By Tara Yap
ILOILO CITY – For the Department of Tourism (DOT), there is more to Iloilo than the annual Dinagyang Festival.
“Iloilo should not rely on the Dinagyang alone,” said DOT Western Visayas Regional Director Helen Catalbas.
For years, the festival honoring the Santo Niño (Holy Child Jesus) has been attracting both foreign and domestic tourists, not only for its theatrical depiction of a folkloric story involving the native Ati people, but also for its various side events.
While the Dinagyang is a popular and vibrant celebration, Catalbas told The Manila Bulletin there must be a shift in marketing Iloilo as a year-round destination with its rich history and culture that is full of life and spirit.
History-wise, Iloilo City was once known as the “Queen City of the South” during the Spanish colonial period, and was second to Manila for being the country’s economic and cultural hub.
Catalbas said Iloilo City can also position itself as a top culinary destination, especially with the popularity of local soup dishes such as La Paz batchoy and the pancit Molo.
Aside from Iloilo City, there are beach and cultural destinations in Iloilo province.
There are the pristine white-sand beaches of Gigantes and Sicogon Islands in the northern Iloilo town of Carles, while southern Iloilo has Miag-ao Church, the only World UNESCO heritage site in the Visayas.