CEBU CITY: Revealing Paradise in the Queen City of the South

Cebu City at Night

Cebu City, Cebu

The Philippines’ most populous island is Cebu in the Central Visayas. Cebu City, the nation’s thriving port metropolis, is home to historical attractions, including the Basilica Minore del Santo Nio and Fort San Pedro, which date back to the city’s Spanish colonial era in the 16th century. The town may be seen from Tops, an observation deck atop Mt. Busay.


As a province in the Philippines, Cebu includes the island with the same name and several other nearby islands. The term “SEBU,” meaning “animal fat,” is where the name came from. After the Spanish colonists arrived, manufacturing replaced fishing as the town’s main industry.

Cebu has everything a tourist might want in a tropical island getaway: perfect weather, beautiful beaches, and five-star hotels with all the amenities of contemporary life. The province of Cebu on the island of the Philippines is famous for producing some of the best mangoes in the world. For the same purpose of spreading Christianity to the Philippines on behalf of the Spanish crown, Portuguese adventurer Ferdinand Magellan set sail from here in 1521.

Cebu City Island Map

Many artifacts from the island’s history were left behind by the Spanish colonists. Historic sites in the Philippines include Fort San Pedro, the oldest motte and bailey in the Americas, the Magellan’s Cross in downtown Cebu (a Christian cross planted by the Portuguese and Spanish explorers as ordered by Ferdinand Magellan upon his arrival in Cebu in April 1521), and the Lapu-Lapu Shrine, a 20-meter statue in Mactan erected in honor of Datu Lapu-Lapu, a native leader who instituted the death of Magellan.

Great Cebu Fort San Pedro
Great Cebu Fort San Pedro
Popular Cebu Colon Street
Popular Cebu Colon Street
Magellan's Cross
Magellan’s Cross

Cebu’s industrialization increased over time. Cebu’s reputation as a forward-thinking metropolis rests on the success of its major businesses, the development of cutting-edge technologies, and the ingenuity of its residents. Many small and large corporations call Cebu home now, with the latter helping to propel the island



The altar at Basilica Minore del Sto. Niño de Cebu
Basilica Minore del Sto. Niño de Cebu

The Basilica Minore del Santo Nio de Ceb (Minor Basilica of the Holy Child of Cebu) was founded in 1565 by Fray Andrés de Urdaneta and Fray Diego de Herrera, O.S.A. The country’s oldest Roman Catholic church was built on the spot where Miguel López de Legazpi’s expedition found the Santo Niño de Cebu.

Ferdinand Magellan gave Rajah Humabon’s main consort the Infant Jesus figurine at their christening on April 14, 1521. Forty years after Legazpi burnt, soldier Juan de Camuz recovered it in its wooden casket. The “symbol of the genesis and progress of Christianity in the Philippines” was elevated to basilica rank by Pope Paul VI in 1965.


A Date with Dragons at Cebu Taoist Temple
A Date with Dragons at Cebu Taoist Temple

The intricate dragon statues and ornate architecture of the Cebu Taoist Temple draw many visitors. In 1972, Cebu’s Chinese community built this hilltop temple. Three twisting paths lead to the 110-meter-tall, multi-tiered, multi-colored temple.


The Tops Lookout © Courtesy of Kelly Iverson/Mad Monkey
The Tops Lookout © Courtesy of Kelly Iverson/Mad Monkey

Among the locals, Tops Lookout is a well-kept secret. The Tops Lookout, or simply “Tops,” is the best vantage point in the area. At sunrise and sunset, the views from Tops, a modernist fortress-style viewing deck, are nothing short of breathtaking. The views of Mandaue, Cebu City, Mactan Island, and the Bohol coast are stunning.


Magellan's Cross
Magellan’s Cross

After Portuguese and Spanish explorers arrived in March 1521, Ferdinand Magellan ordered a Christian cross on Cebu. Magellan’s Cross is this cross (Spanish: Cruz de Magallanes). A small chapel on Magallanes Street near Cebu City’s downtown houses a cross venerated by locals and tourists.

The chapel’s original cross is tingalo wood and wood-framed, according to historian Geo Zayas, whose name appears on a plaque below it. In the mistaken notion that the cross holds supernatural powers, some have chipped away pieces of the cross as souvenirs. After Magellan’s death, the Spaniards planted a copy of the cross, which burned or disappeared.

Located near the Basilica Minore del Santo Niño Church
Located near the Basilica Minore del Santo Niño Church

In exchange for your money, the merchant will light a candle and pray.

Whether or not you want to view the Magellan’s Cross, conserving it for future generations is crucial.

Entrance fee: None

TIP: You can travel to Iloilo via bantayan for around 590 pesos via ferry (big ship). The ferry leaves around 6 pm and you get there the next morning around 7 am.

Where do you recommend going if you’re visiting Cebu City? Leave a comment and tell us what you think!

Or, if you decide to check out Palawan, our small family operation organizes private custom boat tours through the Palawan area, voted the best island in the world, with its 52 pristine white sand beaches and some of the clearest waters in the world

Palawan Boat Tours - Cebu - Things You Need to Know

Experience the thrill of island hopping in the Philippines.

San Antonio de Padua Church


San-Antonio-de-Padua-Church-map-getting-thereJust up the coast from Iloilo on the way to Concepcion and Carles Gigantes, the San Antonio de Padua Church can be a worthwhile pitstop for the history buffs.

Located in front of the town’s football field below, the church, also called Barotoc Nuevo Church, was declared a National Historic Landmark in 1998 and played a significant role during the Spanish and Japanese occupations.



Barotac Neuvo was discovered and occupied by the Spanish in the late 16th century. The Spanish built a chapel out of bamboo and nipa to begin the evangelisation of the locals in 1573. Then trade and economy flourished with neghbouring areas, but once the soldiers fled the church was burned by locals and its friar slain. As a consequence the Spanish sent an army to “pacify” the locals by burning their houses and murdering some of them, including the local leader. On a milder note, the teachings of San Antonio were so elegantly worded for the simplest and most unread native, that he was declared a Doctor of the Church by Pope Pius XII in 1946, elevated to a saint only a year following his passing in 1231.


Military reinforcements came in 1581 and a new drive to evangelize the locals, to the point of further murder.

The area used to have the name Ginhawa-an, but later changed to Barotac, which in Spanish comes from the word “baro”, meaning mud since a great volcano had covered the entire area with silt and destroyed its agriculture.

After 40 years the church’s reconstruction was completed in 1750, in the Romanesque style, although this did not last long due to the earthquake of 1758. But measures were immediately initiated to build a new one out of coral stone and bricks, now completed by 1802.


A new church was built in 1910, lasting up to the present day, although during WW2 the military ordered the church’s burning so that it could not be used by the Japanese for defenses. The fire only destroyed the convent and the Japanese were able to use the church as a stronghold for the remainder of the war. On June 13 of 1944, a spy from the Filipino troops penetrated the garrison and annihilated all of its Japanese troops. A modern steel bell tower was added in 1966 and the original curvy roof of the central facade was repaired into its present triangular shape.

The church positioned next to the football field, the town of Barotoc Nuevo holds the official title Football Capital of the Philippines.

Where to go next
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arrow-left Iloilo City San Antonio de Padua Church arrow-right


Explore Panay
Explore Philippines

Iloilo City and Travel Tour Packages from



At 2.3 million in population, Iloilo City is the largest on the island of Panay, it has an airport, is easy to get to, and therefore a good launching pad if you’d like to explore the beautiful island of Panay. Guimaras Island is just to its south and another good tour destination.

Jump to:

It was my landing point when I started to explore the Visayas and I was rather looking forward, as I read that it is the fifth most livable city in the world according to Forbes magazine. But sorry, I don’t know what the author of that article was smoking, but this can be hardly possible. It’s just another Filipino crap town with practically no park or trees. Just another Asian jumble of one shop after another and miles of endless concrete.

But it does have some nice pockets, which I discovered over a six month period as I was making my preparations to explore the rest of the Philippines for this website. I’ll explore it in greater detail once I get my motorbike, but I have already traversed most of the city since I like to walk. Below you will find my favourite spots.


I’ve broken up the city into four parts:

  • A – quiet beach resort area in the far west
  • B – the area I lived in and a good stretch for restaurants and night entertainment on the beach
  • C – the downtown core
  • D – a good party, live music and shopping area

I’ll update this page once I get my bike and explore the rest, which I’m told is mostly suburbia but has some nice historical sites to see.

First the downtown area:


For the exact locations of these places you can download them from my page.

A – local neighbourhood party spot

As I explain on my Philippines tips page, my favourite way to explore cities is to use the app and just walk around randomly. In this neighbourhood I always had a great time, people sitting outside drinking Red Horse and inviting you to join them. On the weekends every third house would pull out their massive speakers and have stereo wars throughout the area, traffic walking back and forth.

Along the shore to the south, there is a long road which can also be somewhat fun, but it is a major car/jeepney traffic route, so it is louder, you will be inhaling all that, and it is more like a busy road rather than an urban neighbourhood to walk through safely. It is also policed more frequently and the locals are more afraid to drink on the street.

B – Jeproks


This place plays live music on Fridays and Saturdays and has a nice atmosphere to hang out. They have a grill outside to cook for you. More info.

C – St. Anne Church

Worth visiting if you’re into that thing.




D – Smallville and the Promenade

You can start at C, St. Anne’s church, and take the footbridge to the right of the main bridge to cross the river. On the footbridge you will often see fishermen with their poles dangling over the side and it already has a nice local feel to it.


Once you cross the bridge you will get to an area where you will find a little booth:




When they are open you can buy your tickets here. I’ll explain this in just a second.

Continue walking along the river promenade, closest you’ll get to a park here, but quite nice actually.


When I was there in August of 2018 they were building other sections of the promenade along both sides of the river. Hopefully they will be done by the time you get there. Nice stretch to stroll.

Soon you will get to the river tour place:


On my walks throughout the city, everywhere I crossed a bridge the river seemed quite clean, so it could be a nice ride. Will try to check it out before I split and update this page.

Keep walking east along the river promenade until you get to some buildings (not the first buildings you come across). You will find a passage through the buildings, where there is a Korean restaurant on the right. This whole area is Smallville, full of live entertainment and restaurants. Feel free to stroll around. Continue away from the river and you will get to my two bookmarks next to one another. These I found the best places for live music.

Bourbon street:



This is a nice section with lots of different restaurants, also up top on the balcony overlooking the venue below. They play live music from Thursday to Sunday, around 7pm to 2am, two bands each night.

jammin’ at Broubon street
Just around the corner from that is Mo2 (check my bookmarks for exact locations):


It plays live music every night at about the same time, but has two stages: one outside on the ground floor and another on the first floor in the building behind it. At 2am the band stops in the building and it turns into a raging disco with live DJ.

band jamming upstairs at Mo2
But there are other live joints around, so feel free to roam. Also along the river on the promenade.

E – SM City

If you’re into shopping and gargantuan malls, this is the place for you. It is right next to a major road marked orange on the map with a 5 on it. Once that crosses the river, from there you will find frequent jeepneys taking you right there – just look for SM City.

G – Masu Cafe


Oops, left out F. Anyway, caught my attention. Could be a good joint if you are a vegetarian. I like to have their chickpea soup/appetizer.

Around the corner is a place where you can get a full blood test for around $16.

H – Robinnson’s Mall

Another large mall, next to which is the city’s largest “wet market”, an outdoor market where you can get all sorts of stuff. Best to go early morning if you want the best selection. A fun tourist zoo, endless meandering isles. Outside on the rim is speckled with tons of little eateries for a good local experience and very inexpensive cooking.

I – Main Post Office and Gym


I often use the main post office, wherever I am, to send me stuff by ebay. At the bottom of those three bookmarks is a gym. In each city I like to stay at least a month, to give me time to properly explore the city and workout a bit. In this case they have karate and boxing classes, with a not-so-great weight room underneath. A better one is in another location explained below.

Sliding the map view to the left/west, we get to my hood:


A – Beach Resorts

I live around C and on Sundays I like to take a long walk to A, where there is a stretch of beach with a couple of resorts (more info below) and three venues where you can hang out by the beach. The middle one is quite stuffed with partying locals on the weekends.

B – Long quiet stretch and chess players

‘A’ is actually the next village and outside Iloilo City proper. The B stretch is open field and a nice, peaceful walk.



When it rains a lot, sometimes you need a plank of wood to get to your house.


Just another rooster farm.

Once you get into the A area and the next village, I find this another friendly place where locals will often invite you to join them for some drinks.

Somewhere around the bookmark just above B is a very small store where, every day from around noon till dark, locals like to play chess. I join them every Sunday. They have three boards and they actually play quite well!

C – Restaurant stretch and other things

If you continue walking towards the city you will come across many restaurants on the beach side. Some have live bands, no shortage of cheesy karaoke joints, lots of bamboo terraces built out over the beach.


Getting ready to roast a pig for one of the restaurants.



Walking further along you will eventually get to my favourite restaurant for Sundays:



It is very peaceful and the eating area is not built up on stilts like the other places, so you can actually sea the beach and you feel closer to it. But note that their menu is very limited, but you cannot go wrong with some simple rice and fish stuffed with vegetables cooked on a fire grill!

A little bit past this joint, closer to the city, is the famous Tatoy’s restaurant, which also has two swimming pools in case your resort does not.

Keep walking towards the city center and you will eventually arrive at the place I was staying – Villa Varona. Very friendly guy, a nice quiet stretch on the beach. I will update his accommodation below once he finishes preparing it, as I was helping him with that. It is right next to Yulo Drive. If you walk north along that you will find Arthur’s Villas on the left hand side, where you can find cheap and safe accommodation. Keep walking north away from the beach, past the 711, until the very end, take a left, and above the Oyster Seafood restaurant you will find a good gym weight room open from 7am-10 and 4pm-9.


Or instead of turning left on Yulo Drive, keep walking straight along the beach. There are many little resorts, but most of them have hourly rates because there are a lot of prostitutes in this area at night. Although I have always felt completely safe and met friendly people happy to just chat.

Travel Package Tour

Easy enough to explore on your own, but if you’d like some help navigating, or see some of the many sites accessible by single day trips from Iloilo, such as on the islands of Panay, Negros or Guimaras…


Road Trip

This is where I bought my motorbike with sidecar and started my exploration of the Philippines, so for this particular map I have not yet set up the GPS tracker but have drawn the maps manually.


According to the Accommodation info below, I was staying at one of the resorts along the beaches, so my roadtrip started from around there, at the bottom left of the above map.

A nice little shortcut off the main road, then back onto it, relatively low traffic and nice to avoid the center this way, eventually to the green dots area, map immediately below.


  • A: is where I parked my bike at a couple of nice churches and monuments.
  • B: I then walked to B, which is Nelly’s Garden Landmark (picture and explanation below).
  • C: I then walked back to C, but could not find this Casa Mariquit. Walked around the block and did find a nice old building worth checking out.
  • D:  Then up to the Angelicum School, entrance directly off to the left from the busy street.

As always all my red star bookmarks can be downloaded from my page.

Going up further along that road there are two more tourist attraction red stars according to TripAdvisor: Jarod Cathedral and Sanson y Montinolo Antillan Ancestral House. I asked some locals and could not find either, but you can book a tour guide through us if you like.

I parked my bike in front of this church in the square at point A:


This church was across the street:



Some buildings I came across while walking to B:



Nelly’s Garden, 100p entrance, can only take pictures outside and cannot go into the building:









Walking back and up to C, I walked around the block back to the square and came across these buildings:



Now I drove to point D, also can only remain outside, donations voluntary:







The last star is near Quintin Salas street, which you would take left and continue along this map:


A nice quiet country road which takes you straight to the first green dot, another popular site according to TripAdvisor, in the town of Santa Barbara:





Decided to take a little beer and snack break in this little place at the corner of the square next to 711:


Then continue on to the next green dot, Cabatuan:





After which I wandered my way back to the coast, sometimes missing my turn and ending high up in the mountains:





And came across this church once I hit the coast:


Then a drive back along the coast, but first a pitstop with the usual gang for a friendly game of chess. All in all a perfect Sunday!


You will find lots of nice affordable places on airbnb, for example, but the first one I tried, on the edge of town, when I first arrived, was very nice with a very nice host, but hell in terms of the constant barking and rooster bothering me in my open space. So be careful of something like this if staying longer term.

Because I had some friends visiting and they wanted to stay near me, I have picked out the following places right on the beach, which I find quite important if you are going this far for a vacation. There are other places on the other side of the road from the beach which you can check out yourself.

Starting from the far west on the outskirts of town and working our way towards the center.

Adhara Boutique Resort


Adhara Boutique Resort



Entrance into the area past big iron gate and 24/7 security guard.




Padi Beach Resort


No internet presence, just call Joemarie, 1,500p/night @ 0955 723 7945. They are building four huts which should be ready by February.


The four huts they are building in the back of the property. Very quiet and peaceful.


View of the beach area with lounge huts.

Villa Azul Beach Resort


Villa Azul – tel. 0917 597 3216, I believe 700p/night


A bit off to the side in the back of the property, no security fence.


A view of this resort looking west from the beach. The beginning of three sets of establishments (the middle one gets busy with locals on the weekends but has no sleeping accommodation – the two on either side are quiet and peaceful).


View of the beach looking eastward from same position as above. Fishermen community, small village.

Villa Rosa by the sea Beach Resort


Villa Rosa – this is on the other/east side of me, closer to the center. In this section a lot of resorts offer per hour rates, obviously in the service of prostitutes, but I did find two resorts which do not cater to that, have good iron gate security, and are peaceful and quiet. I’ve walked along the busy street at night many times and was never hassled, but a fragile family with youngsters might find themselves feeling uncomfortable. Not a problem for the management to call a taxi for you if you are afraid of going out on the street at night.







Iloilo Paraw Beach Resort


Iloilo Paraw, or their website – closer to the centre. 600/night for aircon and 400 for fan. They host a lot of conference and other events for locals. They also have two swimming pools, which you can use for a modest fee if not staying at their resort.





History of Iloilo City

panay-island-mapThe island of Panay was originally inhabited by the Negritos (or Atis) and the Visayans. The Negritos were a nomadic type of people living in the mountains, were half-naked and wore a piece of bark to cover their private parts. They were hunter gatherers and roamed around looking for food.

The Visayans, on the other hand, lived along the coasts and rivers. They adorned their bodies with tattoos, like other tribes in the Visayas, and wore cotton clothing with coloured stripes, silk, and cloth made from banana leaves.

iloilo-city-pintadosIn the 13th century Malaysia and Indonesia were ruled by the Hindu-Malay Empire, while a cruel sultan ruled Borneo. Ten of his ruling subordinates decided to escape and one dark night left the island with their families, warriors, slaves and supplies. Sailing north in no particular direction for many days, they finally reached the southern shores of Panay island. Actually, Panay might be named after the kingdom of Pannai, located in Sumatra, whereby the i and y letters are considered interchangeable to the later colonising Spanish.

The Borneans landed at the mouth of the Sirwagan River, near the present town of San Joaquin in Iloilo, and then proceeded up the river to Lake Andona, where they met a local fisherman. The fisherman escorted the ensemble to a local king and queen, where the Borneans extended their hands in friendship and worked out a trade in exchange for land, offering the king a gold helmet and his wife a long gold necklace. The locals were content with the pact and conceded the low lying flatlands, moving up into the mountains.

The Borneans wasted no time and soon built up an empire in the fertile flatlands, building up a powerful and strong naval force that rivaled the nearby states of Cebu and even the Sultanate of Sulu in terms of prestige and wealth. By the 14th century the state had grown so powerful militarily and economically that their naval force was in constant threat against Chinese Imperial shipping by their devastating raids. As one Friar later commented: “…in the ancient times, there was a trading center and a court of the most illustrious nobility in the whole island.”


This rule saw a period of prosperous peace for 300 years, until the Spanish made their debut. When they arrived they noted that the pirates among them were more terrifying than the Mohammedans of Jolo and Mindanao. Like the other fierce tribes in the Visayas, after every harvest they would sail to faraway places in a hunt for slaves, making raids on settlements wherever they went.

The Spanish settlement on the southern banks of Panay island were their second colonial outpost in the area, when a Spanish conquistador moved his headquarters from the island of Cebu in 1566 to the town of Ogtong (Oton). However, due to frequent attacks by Muslim pirates (the Moros) and Dutch and English privateers, in 1581 the Spanish moved to safer havens to Arevalo. But this was still not safe enough, so in 1700 they moved 25km eastward to the village of Irong-Irong, which was endowed with a natural and strategic defense, building Fort San Pedro at the mouth of the river. Irong-Irong, otherwise known as Ilong-Ilong, was shortened to Iloilo and its natural port quickly became the capital of the province. Irong actually means “nose”, where the town was built on a tongue of land sticking out south of Iloilo River and shaped like a nose.


Iloilo continued to prosper under Spanish rule, by 1855 becoming the largest port in the Philippines, open to world trade and the premier province of the country due to its various economic activities. Such as the lucrative sugar industry (grown mostly in neighbouring Negros but exported through Iloilo), followed in the late 18th century by a large-scale weaving industry, the city then referred to as the Textile Capital of the Philippines, its products exported to Manila and abroad.

But prosperous as it might have been under the Spanish, rebellion against rule was fomenting in Manila, while Iloilo remained loyal to the Spanish crown in spite of the Tagolog uprisings. The rest of Panay and Negros expressed their support, emboldening the Ilongo (local tribe of Iloilo) elite to form a battalion of 500 native volunteers, who with the help of Spanish and foreign communities in the area, went up to Manila to quell the Tagalog revolt.

coat_of_arms_of_iloilo_citySuch devotion earned Iloilo the title “La Muy Leal y Noble Ciudad” (Most Loyal and Noble City), later simplified to Queen’s City in the South. But its status was soon to be elevated further, becoming the capital of the Spanish East Indies after the Spanish were thrown out of Manila in their war against the United States. A truce was agreed upon until an agreement would be reached at the Treaty of Paris in 1898, but Tagolog forces headed south to stir up rebellion in the hopes that it will affect the outcome of the treaty.

And it worked, for by the date of the treaty the rebel forces had secured the entire island of Panay with the exception of Iloilo City proper. The Spanish officially surrendered their claims, but the independence of the Ilongo was shortlived as the Americans soon headed south with 3,000 troops and two ships to claim what the Paris treaty had awarded them.

First the Americans enforced their claim in Manila, after which message was sent to the Panay rebels to resist takeover. The natives numbered about half of the invaders, and who were further insolent and unruly because, although they were promised food and monthly remuneration of 4 pesos, they only received one. In face of possible mutiny, the generals scrambled by collecting funds from surrounding towns to support the troops.

The Americans started bombing the city, and destroyed many buildings, but as the rebels retreated, in light of being short changed in wages and jealous of the rich merchants and Spanish half-castes, they burned their way during their exodus of the city, while two British warships sent marines ashore in a gallant effort to protect foreign property, since the UK maintained strong business interests in the area and a consulate. Unfortunately, the gallant effort was insufficient and the main part of the Queen City was reduced to ashes.


By February of 1899 the Americans began to take measures to formally colonise the island, but they continued to meet resistance through to 1901, Iloilo City becoming one of the last to fall to the new rule. As many of the leaders surrendered to the new regime, the Americans quickly reintegrated them back into power, one general becoming the island’s governor to receive the highest pay in the country of all governors at $3,000 in gold annually. As such, Iloilo became the last capital of the Spanish Empire in Asia and the Pacific.

Eventually World War II came around when the Japanese initiated their occupation of the country in 1942. But the Panay Guerilla Movement was the first resistance group in the country, continued fighting the Japanese until the American liberation in 1946.


Now Iloilo is referred to as the “Heart of the Philippines” and “(Asia’s) City of Love”, because of Iloilo and Panay Island’s central location in the Philippines and the soft and gentle spoken Ilonggo people. With its strong Spanish roots, the city has become an “Emerging Museum City of the Philippines” and “City of Mansions”, clustered with heritage structures and mansions that were built during the Spanish and American colonial eras.

Where to go next
Clockwise Counter clockwise
arrow-left Iloilo City San Antonio de Padua Church arrow-right
Guimaras Island or Bacolod

Explore Panay
Explore Philippines

Miagao Church


miagao-church-mapThe Miagao Church, also known as the Santo Tomas de Villanueva Parish Church, is a Roman Catholic church located in Miagao, Iloilo, Philippines. It was preceded by two other churches: the first near the Tumagbok River in Ubos; the second on the same site and built in 1747 by the parish priest. Unfortunately, both were burned and plundered by Muslim pirates, so the townsfolk decided to build something stronger, this time on the highest ground, where they could have a commanding view of the mouth of the Miagao river, the usual route how the pirates made their way into town.

4.7/5 out of 101 reviews on google maps

The blocks of stones used in the construction of the church were quarried at Sitio Tubog in nearby San Joaquin town and in the mountains of the town of Igbaras. The adobe used in building the church is made from silt and clay that can only be found in this part of Iloilo, giving the building a unique warm-yellowish glow. This ochre color is also attributed by the egg, coral and carbonaceous limestone used in its construction.


The overall style falls under Baroque Romanesque, but is also influenced by Medieval Spanish, Chinese, Muslim and local traditions and elements, giving the church façade unique characteristics. It was not built by real architects but rather by friars who came as missionaries from Acapulco. This absence of western architect gave the friars the artistic leeway to seek the guidance of native maestro de obras (master builders), who thought more practically in terms of the tropical climate, frequent earthquakes, typhoons, fire, and marauding pirates.


Like a few other churches of this period, it more or less acted as a military fortress with a fancy facade and interior. As stipulated under Royal Decree 111 of 1573 (Law of the Indies), the church’s foundation is 6 metres deep with massive stone walls 1.5 metres thick, reinforced with 4 metre thick flying buttresses, typical of the “earthquake baroque” design applied in Ilocos churches, particularly Panay Church and Vigan Cathedral.


The façade consists of an ornately decorated bas-relief in the middle of two huge watchtower belfries on each side. It includes a coconut tree depicting the tree of life held by St. Christopher, who is dressed in local and traditional clothing while carrying the Child Jesus on his back. The rest of the façade depicts the daily life of the locals during that time and includes native flora such as papaya, coconut and palm trees.



The two huge belltowers attached to the main church served as watchtowers defending the town against invaders and have different sizes and designs because they were commissioned by two different priests.


The baptistery contains the image of the Birhen ng Barangay in limestone and traditional Filipino clothing recovered from the 1982 excavations.


Unfortunately, the church was to suffer a few more calamities, burned in the Spanish revolution of 1898, a fire in 1910, the Japanese occupation during the second World War, and an earthquake in 1948. This was the strongest ever to hit Panay, toppling the bell tower of Jaro, the old church of Oton and many other Spanish-built churches on the island. However, only a small portion of a concrete beam gave way in the Miagao Church, releasing some stone blocks loosened by the heavy tremors.


It underwent another period of restoration in 1960 by the National Historical Institute, completed two years later when it was declared a national shrine by Presidential Decree. Now, 206 years old, the church stood the test of time and is one of the few remaining ones in the country, declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site on December in 1993 under the collective title Baroque Churches of the Philippines, and described as the finest examples of a fortress baroque church.


The Miagao Church is so well-known now that its pictures could be found in stamps, calendars, books and magazines. Its fame possibly helped by the former First Lady, Imelda Marcos when she attended the installation of Pope John Paul II, presenting him with a painting of this ancient church.

Getting there

Only 30-45 minutes away from Iloilo, you can catch any number of several bus companies (such as Manila-bound buses, Dimple Star Transport, Gasat/Valisno Transport, and Ceres Liner), passing by the Miagao municipality every day. Ceres Liner by Vallacar Transit passes by Miagao almost every 30 minutes on its way to Iloilo from Antique and vice versa.

Jeepneys run more frequently (every 10–20 minute) than buses, the town served mostly by Miagao-Iloilo City bound jeepneys, but also the San Joaquin-Iloilo City bound jeepneys also serve the area.

Since it is so easy to get there we wont bother offering a tour guide for you, but can include this site for free on one of our other tours along this route. If you’d like to combine this with another tour…


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Travel Tour Packages to The Ruins, Taj Mahal of Negros


The-Ruins-Taj-Mahal-of-NegrosOnly a one hour ferry ride from Iloilo, 250p each way, as opposed to the 4-5 hour bus ride from Dumaguete. If you are late to catch the fastcraft back to Iloilo, there is another slow ferry to Dumangas, but then you’ll need to catch a tricycle taxi from there to get you the rest of the way.

It is then about 30 minutes to get to The Ruins, but our guide can help you see several other good places for an action packed day (suggested in the booking process).

The cost of our guide is 1000p for the day, plus his transport costs and entrance fees, plus a $20 advance payment processing fee. You can combine with other tours, as will be explained in the booking process.


About The Ruins, Taj Mahal of Negros

Scored 4.4/5 out of 1,219 reviews on google maps.

Also known as the Taj Mahal of Talisay or the Taj Mahal of the Philippines, because the love story behind it is similar to that of the Taj Mahal in Uttar Pradesh in India: two rich men who built a fancy mansion out of love for their wives who died during childbirth.

It is located in Talisay City, about 30min from Bacolod. The farmland on which it was built was owned by a sugarcane baron by the name of Don Mariano Ledesma Lacson, who also loved to travel. On one of his frequent journeys to Hong Kong, he met a Portuguese woman by the name of Maria Braga, from Macau. Mariano fell instantly in love and it was not long before he approached her father for her hand in marriage, who consented as he thought they were a perfect match!


The couple moved to the farmstead and got quickly busy building a family of ten lovely children. Unfortunately, during her eleventh pregnancy, Maria slipped in the bathroom and started bleeding profusely. The physician resided in the next town (where the present airport is located), but back then horse-drawn carriages were the mode of transport and the journey would require a full two days! However, Maria was in too much of a fragile condition to survive the journey, so he ordered his servants to quickly fetch the physician while he tended to her. Four days had passed, but by the time the physician arrived, it was too late and the two had already passed away.

So heartsick was Mariano that he decided to build a glorious mansion in her honour, and also to help alleviate his pain. He proposed the idea to his father-in-law, who even supported him with some funding. Since he was a ship captain, he also helped provide him with quality material from around the world, such as machuca tiles, chandeliers, china wares, construction workers from China, and a design based on Italianate architecture with neo-Romanesque columns closely resembling the facade of the Carnegie Hall in New York City. He even set his son to look over construction in order to achieve the greatest perfection.


The structure was magnificent, where you can see their initials, M&M, engraved on every post. He instructed his children that they could live in it as long as they remain unmarried. The girls took the second floor while the boys the ground floor, which made it more unlikely that their sisters would marry because any courter would first need to cross them! In fact, it is said that three of the daughters never married.

Tragedy was to befall them again, this time in the form of World War II. The family fled elsewhere to safety, leaving the mansion intact with all its grandiose furnishings. But the Americans, fearing that the Japanese might turn this mighty fortress into a garrison, ordered the local guerrillas they had under hire to burn it completely to the ground.


But the structure was of such magnificent quality, 3 years in the making during the early part of the 1900s, using A-grade concrete and oversized twisted bars contributed much to the strength of the skeletal structure. The finishing touches on the walls and posts were a mixture of pure concrete with egg whites, resulting in a marble-like finish which can be seen and felt even to this day.

The masterpiece burned ablaze for three solid days, consuming all of its roof, ceiling, floors, doors and windows – all of which were made of hard wood like tindalo, narra, and kamagong. By the time the flames reduced to embers, the mansion’s pillars, the grand staircase and parts of the two-inch wooden floors on the second story were all that remained.


It is now in the private ownership of the great-grandchildren of Mariano. Raymund Javellana, one of them, resolved to pay tribute to this great love and his great-grandfather by refurbishing the structure and opening it to the public for a modest fee (100p/adult, 50p for students and 20p for children). He also wanted it to serve as a reminder of the province’s glorious past.

It has a beautifully refurbished exterior, housing a restaurant on the ground floor serving Mediterranean and authentic Negros dishes. It has a well-maintained, landscaped garden of lilies, a four-tiered fountain and collections of the finest furniture, chinaware and decorative items from the owner’s travels across Europe and Asia. It even has an 18-hole mini golf course!


The Ruins, as it is now called, with 800 visitors a day, has become one of the top tourist destinations in Negros Occidental. It is one of the most famous heritage landmarks in the country, ranked 12th place among the world’s fascinating ruins and listed in, a website featuring odd, strange and bizarre things of the world.

This historical landmark has become one of the favorite venues for photo shoots, special events, weddings, conferences and parties, not to mention a popular valentines destination. Perhaps the best time to visit is around 4 PM, before the sunset when it’s no longer too hot and the light is just right for taking photos.



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