E. Lopez Street, Jaro
Tucked into the country’s first millionaires’ row, Nelly’s Garden is by far the most famously grand house in Iloilo. The Beaux Arts mansion was built in 1928 by Ilonggo statesman Don Vicente Lopez, who named it after his eldest daughter. Over the decades, the estate has hosted the elite and the notable, including governor-generals, a former president, and even a Thai prince. Keep an eye out for the Murano glass chandelier, the antique billiard table (said to be the first in the city), and the hexagonal dining table Imelda Marcos took a strong liking to.
Tip: Book everything early. Mansion tours need at least three days’ notice.
Santa Isabel Street, Jaro
Casa Mariquit has been around for some 200 years, making it one of the oldest houses in Iloilo. With its gleaming molave panels, red brick architecture, and all-original furniture, it’s also arguably the best-maintained, offering the clearest look at how the elite lived. Though first built and run as both a bank and a residence by Ramon Javellana (don’t miss the concealed vault in the master bedroom), many know it as the former home of his granddaughter Maria “Mariquit” Javellana and her husband, Vice President Fernando Lopez, Sr.
Tip: Just down the road are the Casa Gamboa Jaro Museum; writer Magdalena Jalandoni’s old house; and Casa Tentay, a 1920s colonial-style house that’s been turned into a homey bed and breakfast.
Locsin Street, Plaza Molo, Molo
If you’re looking for a real comeback story, look no further than the 1920s colonial-style mansion right across Molo Plaza. After years of neglect, the dilapidated former residence of the Yusay-Consings (a family of prominent judges and even a governor of Iloilo) was rescued from demolition by a private developer. Now restored to its graceful arches and high ceilings, it goes by the name Molo Mansion and houses a small exhibit of Ilonggo artists, a homegrown coffeeshop, and SM’s cultural retail store Kultura.
Tip: Try crossing the street to take in the Gothic architecture of the 200-year-old St. Anne Parish Church.
CAMIÑA BALAY NGA BATO
20 Osmena St., Arevalo
Among the heritage houses in this list, only this one is still actually a home to its owners—and it’s obvious to anyone who steps into the cozy sala mayor, with its wide windows and antique furniture. Built back in the 1860s, this bahay na bato was passed from one family to the other until it fell into the hands of the Camiña family who restored the house and opened it to the public as a restaurant serving authentic heirloom Iloilo cuisine. They serve a mean bowl of pancit molo and some tasty tsokolate eh.
Tip: You can bring home some tablea and other food products from the house’s store. Those still in need of pasalubong after can stop by the famous bakery Mama’s Kitchen, just a few doors down.
Special thanks to Kristine Chan.