SM City, Diversion Road, Iloilo
The biggest mall in Iloilo. It's packed on weekends. Large SM grocery store on lower level has a pretty good selection of Western and imported foods. I found Filippo Berio Italian Pesto and Spanish capers and green olives. They also carry the excellent Coon brand Australian cheddar cheese, which I like better than the New York and Vermont cheddars from the USA. My wife says the seafood is also good. But, we also shop at the Iloilo Supermarkets in the Atrium and near our house in Molo. They carry things we have not been able to find at SM such as the Monk's Blend coffee from Davao.
Gaisano City Mall
There are traffic problems but the city is quite compact so the scale of congested and polluted area is less. I like to walk and find it easier to walk here. In Banilad it was near-suicidal to do so. Here, there is less traffic and more sidewalks and road shoulders for pedestrians. It's certainly not perfect, but is better. There's not much industry. Air quality seems considerably better than Cebu City.
Downhill on General Luna Street
Generally I try to be pretty positive but I've been so sad to see the degradation of one of Iloilo City's most beautiful streets, Gen. Luna. Gen. Luna Street was all that most Philippine city streets are not. It was a gracious boulevard with a landscaped median with trees separating two lanes in each direction. Between the sidewalk and the roadway was another landscaped buffer also with street trees. All this meant that Gen Luna's four lanes and wide sidewalks could accommodate both vehicle and pedestrian traffic gracefully. The boulevard seems to be an integral part of a colonial "city beautiful" program including and linking the old Provincial Capitol, the Arroyo fountain, and the University of San Agustin and UPV campuses. I may not have all the historic details right but this ensemble really is one of Iloilo City's finest assets.
This photo shows the completed flyover in front of the city campus of the University of the Philippines in the Visayas. The further work shown in the photo is the digging up of the landscaped buffer which formerly separated the roadway from the sidewalk. Someone must have come to the realization that the flyover eliminated two lanes of the old road. The solution -- dig up the buffer and pave that too. Perhaps there were traffic problems at this intersection. One wishes that more elegant and more economical solution could have been found. Even more unfortunately, another such monstrosity is scheduled for construction at the intersection of Jalandoni and General Luna. It will do to the pretty University of San Agustin neighborhood what the Infante flyover has done to UPV, perhaps worse.
I don't think my complaint is just being against "progress". There is much talk about attracting tourists and development to Iloilo. I hope that planners will realize that one of Iloilo's strengths is its physical attractiveness and surviving historic resources when compared to other Philippine cities. Iloilo was spared the almost total destruction of its pre-war architecture and civic infrastructure that Cebu and Manila suffered. Investors, tourists and retirees care about the quality of the environment in which they live and this includes the physical attractiveness and livability of the community.
Iloilo Central Market
The Iloilo Central Market is everything the modern Western supermarket is not. The Central Market is vast and cavernous, it's dark, damp and smelly, with hundreds of stalls selling everything from bolo knives to chicken's feet. We love shopping there. At first the market seem a chaotic jumble, but once you eyes adjust to the dim light, the senses settle down, you can see that the market is organized in sections based on what's being sold and that the merchants there are well-established businesses, with their own clientele of "sukis" -- regular customers. Many well-heeled Filipinos do most of their shopping at the markets, being driven there by their drivers in their SUVs.
Some ex-patriots in the Philippines try as much a possible to live as they would in the first world; driving to the huge malls in their SUVs and so on. We do the same in many respects. We live in a gated, guarded private compound, we try to get the best medical care we can, we have cable TV and DSL, enjoy our air-con at night and get our money from an ATM machine. But, for some reason we love to ride the jeepneys and love to shop at the markets. For one thing the food is better and the prices less. We get great seafood, fruits and vegetables, generally much better than what's available in the supermarkets. But the reasons go beyond that. The markets and the jeepneys bring you into a little bit closer to Filipinos and Filipinos, not beach resorts, are what make life in the Philippines so attractive to us. Further, Philippine public markets are so evocative, so exotic and so colorful, they are just an adventure in a way no modern supermarket ever will be.
Iloilo Central Market - Grouper, Our Favorite
Bean Vendor at Iloilo City "Super" Public Market
Dried Fish, Iloilo City Public Market
Smallville Complex, Diversion Road, Mandurriao, Iloilo City
Newly sprouted complex of hotels, restaurants, and clubs on a suburban-like strip. Likely the hippest nightlife destination in the city. Restaurants include Krua Thai, Bigby's, Regatta and several others.
Afrique's Restaurant on Gen. Hughes
Beautiful job of finding a new use for a landmark building.
Exercise: View over pool at Sarabia Manor fitness center, Iloilo
I enjoy walking for exercise. I used to run but I'm too old and out of shape for that now. I used to use the very nice treadmills at the Clark-Hatch Fitness Center in Sarabia Manor Hotel. I paid P3000 for an annual membership and P800 per month. This entitled me to use the pool, shower room and all of the exercise equipment. A towel was provided. Generally I would go mid-morning and then go somewhere for lunch afterwards. There are many Koreans staying in Sarabia complex and sometimes later in the day the gym would be quite busy.
The people at Sarabia treated me very well. I would almost always tip the kids working there so they were always happy to see me. After awhile, I got a bit bored with the treadmills and started walking in the city. I'd walk from our apartment in Molo to and around downtown. This allowed me to really explore the nooks and crannies of the colorful downtown area. This is fine during the cooler times of the year but I also got a bit tired of the traffic and clouds of diesel fumes.
More recently I've sought out new places to walk. When we in Cebu City, where walking on the street is really unpleasant, I learned to walk in the upscale subdivisions near where we were staying in Banilad. The guards in many large subdivisions will just let you walk in. Large subdivisions are often ideal places to walk. They have extensive networks of nice roads, sometimes sidewalks, little traffic, lower levels of air pollution, fewer stray dogs and maybe even nice tropical landscaping.
Some town plazas are also good for walking. Sometimes I walk in my own neighborhood, using the loved-to-death Molo plaza as one part of my walk. Early in the morning (5:30am) you'll see many Filipinos out getting their exercise. Sometimes I take a jeep or even drive to Villa (Arevalo) plaza. Villa Plaza is large, not too busy and is used as a marketplace for vendors of tropical plants. This makes it especially colorful. It adjoins the Villa public market allowing us to add shopping to our walking outings.
Several other town have large plazas, perfect for strolling; Oton, Guimbal, Santa Barbara included. Another possibility is the Iloilo Sports Complex in the LaPaz district. The facility is not convenient for us but if you live in LaPaz or Jaro, check it out.
Wherever you go to walk, the key is to go early. As I write this the hot summer weather has set in. At 5:00 am it's beautiful walking but even by 6:00 the heat is noticeable and by seven it's getting too hot for pleasant walking. Also, at 5:00 or 5:30 you'll greet the morning with local residents who are out sweeping, gardening, exercising before the heat sets in.
Castle Hotel in grand old Iloilo house
Hotel is recently renovated and offers deluxe ambiance at reasonable prices. While I have toured the hotel and looked at the rooms, I have not stayed there. The location is convenient walking distance to the Atrium mall and Gaisano City. In March 2007, rates start at P1050 for a standard single to P2500 for an executive suite.