and Glitters in the Sky (fireworks show). January 28 sees the main event, the Ati Tribe Contest and the Awarding Ceremonies.  

    How many people come to join and witness the event?
    Over one million visitors are expected to witness the three-day event. Most are Filipino visitors from across the country but in the last few years we’ve seen a surge in the number of foreign travelers watching the festival.

    What are the Top 5 Things to Do During the Festival? 
    Watch the streetdance performances of the Kasadyahan Cultural Competition and the Dinagyang Ati Contest. Join the religious sadsad in the vicinity of Plaza Libertad in front of San Jose Church. Dance to the beat of drums to your heart’s content and hope that your prayers to the Child Jesus are answered. Watch the spectacular Float Parade of Lights and the fireworks display at SM City carpark on Friday, January 26, and the Megaworld Business Park on Saturday night. Enjoy Iloilo’s street food at the food festival in most major city streets and join the nightly street parties. 
    Visit the heritage churches of Molo and Jaro, visit the southern town of Miagao to see the UNESCO recognized Gothic church with asymmetrical belfries. 

    What are your favorite places to hang out in Iloilo?
    Ilonggos have an interesting affair with coffee. Located in major public markets like Lapaz and     Central Market are coffee shops offering a local blend. The coffee shops still maintain their age-old tradition of preparing coffee. Local coffee shops such as Madge are popular meeting places, frequented by people from all walks of life, including local celebrities and politicians. I also visit these coffee shops to     talk with local leaders.

    What are your top 5 favorite restaurants?
    Tatoy’s Manokan and Seafood Restaurant, Valuarte-Calumpay-Villa-Oton Road, Sto. Nino Sur, Arevalo, Iloilo City, 5000 Iloilo, tel+033 3371360. Kamalig Restaurant, lot 24 & 26, block 3, Atria Ayala, Donato Pison Avenue, Barangay San Rafael, Mandurriao Iloilo City, 5000 iloilo, tel+033 5015002. Breakthrough Restaurant, Villa Arevalo District, Iloilo City, Iloilo, tel+033 3373027. Netong’s Lapaz Batchoy, Unit 10 & 11, Shops at Atria Ayala Donato Pison Avenue, Iloilo, and Deco’s Lapaz Batchoy, La Salette Bldg., Valeria St. Iloilo
    Farm to Table, Transcom Building
    , Megaworld Boulevard, Mandurriao, Iloilo City, 5000 Iloilo, tel +033 3202154.

    What Ilonggo food should tourists try?
    Lapaz Batchoy at the Lapaz Public Market; the Pancit Molo wanton soup is uniquely Iloilo. It is available at Café Panay, ground floor, Festive Walk Parade, Iloilo Business Park, Airport Road, Mandurriao, Iloilo City, tel+033 3206820; Café Iloilo, M H Del Pilar St.; La Fiesta Hotel, Molo Iloilo City, tel+63 33 3353683; Molo Mansion Café, Iloilo City, tel+0917 3160439; and JD Bakeshop, General Luna  St., 5000 Iloilo City, tel+033 3200581. And one most try the native lechon manok or roast chicken and fresh seafood. Iloilo is a coastal city so we are able to serve the freshest oysters, kinilaw Tanguigue fish, grilled Managat, sugba stuffed squid. Also try Ilonggo baked goodies, from biscocho, butterscotch, barquillos, hojaldres and pinasugbo. And Binacol nga manok, chicken cooked in bamboo with coconut.

    What are the top 5 places to visit in Iloilo and why?
    Iloilo River Esplanade, Mandurriao Iloilo City is a promenade along Iloilo River, an open space for a leisurely stroll. You can do your morning exercises at the park which is now being extended to cover the riverbank at the other side of the river.
    Camiña Balay na Bato, 20 Osmena Street, Barangay Santa Felomina Arevalo Iloilo City, tel+033 3363858. Experience 19th century living of the Ilonggo Illustrado in this residential heritage house turned museum. 
    Book a traditional Ilonggo lunch. Molo Plaza Complex. Molo Plaza, San Pedro St. Molo, 5000 Iloilo City, Iloilo.
    Visit the beautiful Gothic church of Molo. Across the street is The Molo Mansion, a heritage house that serves authentic Pancit Molo.
    Jaro Cathedral. Jaro Iloilo City, 5000 Iloilo, +033 3291625, is the seat of the Archdiocese of Jaro and is home to the miraculous Our Lady of Candles.  It was visited by Pope John Paul II when he came to Iloilo on February 21, 1981.
    Iloilo City Gallery & Iloilo City Hall Roof Deck, Iloilo City Hall, Iloilo City, for a panoramic view of the Iloilo Strait and Guimaras Island and a chance to browse Iloilo City’s history at the Gallery.

    Favorite resorts/hotels and why? 
    Hotel Del Rio, tel+033 3370736 and The Mansion, tel+033 3351021, are some of Iloilo’s long running hotels that continue to provide the Ilonggo brand of hospitality. Waterworld Iloilo, the only water park in the region, is  also a well-loved destination by families. Premium hotels include Richmonde Hotel, tel+033 3287888; Seda Hotel at Ayala’s Atria, tel+033 5068888; Diversion 21, tel+033 3217721; Grand Xing Imperial Hotel, tel+033 337079; and the Andana Resort Guimaras.

    Your secret holiday getaways in Iloilo?
    I have a beachside property known as Joe III Garden. It’s a perfect place to relax during the holidays. There are other areas outside Iloilo City with a rustic ambience – Sicogon Island Resort, Bucari Highlands in Leon, Iloilo, and Isla de Higantes in the Carles-Concepcion area.

    Here are some photos from previous year's festivals courtesy of Jun Rojas...


    Colorful Dinagyang Festival warriors. Join this year's various street dancing parties.Photo by Jun Rojas

    Sounds and colors of Iloilo: the the 50th Dinagyang Festival, 2018

    Dinagyang wont be complete without a queen!

    What is the festival all about? Hear it from a foreigner... 

    For festival schedule and information, visit Dinagyang Sa Iloilo 

    -Research by Andre Palma

    Originally published in Inflight Traveller, Volume 4, issue 17, 2018.

    Copyright @ 2018 Dornier Media 

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