The wide island of Panay was originally inhabited by Negritos or locally called Ati tribe. Their disappearance was due to an innocent agreement they made with the sultan of Borneo back in 1250 to give up their land in exchange of a hat and gold necklace. Ati-atihan of Kalibo commemorates the Negritos traditional dances and rituals held during the handover of their land.
Early in the 13th century, Marikudo, a native chieftain, sold the coastal shores and lowlands to 10 Bornean Datus who escaped from the repression of Sri Vishayan Empire. One of them named Paiburong received the area Irong-Irong, which is now called Iloilo City, meaning nose-like, as its wide river mouth in the narrow Guimaras Strait appears like a snout.
The island lived peacefully until the arrival of Juan Miguel de Legazpi in 1566 that discovered and developed more towns. Inside Iloilo, he established a government in the town of Ogtong (Oton) and later moved to Arevalo. Finally in 1667, the capital was moved in Iloilo for safety reasons. The river mouth area provided better shield against raids by Muslims, Dutch and English pirates than the open shores further south.
Nowadays Iloilo stands out from other cities of Panay for having a rich cultural heritage displayed through their festivals, well designed handicrafts, ancestral mansions and old churches.