The most popular island in the Philippines, Boracay, is located in Western Visayas. But there’s more to discover in the 5 provinces and 1 city that make up this vibrant region.
The province of Aklan has a lot more to offer besides partying with thousands of people in beachfront clubs along Boracay. Spend the day at the Bakhawan Eco-Tourism Park, a 220-hectare (2.2 square kilometers) mangrove forest. The park features a 1.1 kilometer eco-trail through the green forest where you can arrange for a Tamilok (mangrove tree woodworm) eating experience.
Also in Aklan is the Kalibo Piña Village. In this village, Aklanons make piña-jusi, a sheer but sturdy fabric extracted from pineapple leaf fibers used in making Barong Tagalog (men’s formal wear).
Located in the Panay Gulf and just off the coast of Iloilo City is an island known as “Mango Country”: Guimaras Island. This island is home to the world’s sweetest yellow mangoes, white sand beaches, adventure parks, caves, and eco- and agri-tourism sites.
Every 22nd of May, the island holds the Manggahan Festival, which celebrates the anniversary of Guimaras being stated as an independent province. The week-long festival is packed with competitions, pageants, food markets, and live performances for the whole family.
The highly urbanized city of Iloilo is also the venue of the Dinagyang Festival. This religious and cultural festival features performances, sports competitions, and other live events. The festival is held every fourth Sunday of January. It is Iloilo City’s version of the Ati-Atihan festival, which is celebrated in honor of the Sto. Niño (Holy Child Jesus) across the country.
When in Iloilo, be sure to grab a bowl of La Paz batchoy, a noodle soup made of chicken stock, beef loin, pork organs, and round noodles that’s topped with crunchy pork cracklings.
In the province of Antique, locals hold the Binirayan Festival. This is to remind Antiqueños of their Malay roots, which began when Borneans settled in Panay. Locals reenact the historical events in street plays and performances.
Roxas City in Capiz holds the Sinadya sa Halaran Festival in commemoration of the Virgin of the Immaculate Conception, who is the city’s patroness. It is celebrated every first weekend of December. Locals dance in brightly colored costumes and headdresses and parade around the streets of the city with glee, for the words “sinadya sa halaran” mean “joy in sharing and thanksgiving.”
The city of Bacolod is known for the Masskara Festival, which is held every third weekend of October. It started out in the 1980’s as a way to get the people happy and dancing again after sugar prices fell (Bacolod City is a producer of sugar). Locals dance in the city streets wearing decorated smiling masks and crown the girl with the most beautiful smile as the Masskara Queen.
Locals and foreigners visit the cities of Western Visayas for their preserved history and culture. Places like Bacolod and Iloilo are home to centuries-old stone churches, ancestral homes, and museums.
Immerse yourself in the natural beauty of Western Visayas. Climb to the summit of Mt. Kanlaon, which is a highly difficult 3-4 day trek up and down the mountain. Test your limits and go whitewater kayaking in Tibiao, or explore the jungles of Antique.
Tour the healing waters of the Malumpati River and Bugang Spring, which is the cleanest spring in the Philippines, on a bamboo raft. Recuperate in the Siraan Hot Spring while treating yourself to a stunning view of the sea.
Spot some endangered birds in the Northwest Panay Peninsula National Park, like the bleeding-heart dove and Visayan hornbill. Other fauna in the park include leopard cats, Visayan warty pigs, and Visayan spotted deer.
White sand beaches are plentiful in Western Visayas. Popular destinations besides Boracay’s White Beach are Alubihod Beach and Nogas Island.
Take a trip to the province of Negros Occidental. No trip to Western Visayas is complete without a look at The Ruins in Talisay City, where you can also find 31 ancestral homes. Caving is an excellent activity as well, for you can explore Matlag Cave or spelunk to the underground river in Mamara Cave. Away from the bustling city is the Carbin Reef. This tiny sandbar is where you can snorkel to see giant clams or just laze on soft sands under the hot sun.