We give life in Iloilo City a try...
My wife and I have made our move to the Philippines as our retirement home. We've spent several months in Cebu City over the last three years and two weeks in Dumaguete. We were trying to be systematic about looking at various places before we settle down. While we've found much to like in Cebu City, I think, for us, the disadvantages outweigh the advantages. Despite friendly people, top-notch medical care, shopping, pretty subdivisions in the surrounding hills and an active arts and entertainment scene, we find the worsening air pollution, traffic congestion and escalating prices hard to live with. So, we decided to look at some of the smaller Visayan cities; in particular Bacolod and Iloilo and to spend more time in Dumaguete. Our plan has become derailed in Iloilo. We were planning to stay in Iloilo City for a month and then to move on to Bacolod. After a year and a half we're still in Iloilo and only now have taken our first trip to Bacolod City
We're pretty pleased with Iloilo City and may well just stay here. There's lots of fresh fruit and seafood. Medical care seems pretty good (see a section on that below) and educational opportunities extensive. In fact the main industry seems to be education. Thousands of doctors, nurses and seamen are trained every year. There are some decent restaurants, and you seem to be able to find and buy whatever you might need at the markets, numerous malls or the downtown commercial area. The city is fairly compact, easy to get around and just feels comfortable to me. Beach and mountain opportunities may be better in other cities, but there are good beaches on nearby Guimaras Island, and there are mountains of Antique to explore and of course the premier beach resorts of Boracay, are about a four hour drive. If you'd like to live outside the city, but still have easy access to it, Iloilo has some exceptionally nice small towns with pretty Spanish churches and plazas. We especially like Santa Barbara, Oton, Tigbauan and Guimbal.
All in all, it seems to have what I need to live comfortably, but with fewer of the urban negatives of Manila or Cebu. From what we've seen of Bacolod, it's another good option. If you'd prefer a smaller city, take a look at Dumaguete. For more information on Iloilo and Panay see our new site at http://www.goiloilo.com
Bucolic Setting of New Iloilo Airport
Sometimes I have to blink to be sure I'm not in Vermont rather than the Philippines.
The apartment is the entire first floor of this building
The house, built three years ago, is located in a green, leafy and secure private compound ten minutes walk from Molo plaza which has most of what one needs; banks, small but good supermarket, post office, Mercury drugstore, Andok's and so forth. The usual huge malls (SM City, Robinson's, Gaisano) are available elsewhere in Iloilo.
Living Room - Fifty Feet Long!
Many new houses in the Philippines slavishly imitate the worst of suburban US tract homes, but our house was designed drawing on old Spanish houses. It incorporates salvaged antique sliding Capiz (shell) windows, fretwork (ventanillas), doors, stone brick and other elements which must have been salvaged from old buildings. The ceilings are high and the numerous large windows open wide for good ventilation. Even though it's been hot every day, 90 or more, when the sun goes down the evening breezes cool the house down. The house is less than a mile from the ocean, so that must help. We hear the noises of the neighborhood, yapping dogs, crowing roosters and a mynah bird who does an excellent catcall, and the band practicing for the upcoming festival.
Grouper (Lapu-lapu) for dinner!
We find the availability and quality of seafood in Iloilo City to be exceptional. The best deals are in the central market downtown.
Bob relaxes (as usual) on porch with a book
Iloilo Rental: The yard outside the apartment
The apartment is in an unusually spacious 4500 square meter compound within Iloilo City
Our things arrive from New York
At the recommedation of our landlord, we used Fast Cargo (and associated Fast Pak) to move our things from Bohol to Iloilo City. We were very satisfied with their services. Their Iloilo offices are in Lapuz Norte. Phone 033-336-4207.
A foreigner's life in Iloilo City
Iloilo does not get nearly so many foreign tourists as places such as Boracay, Cebu, Manila and even Dumaguete and Bohol. Often, I can spend the day in the city and not see another foreigner. Of course, there is a community of resident expats, many who have been in Iloilo many years. Expats hold meetings twice monthly. On the first Wednesday of the month at the Balkonahe Restaurant in Jaro and on the third Wednesday at the Marina on Diversion Road. As elsewhere in the Philippines, there are many Koreans here studying English.
Based my first year and a half in and Iloilo and several months in Cebu City, I find Ilonggos, male and female, to have a reserve and seriousness which differentiates them from the more outgoing Cebuanos and even Tagalogs. They seem serious, proud, industrious, honest, and pious compared the more fun-loving Cebuanos or Tagalogs. Beyond the reserve, I find Ilonggos to be honest, kind, and courteous but don't expect them to fawn over you because you're a foreigner.
There's certainly nothing unusual about young Cebuanas dating foreigners but this does not seem common here. While Iloilo has a few "girlie bars" it does not have the kind of pervasive sex tourism/bar scene found in Angeles or Cebu City. Casual dating of a "white" guy would not be considered proper by many Ilonggas. I rarely see young Filipinas with older foreigners, a very common sight in Cebu. Many of the Filipina-foreigner couples appear to be married couples who have grown plump together over the years.
The upside of this is that the foreigner is more a curiosity than an opportunity and is generally left in peace and treated with respect. It's unusual for me to be overcharged or otherwise taken solicited or taken advantage of because I'm a foreigner. There are not so many beggars. Sometimes when I do see children begging money, they will approach other Filipinos or my wife but not me. I have never been approached by prostitutes or other hustlers. "Hey Joe give me money" is rare here. I relate the relative lack of begging and prostitution to Ilonggo pride.
I ride jeepneys almost every day. I walk the streets downtown. So far, I have never had even a hint of a problem with crime or pickpockets, although friends have. On the contrary, I left a bag with cellphone and digital camera behind when getting off the jeepney. Fellow riders stopped me to be sure I did not forget the bag. If I drop something, multiple people rush to make sure I get it back. There is a robust police presence in many parts of Iloilo City. I do not wander the streets at night. If you do your mileage may vary.
Heading to market, Molo, Iloilo City
On Jocson Street, Molo walking toward Avancena Street and St. Anne's Church. This is a short walk from where we live.
The bell towers of the Church of St. Anne, c. 1831, rise above the old Chinese district of Molo and are viable from many points in the city. Its soaring Gothic design distinguishes it from the typical baroque-influenced churches of the Philippines. Inside, the beautiful wooden retablo provides the Gothic focal point, with its rich tapestry of spires and niches crowned by pointed arches. Fortunately, this church seems to have survived the massive 1948 earthquake which damaged or destroyed so many Iloilo churches. The bell towers appear to have been reconstructed in concrete. There are reports that one of the belltowers was destroyed by US military artillery fire in 1945 as US troops liberated the island. The tower was suspected of housing a Japanese machine gun position.