Miagao, Iloilo Province, Philippines

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Miagao, Iloilo Province. In our opinion, Miagao should be a top pick retirement destination for those who are looking for and can adapt to life in Philippine a small town.  Here’s why.  A major University of the Philippines in the Visayas (UPV) campus is located in Miagao.  Its presence, and the students and faculty associated with UPV give Miagao a more upscale, genteel character than most Philippine small towns.  It has more amenities and services than other towns of its size.  The municipal infrastructure and maintenance are exceptionally good.  The Miagao public market is one of the cleanest, friendliest, best-run markets we’ve seen in the Philippines.

The dominating presence of the 18th century Miagao Church, a designated UNESCO world heritage site, in the center of the town is a pleasant change from the jumble of dirty post-war concrete structures which constitute the heart many Philippine small towns.

Miagao is slightly reminiscent of Dumaguete, another, much larger Philippine college town.  Miagao has a bit of the college town gentility of Dumaguete, but does not have  the more extensive shopping, medical care, dining and accommodation amenities which Dumaguete offers.  You’ll have to travel 40KM to Iloilo City for most services.  Nor does it have the hundreds of foreigners, beggars, bars and bar girls and crime, which for us have somewhat dimmed Dumaguete’s luster.

Miagao is a bit refined but still is a small Philippine place.  Please see our short essay of life in the provinces.

Miag-ao Church, 1787-1797

We find the Ateneo de Manila’s Panublion heritage site to be a real treasure.  Explore it yourself at: http://www.ateneo.edu/offices/mirlab/panublion/r6_miagao.html

Here’s what it says about the Miagao Church: “Santo Tomás de Villanueva Parish In 1993, Miagao church was included in UNESCO’s World Heritage List under the title “Baroque churches of the Philippines.” The town was a visita of Oton until 1580, then annexed to Tigbauan until 1592, to San Joaquin until 1703, Guimbal until 1731 when it was raised to an independent parish. However, it was only 1734 that Miagao had a resident priest, Fr. Fernando Camporredondo. The original town site was by the sea in a place called Ubos (Hiligaynon for lower place). A church and other structures were built around 1734 but in 1741 the church was burnt during a slave raid. Fr. Camporredendo who ministered in Miagao from 1734-37, 44-50 built a second church during his second term. This lasted a handful of years because in 1754, the town was looted and burnt during another raid. Because of its vulnerability to raids, the Augustinians transferred the town up a hill called Tacas. There Fr. Francisco Mayo began building the present church in the year 1786. The structure was completed in 1797. Stones were quarried from San Joaquin and Igbaras. Fr. Francisco Perez added a story to the left tower in 1839. In 1864, Fr. Agustín Escudero restored the church. In 1880 Fr. José Sacristán decorated the interior. Early in the 20th century, the church was burnt during the Philippine American war and used as headquarters and barracks during World War II. The interior of the church was greatly damaged. In 1948, 1959, and in the 1970 the church was restored. Restoration is an ongoing concern as the soft yellow sandstone used in the church erodes easily.”

Miag-ago Church - detail

Miag-ago Church – detail

Exuberant a word that captures the spirit of the stone carving on the pediment of the Miagao Church.  If anyone has any questions about what “tropical Baroque” means, a visit to this church should be an education. St. Christopher is shown carrying the diminutive baby Jesus though a grove of palms, papaya and other stylized tropical vegetation.  The carving, probably done by Chinese craftsmen, is bold, imaginative and delightful.  What was the intention of the artists?  Alicia M.L. Coseteng speculates that “the intention…was to show that the same Christopher who ferried the Child Jesus across the biblical river to safety could well have crossed the seas to implant a rich and abundant faith in these islands…”  (Coseteng, Spanish Churches of the Philippines, 1972).

Miag-ao Church Interior (sorry for poor quality of photo)

Miag-ao Church Interior (sorry for poor quality of photo)

Public spaces in Miagao are meticulously maintained.

Historic plaque - Miagao "kota" or watchtower

Historic plaque – Miagao “kota” or watchtower


There is a major University of the Philippines in Miagao

The sprawling, green UPV Miagao campus

The restored convent behind the Miag-ao Church

The restored convent behind the Miag-ao Church


Well-maintained old house in Miag-ao

Well-maintained old house in Miag-ao


Spotless Miagao Public Market

Spotless Miagao Public Market


Fresh fish at Miagao Public Market

Fresh fish at Miagao Public Market


It’s more fun at the Miagao Public Market

Comments (24)

  1. Miagao is one of the best places to live. The only drawback is it is 40 kilometers away from the major medical facilities when you need immediate emergency care. One of the cleanest fish market in the Philippines loaded with fresh catch every day. A lot of expats lives in retire on this town mostly retired U.S. military retirees and probably the second in population of U.S. military retirees in the islands just second to Clark area where the U.S. bases where at before. No wonder why Tricare is accepted in the hospitals in Iloilo and there is quite a large number of physicians participate in the Tricare program.

    Miagao is a quiet town with over 90+% literacy. You can speak english on this town and you can hardly fins one who doesn’t speak one. If they don’t, most likely they are just shy. Not to much night life here and can only be found during fiesta or special events. A nice drive to the city of Iloilo is approximately 30 minutes and mostly on the edge of the water/beach. There are a lot of big “show-off” houses along the road mostly owned by expats.

    If you like peace and quiet and relaxing atmosphere to live in, consider living in Miagao–a stone throw away from the city, 1 1/2hours to the International airport with direct flights to HongKong and Singapore. 3 hours away (drive) from the famous Boracay Beach

    By 2015, the MegaCity will be completed, and so as the Convention Center and will probably regain it’s title as the “Queen City of the South”

  2. Hi Bob,great site.Miagao sounds very nice,i am still trying to find
    my new place to call home.I just came back to the U.S. after 6
    months of looking around the Philippines and will be comming
    back very soon.Can you tell me how far from Miagao is a nice
    beach?Are there any expats living there?

    Thanks For Your Time

    • Bob,

      I have to be honest, the beaches south and west of Iloilo are nothing special. When we want a classic white sand beach we head to Guimaras Island, Nogas Island or Boracay. Perhaps other readers can correct us, but Miagao has great virtues but white sand beaches are not one of them. I am not sure how many expats live in Miagao. Probably not many. Most expats stick with places like Cebu City, Dumaguete, Boracay and Bohol. Some expats really need other expats to socialize with. Some prefer places not so “overrun” with foreigners. Carol and I tend to be in the later camp. In places with many foreigners, locals can start to focus on them as opportunities to be exploited, whereas in places with fewer foreigners the locals are more likely to treat you as a fellow human being, although sort of a strange looking one! Hope this helps.

      Bob and Carol

  3. hello! I am not from Miagao and I been to there less than 5x (I think) however I’m from Iloilo City (teenage thru early 20’s). My husband and I are planning to move back to the Philippines and I’d like to open a convenience store/s and refreshment salon/s near UPMiagao next year or 2. My inquiries are:
    1. Is there space/s for lease available (no less than 100sq meters floor area)?
    2. Are the roads from Iloilo City to Miagao concrete/pavemented already?
    3. How’s the business permit timeline?
    4. Do we need to be incorporated to open business/es?

    • Maryal,

      Were really can’t help with the business questions except to say that the National Highway is fully paved between Iloilo City and Miagao.

      Good luck with your project.

      Bob and Carol

    • Maryal, if you want to know where to find what in Miagao, ask for Manuel Escala. He can help you.

  4. I am thinking about moving with my dad to that city because my dad is getting old and i know i can retire and take care of him there. I have never been to the phillipenes. What do you think about the move from the US?

    • Steve,

      You really need to come to the Philippines and spend time here before making any such decision and especially before bringing our father here. We love it here but many people do not. One friend from the UK thought he’d enjoy life here but he was very disillusioned and returned to the UK where he and his wife are living quite happily. Also, medical care is OK in Iloilo City, but Miagao is an hour or more away and there is no 911 to call if you or your father have a medical emergency. Miagao is a great place but not a great place for everyone!

      Good luck!


  5. Another Iloilo site that should be worth talking pictures of is Angelicum School, which is formerly known as the Lizares Mansion. The main house is now a chapel but it seems like it was a ballroom in the past. It also has a swimming pool and a basketball court, not bad for something finished shortly before WWII. It was occupied by the Japanese during WWII. Another building that was occupied by the Japanese was the Quezon Hall at West Visayas State University (another building worthy of pictures, in my opinion).

    • Paul,

      Thanks for the information and suggestions. I do have some pix of Quezon Hall but I have not posted them yet. It’s a great building. I’ve been by Angelicum many times and would love to visit it someday. Thanks again!

      Bob and Carol

  6. “A church and other structures were built around 1734 but in 1741 the church was burnt during a slave raid … built a second church … lasted a handful of years because in 1754, the town was looted and burnt during another raid. Because of its vulnerability to raids, the Augustinians transferred the town up a hill called Tacas.”

    Bob, when I visited the Iloilo churches I was surprised that many of them were built like fortresses to protect the population from slave raids by Muslims coming from the southern Philippines. You might want to add a bit more about the slave raids in the body of article to give viewers the full background and increase their understanding of why that type of architecture was chosen. We didn’t learn this until partway through our churches tour and then it all made sense.

    • Lance, thanks for the excellent suggestion. The story of the “Moro” raids is both colorful and somewhat terrifying. It also may shed a little light on both historical and current relations between Filipino Muslims and Christians. Bob and Carol

  7. My grandparents’ house is just accross this old house in Monteclaro St ( If my memory serves me right).. I just miss the place as well coz I seldom come home to Miag-ao when I’m home in LaPaz Iloilo. My grandparents are the late Victor and Garay Fermindoza. I hope I can visit my relatives in Miag-ao when I go home this xmas…

    • You might need to reconnect with your relatives. You are only less than an hour ride to Miagao. Also, your late grandparents were my godparents and neighbor in Ubos.

  8. To All Miag-aowanons,

    Yes I really miss our hometown. Everytime I come home there are people that I do not recognize anymore since the population seems to just explode. I hope that in the near future we can sit down together to help some of our disadvantage brothers and sisters to better there lives in our town. This means providing affordable medical services to our people and making them aware of disease prevention.

  9. i really miz the place where since i was born and living, there’s no place like home.. Good memories of miag ao, the salakayan fiestival, and the fiesta of miag ao are some moments that i’ll never forget.

    the peaceful place of miag ao,, are become more progressive town in the city of iloilo. there’s so many wonderful falls that you’ve found their,, the mount NAPULAK in igbaas and the BUSLUGAN falls in tigmarabo.

    hope that you can appreciate the town of miag ao,,

  10. I studied in UPV Miag-ao from 1993-1997. Since then, I never had the chance to visit this place again (because I am originally from Manila).

    Good memories of Miagao came flooding through my mind when I saw this website, especially the photo of the well-maintained old house. This is a boarding house where many UPV students stay. Some of my friends have stayed here. I forgot the name of the owner, but he is really a nice man.

    I hope that you can also feature some photos of UPV Miag-ao. Our campus is one of the most beautiful campus of UP system and I am very proud of this place.

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  12. Bob, my cousin Evangelina “Baby” Nielo Intal just retired as Supervisor of Miagao Elementary Schools, with her office across the street from Monton’s house. she lives approximately 3 blocks away from there. next time you and Carol are in Miagao, tell the residents at Ubos Ilawod that you are a friend of “Boy” Monreal and ask for the direction to Baby Intal’s house. i’m sure she will be happy to give you a tour, and show you some of the big houses of Miagao’s OFW. Regards.

    • Nong Jim,

      I am the son of the late Purita M Flores, and I heard you were once a close friend of my tito Cano. I used to see your dad along time ago walking by lolas house since he loves to walk a lot we oftentimes joke about lolos nickname “labod” I know lolo Ingkoy or is it Ingoy is in a better place now. The thing is I did not know the year of his passing. Anyway he has always that smile eveytime you see him. My grandmother always would ask him that she has too much problem with uncle cano always about money. And lolo Ingoy will tell her that you have to much palay for him to consume, meaning sell the palay convert to cash for tay Cano. And she would tell you dad that he tolerates him. And your dad would say even if you say he is killing you yo still love him since he’s the only boy…

      • Your uncle Cano was a very good friend and also my mentor sa ibang bagay. I think your late lola Marcel just loved him so much as you mom and aunties.

        Growing up in Miagao, I remember going to your lola’s house every Saturday and Sunday to inform her that her classmates in pangingue are waiting for her to start the session.

        Hope to see you in Miagao sometime in the future. My brother Ramon and his wife Myrna are coming home for vacation towards the end of this month. Nong Landick and Baby probably have their itinerary.

        Best regards,
        Boy Monreal

  13. Jim, Thanks for your kind comments. Yes, we hope to spend more time in Miagao. There’s so much to explore and it’s pretty close now that we’re in Tigbauan. Bob

  14. bob and carol, thanks for your kind and candid description of my hometown. i remember well that big old house you mentioned above. my late friend “Kano” Monton grew-up in that house.

    maybe you can post some pictures of the University of the Philippines (UPV), Miagao, Iloilo campus.

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