Iloilo is the provincial capital of the province of that name, and the main city on the island of Panay, which is around the middle of the Philippine chain. It is a tired gritty city, with low buildings that become a blur behind the dark web of utility wires, and the grime. There are distant echos of Spanish colonial architecture, a few parks in traffic circles, a bevy of universities that have a bit of grassy charm. But overall, as in much of this country, there is a sense of maintenance deferred to the point of exhaustion, and of a battle against entropy that is not going well.
Partly for this reason, I suspect, Iloilo has become a city of malls. I have not made an exact count, but there must be three or four major ones in the immediate downtown area, plus a number of smaller ones, and a new bohemoth that has arisen somewhat omenously on the outskirts. The appeal of the malls is not hard to figure out. They are clean, bright, and blessedly cool, in a place in which those qualities are not in abundance. People in Washington, DC, often take refuge in movie theaters in the worst of the summer heat. Here it’s like that for much of the year; in the mall you can get cool for free.