If you are looking for a fun family weekend destination, head over to Leon. It is known to be one of Iloilo’s most scenic and adventurous summer cool spots. It is an old town that is full of fun with a plethora of activities including trekking, mountain biking, horseback riding, rock climbing, cave exploration and swimming to its falls.
There is something for everyone in Leon, and with just a little planning and pre-trip discussion, visitors can experience a rural vacation that will inspire, excite and leave lasting memories.
Leon is a Second-Class municipality located 28 kilometers in the west-southwest portion of Iloilo. It is bounded in the north by the municipality of Alimodian; in the west the municipality of San Remegio of the province of Antique; in the south by the municipalities of Tigbauan and Tubungan; and in the east by the municipality of San Miguel. It has a total land area 14,005 hectares politically subdivided by 85 barangays.
Leon is populated by 49, 875 (2015 Census on Population) Leonians. Market day is every Saturday. It annually celebrates its Religious Fiesta every 25th of November in honor of St. Catherine of Alexandria.
To get to Leon, jeepneys and air-conditioned vans at the ALEOSAN Transport Terminal in El 98 Street, Mandurriao, Iloilo City or at the ALEOSAN Transport Terminal in Barangay HIbao-an, Mandurriao, Iloilo City.
The municipality of Leon was formerly known as Camando, which was founded in the year 1730. However, the sitio got burned in 1865 causing a mass transfer of its people to Sitio Capan (present poblacion) , a vast rice-producing area. Two years after, the town was transferred and was given the name Leon in honor of the City of Leon in Spain, the place where Fr. Agustin Castrothen, parish priest of the town came from.
However, the inhabitants retained their surnames beginning with letter “C” which given to them through the order of Governor Narciso Claveria, the 71st Governor-General of the Philippines, who applied a system of giving family names to natives for ease of taxation, regulation and census, in 1894. The citizens of Leon retained their family names starting with the letter “C” in lasting memory of the former name of the town of Camando.
ST. CATHERINE OF ALEXANDRIA PARISH CHURCH is of Doric and Byzantine architectural style. The present church was constructed around 1876 after the original town site in Camando was transferred in 1863 to its present site. It was under the supervision of Father Melquiades Arizmendi and was continued by Father Serapio Gonzales, Father Victoriano Garcia in 1879 and Father Manuel Guiterrez who also started constructing the convent in 1885.
Known to be the biggest stone edifice in Panay during its time, it measured 100 feet high and 300 feet long. It almost covered two streets of the town. The stones used were quarried from the hills of this town and were shaped into slabs shaped into parallelograms measuring of 1 x 2 feet.
The interior is of Renaissance-Romanesque architectural design with walls three and a half feet thick and five feet in height for each post that soared up to 32 feet to its roof. Big and long timbers from Negros were the support of the naves. The timbers of 100 feet long were rafted to Tigbauan, Iloilo and were hauled individually by 10 carabaos to the church site.
The church was burned during World War II and was transformed into a garrison for the Japanese Imperial Forces. It was rehabilitated by the Mill Hill Fathers after the war.
BUCARI was once the seat of government resistance against the Japanese in World War II. In 1996 via Executive Order 120, Governor Arthur D. Defensor, Sr. declared Bucari as the “Summer Capital of Iloilo.” It lures visitors year-round where hikers and mountain bikers traverse the mountains here to enjoy the sprawling panoramas of the expansive mountain ranges extending to neighboring towns and adjacent province. The cool climate is perfect for growing high-value produce such as carrots, cabbage, Baguio beans, chilis, eggplant and chayote or vegetable pear locally known as sayote. Farmers grow their crops along the hills and mountainside in terraces.
It is accessible by jeepney with one trip daily every 9 a.m. at P40.00 fare for every person and leaves Bucari for the town proper every 3 p.m. Normal travel time is one hour. For the adventurous in spirit, 30 units of motorcycle travel to Bucari at P150.00 one way for double occupancy or at P200.00 one way for single occupancy.
MANSIGA VIEWING DECK can be reached for almost an hour on foot on a normal pace of uphill climb where it will give you a panoramic view of the mountain ranges of Alimodian and Leon. There is also a fallen that can serve as a viewing spot where it offers a more scenic view of the surrounding.
PUTING BATO is another spot that you can go to and get amazing pictures of Leon mountain areas. It is a protruding rock formation that some tourists say resembles Pico de Loro in Batangas.
IMOY FALLS is almost an hour at normal pace, medium trek down that can be an ordeal for some. Visitors need to pass thru the hanging bridge. But when you finally reach a series of waterfalls that culminates to the alls, you will instantly forget all the hardships of your journey.
KAING is celebfrated every a basket made of bamboo strips. In Leon, it is used as a container of farm harvest such as fruits and vegetables. Because of its pervasive use it can be designed in different sizes. It is very common to see Kaings on top of jeepneys where it is used to transport products from the plantation site to the farm storage, from fresh harvest farmland to the market, from wholesale center to retail distribution outlet.
The Kaing is Leon’s basket of prosperity and symbol of quest for progress and unity as a people. It expresses a harvest of abundance being endowed with rich natural resource. But alongside with these naturally endowed gifts are the efforts of trying to sustain the already known identity of Leon as the fruit and vegetable basket of the Province of Iloilo. Kaing Festival showcases the talents and unique culture, achievements and progress of Leon. The festival is a name given as collective representation to that simple but potent image, tangible and relevant of a unique celebration in a community that seeks to inform its people of its tradition, share knowledge of struggle, stories of progress, identity of its own people amidst the vest humanity to the next generation.
HANDURAW ius a Hiligaynon word meaning “to reminisce,” or “flashback,” is celebrated every 1st week of September. It is an annual dramatic cultural presentation that commemorates the transfer of Pueblo del Camando, the old site of the municipality to Sitio Capan, the present site of the municipality. It is a week-long event that includes food festivals, trade fairs and a showcase of local agricultural produce.