Iloilo City seen as Philippines top tourist destination

Jennifer Rendon - The Philippine Star

ILOILO CITY, Philippines — For some visitors, it’s the food that draws them to this city. For others, it’s the vibrant spirit that is being showcased in the world-class Dinagyang Festival. Or it can also be the city’s rich cultural heritage.

For tourists who have traveled to Iloilo City, the place transcends its delicious La Paz batchoy or its pancit Molo, for which the city is known.

The charm of Iloilo City also goes beyond its century-old churches and heritage houses.

Located in the Visayas, the city is deemed as the center of business investment destination in the south.

Best of all, it’s the warm hospitality of the Ilonggos and their being malambing that attract tourists to the city.

These Ilonggo traits impressed the participants of the Very Important Pinoy (VIP) Tour 2023, a tour package collaboration of the departments of tourism and foreign affairs.

Headed by Consul General Neil Frank Ferrer, the tour has 294 participants, mostly Filipinos based in the United States.

Around 120, the largest delegation, came from Hawaii, and 94 from San Francisco.

Now on its 14th year, the VIP Tour 2023 also targeted the youth. It was the first time that Iloilo was included in the itinerary.

Alejandra Clemente of Rajah Tours Philippines said they made some adjustments in the tour package to accommodate the millennials. The company facilitated the tour.

Teenagers Justine and Aubrey, both from San Francisco, can hardly contain their excitement.

Aside from Iloilo City, the tourists were brought to other areas of Iloilo province.

Miag-ao was among the places lined up in the tour’s Iloilo leg. The visitors were shown the traditional Budbud saltmaking industry in Miagao and toured the Islas de Gigantes in Carles town.

For Aubrey, the Islas de Gigantes trip was one of the exciting places she had visited. The millennials said the trip was a good opportunity to bond with their grandparents.

Ron Morrison, mayor of National City in California, was one of the more than 20 Americans who joined the tour.

“We’re very impressed with Iloilo City. The people here are very gracious. It’s obvious that there’s a lot going on in Iloilo City,” Morrison said, adding it was his sixth time to join the VIP tour.

Clemente thanked Iloilo City Mayor Jerry Treñas for his cooperation, which persuaded the tour facilitators to include Iloilo in the package.

Around 400 Filipino-Canadians will join the next VIP Tour to Iloilo in February 2024.

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