Though the name Iloilo may have come from the word ilong, the vernacular for nose, the province was known for another facial organ – the tongue. Not only because its local cuisine was a delight to the taste buds, but for a molluscan species endemic to the waters around the island: diwal, a name derived from the Ilonggo verb, “to stick out one’s tongue.” It perfectly described the appearance of this sea creature. When its shell was pried open, its elongated body would hang out limply like a tongue.
Miag-ao Church, built in the late 18th century in the province of Iloilo, was a magnificent marriage of colonial and folk art. It was the only UNESCO World Heritage Site church in the country that I had not yet visited. But more than checking it off my heritage site list, the church’s flamboyantly-designed facade, its singular claim to fame in a country dotted with baroque churches, was for the books and that alone called for a go-see.