The Panay Island

The island of Panay belongs to the Western Visayas Region in central Philippines and is divided into five provinces, namely Aklan, Antique, Capiz and Iloilo and Guimaras. It is surrounded by various bodies of water and is characterized by relatively wide stretch of coastal lowlands with rugged hills and mountains on the interiors, making Panay a heart of diverse marine life, inland fishery and various agricultural products. The island is also competitively advantageous in the production of seaweed and is being considered as the second largest rice producing region in the Philippines. Its large agricultural land area produces coconut, mangoes, pineapples, root crops, vegetables and the well-known muscovado, the origin of sugar in Panay and the Philippines. Rattan craft is also a large local industry.


There are three major dialects in Panay – Kinaray-a, Hiligaynon and Akeanon (Aklanon), widely spoken by the people of Antique and most parts of Iloilo and Capiz, Iloilo urban areas and Capiz, and Aklan.

Folklore depicts Panay as the setting of the famous legend of Maragtas which chronicled the arrival of the Malay race in the 12th century – the landing of ten Bornean datus at a site now known as the town of San Joaquin. They purchased Panay from the Negrito ethnic group, Ati, renamed the island Madya-as and divided it into three communities: Irong-irong, Akean (which includes the Capiz area) and Hamtik. Irong-irong, now called Iloilo City, means nose-like, as its wide river mouth in the narrow Guimaras Strait appears like a snout.


According to historical records, Panay is the place where the dawn of Christianity started and is the center of the first act of revolt against the Spaniards in the Province of Capiz. In 1569, the Spaniards led by Miguel Lopez de Legazpi came to Panay from Cebu and found people with tattoos. They called it Isla de Pintados or the “Island of the Painted”.

How the island itself came to be called Panay goes back to many accounts. Aninipay was the ancient name of Panay given by the Ati, making it the namesake of a local plant thriving in the island. Legend has it that Legazpi and his men, in search of food, exclaimed upon the island, “Pan hay en esta isla!”, which means “There is bread on the island!”. They then established their first settlement in the island at the mouth of the Banica River in Capiz and called it Pan-ay. The island is presently named after this settlement.

Rich in Culture

Today, Panay and its provinces are known for having a rich cultural heritage displayed through their festivals such as the Ati-atihan, Paraw Festival well designed handicrafts, native delicacies, and ancestral mansions.

The Panay Church, home of the largest church bell in Asia, is also found on the island. The architecturally world-renowned religious structure, the Miagao Church, is now included in the UNESCO World Heritage List.

Pristine white beaches, such as Boracay in the northern tip of the island, also border the island, making Panay one of the most sought out island paradises in the world.