March 19, 2011

MY PHILIPPINES: Southern Iloilo Heritage Trail, San Joaquin

 Going down from Iloilo city is dubbed as the Southern Heritage trail. The trail showcases the historical and cultural attractions dotting the landscape of the province.

59 KM south of Iloilo is where San Joaquin is at. It is the last municipality before entering Antique. CNN Go ( listed this municipality as one of the most overlooked destinations in Asia because it’s not always included in the tourism maps or guidebooks which is a shame.

San Joaquin Church

We got off on this sleepy town upon paying Php 60 (USD 1.30) per person for our 1 hour jeepney ride. From the town proper’s highway, we took a 3-5 minute (travel time depends on the age of the driver) pedicab (a human powered type of a 3 cycled vehicle) ride for Php 5 per person (USD .10) to go to the only church in the Philippines with battle depicted on its bass relief instead of the usual Virgin Marys.

The militaristic motif is titled “Rendicion de Tetuan.” It captures the Spanish victory over the Moorish forces in the battle of Tetuan - a district of Madrid in Spain. The carvings are complete of men on horses armed with rifles!

details of San Joaquin church's facade

the stairway leading to the belfry

Done marveling at this National Cultural Treasure as declared by the National Historical Institute, we were surprised to find our pedicab driver just hanging out on the shade. We asked him earlier about the cemetery that caught our eye as we passed by on the highway so he purposely waited for us. From the church to the cemetery, he only charged us Php 15 (USD .34) one way. Manong (a FIlipino term used in reference to older men and has a respectful connotation) driver became our instant photographer too and even gamely posed on some photos with us.

San Joaquin town situation-er as seen from the church

The Campo Santo de San Joaquin or “patyo” to the locals is hard to be missed as it is facing the coast just a few minutes before the town proper. It is a century old Roman Catholic cemetery with baroque design influenced by the Orient. 20 wide stone steps frame the capilla (chapel) made with coral rocks and baked bricks. The capilla crowned with a pointed dome is where the dead are blessed before internment.

 Campo Santo de San Joaquin

It is said to be the grandest and most preserved in the entire province of Iloilo and I thought to myself, where in the world can you go and be wowed with a cemetery with no feelings of morbidity!

the gate of the patyo

carvings on the gate - a cherub sandwiched between cross bones

images of saints standing guard over tombs

the cemetery facing the coast

People of San Joaquin are a hospitable bunch. The caretaker talked to us and even expressed regrets that he doesn’t have the capilla’s key with him at that moment. An old man on his way to visit his mom’s tomb took the time to tell us about the church and where to have lunch. Sweet!

Just then my phone went off with Pen on the other line informing me that they are already in the area, so we headed back to town to meet up with them and grab lunch together. Manong driver was huffing and puffing all the way back due to the uphill terrain but still got a smile on his face, proud to have played a tour guide showing off his home. We got so enamored that we paid him Php 220 (USD 5) instead of the Php25 (USD 0.55) we have previously agreed on and he was really appreciative. It’s a nice feeling to get around the beautiful sights, interact with the locals and help out their industry in the process.

 our trisikad driver who was huffing and puffing but still manages to smile

Reunited with the rest, we proceeded farther down south up to the border of Antique to look for lunch among the many seaside restaurants. 5 of us shared a simple fare of fried fish, grilled pork chops, adobong squid, vegetable stew and a huge plate of steamed rice for only Php 275 (USD 6.25)!

  magpataohay is a local dialect which means to relax

view from the seaside eatery in the border of Antique

HOW TO GET THERE: flagging down public transpo from Molo Plaza heading south is already prohibited so head on straight to the transport terminal of Mohon Public Market where jeepneys leave for  San Joaquin every after 5 or 10 minutes.

This is only Part 1 of our Southern Heritage Trail. Next stop a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

written by mj 


  1. so happy to read such article about our hometown.. thank you very much for appreciating our simple town and its heritage.. God bless and more power!

  2. We absolutely love your place and hope to be back again sometime soon. Nakaka proud ang ganda ng Pilipinas! Thank you for dropping by:-D


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