"Is there a place more laidback than Iloilo?” A new friend I met right in the city would use this as an argument to convince me to go back to Iloilo. I have been in the city only recently upon Megaworld’s invitation, as part the real estate giant’s familiarization project of its newest property in the area—the Iloilo Business Park (IBP). A big deal of the trip particularly limited us to appreciate the vibrant Richmonde Hotel – Iloilo and the rest within the 72-hectare expanse, a lively and thriving territory I would instantly liken to Eastwood City or Bonifacio Global City back in Metro Manila. “Laidback” never really crossed my mind to describe how the entire property is now helping redefine the City of Love's meaning of fun.
With the opening of the Iloilo International Airport outside the city, IBP took over the former location of Mandurriao Airport within the past decade. From a bird’s eye view, the property now follows a long, gorgeous stretch of strategically erected edifices, streets, and parks. The Megaworld Avenue forms the former airport’s highway, a thoroughfare converging almost all streets in the area.
Of how IBP is helping boost the city’s entertainment and lifestyle atmosphere past its easy association with batchoy and Dinagyang, IBP VP for Sales and Marketing Jennifer Palmares-Fong beams in confidence. It’s something you might later emulate (well, I did), seeing the following offerings and more in and out of the park!
[related: Cultured!: Iloilo's Newly Opened Contemporary Art Museum Is The First In VisMin—And It's Stunning!]
1. Shop while enjoying the sights
IBP especially prides itself for the Festive Walk, an “integrated mall complex” comprising three segments. The soon-to-open Festive Walk Mall spans 90,000 square meters of shopping, dining, and other centers of RnR. The Festive Walk Annex stands adjacent for the same reason. The 1.1-kilometer long Festive Walk Parade sweeps beside these shopping and dining destinations, a perfect walking distance that transforms into a rollicking sight of food and live music set up outside. This complex, Palmares-Fong says, was designed specifically to enhance your shopping and leisure experience.
2. Immerse yourself in the arts
Into visual arts? Artists and art enthusiasts now have a place to display and discuss their passion in the Visayas—at the Iloilo Museum of Contemporary Art housed in Casa De Emperador. The three-level building is the first of its kind in the VisMin region. It follows through Iloilo’s centuries-old penchant for the arts, now featuring Ilonggo contemporary artists plus works of other local and international artists alike.
3. Get cultured!
A highlight right smack in the middle of IBP, meanwhile, is the baronial Iloilo Convention Center. The building, which follows the “paraw”/sailboat design, hosted the APEC in 2015. Time your visit in the area during special events there to make your travel more memorable!
4. Prepare for a one-of-a-kind night out!
The aforementioned Festive Walk Parade faces a number of bars built to spice up Iloilo’s night scene. You can go be merry at Bottle Grounds or Cable Car (yes, the first offshoot of the pub outside Manila!)—but make sure you do it before the 1AM liquor curfew strikes! Richmonde Hotel’s Bizbar at the ground floor and the Pool Bar also make for, say, classier “liquid lunch.” Bizbar features an acoustic band to serenade you on your booze sesh. The Pool Bar, meanwhile, provides a more charmed party experience with a ready pool, an extensive cocktail menu, and the hotel’s signature 180-degree view of the sunset!
5. There are heritage sites a-plenty to visit!
The IBP is strategically situated minutes away from the city for you to still experience Iloilo's core attractions. Got a sense of rush checking out things that stood the test of time? Iloilo City is perfect with its rich history immortalized in preserved cathedrals and manors since the Spanish period. Most of the mansions—owned by Iloilo’s old rich such as the Locsins, Lopezes, Ledesmas, and Jalandonis—remain in good shape. Spot them near the plazas (history lesson: the affluent used to live near the town centers) and indulge yourself in some enriching tour. Some of these sites like the Lizares Mansion and Molo Mansion have been commercialized to generate income for preservation efforts while inviting more tourists to the area. Meanwhile, the mangrove-bordered Iloilo River, formerly a busy center of trade, flows in its sheepish beauty and astounding cleanliness. It's another age-old sight to catch!
6. Get ready for some coma-inducing food. ‘Nuff said.
Mangoes, biscocho, and what else? No mention of Iloilo is complete without talking about batchoy. A quick visit to the market leads you to Netong’s Original La Paz Batchoy—fill yourself with any of its many permutations with Coke on the side! In with both old and new, Richmonde Hotel also participates in these gastronomic pleasures. It serves Kap Ising’s molo soup and sisig wrap among other savory offerings on The Granary's buffet and a la carte menus. For the dessert, Richmonde also offers its signature ensaymada—known for its size, moist texture, and hefty cheese topping. Enjoy it with a cup of tablea courtesy of Balay Tablea, Cabatuan, Iloilo-hailing chocolate makers also prided upon in the city.
ALSO READ: In Focus: At 50, Kelly Hu Aka 'Lady Deathstrike' Looks As Dangerously Sexy As Ever. But How?