November 20-21, 2011
ILOILO CITY, ILOILO
Eating Our Way To The Heart of the Philippines
A lot has been said about this province tucked gently at pretty much the bosom of the Philippine archipelago— from it being the birthplace of the famous Dinagyang Festival/Jose Mari Chan/Sen. Miriam Santiago/Graciano Lopez Jaena/Mang Inasal (boo-yah!), or it being a busy and modern city still breathing the richness of the old world, or it being the gateway to Western Visayas known for its abundant natural wonders.
But the girls and I had our quick detour there covered… with the intent of stuffing ourselves with the best of the best: FOOD.
3 days in Boracay needed something to seal the deal, just like dessert, so we decided to take a long ride from Aklan all the way down to Iloilo, flying through neighboring towns and provinces also on Panay Island. I say flying because… have you ever been on those V-hires?!
Call it a prelude of sorts but the road trip of 5 hours was more fascinating than we expected it to be. In between drool-filled naps and idle chatter, we began the ‘foodtrip’ on leftover crackers and cheese spread alternating them with candies to keep both nausea and claustrophobia at bay.
We even became the people we didn’t want to be stuck with at the back of the V-Hire. Oh, the irony.
Edz: Someone sprayed perfume. Dyu smell that?
Belle: Uhm. That was me.
Edz: Oh. I was gonna suggest we kill her. (both laugh) Know what’s annoying? People talking on their phones in here.
Belle: I know right- especially since you can’t hear the other person talking on the other line. We might as well hear their entire conversation so it makes sense.
Edz: Yeah. *phone rings* Hold on, lemme get this. (both laugh again)
Belle: I’m thirsty. What’s this? (opens the bottle)
Amu: Leftover rhum and vodka mix.
Vikki: But it was ‘sayang‘ so I mixed them together so we could bring it.
Belle: I don’t smell anything… oh wait.
Everybody: EWW. Close it!
Well, you get the picture. Our greatest apologies to the rest of the unfortunate passengers. There’s just something about being at the back of the ‘bus’ that does something to you.
As soon as we stepped off our ride and allowed our bums a good breath of fresh air, we headed straight for some fast food inside SM Iloilo. It’s not exactly good ol’ pancit molo or La Paz Batchoy but a little longer and we would’ve passed out or morphed into emaciated supermodels.
With just a day’s visit to the city of colonial churches and universities, we skipped the usual sight seeing so as to content ourselves with gastronomic delights all thanks to the recommendations of our good friend San-San.
The Girls: So… pitstop to Iloilo before we go back to Cebu. What to do?
San-San: Are you kidding? EAT.
We got to our hotel by nightfall and after a bit of prodding by Lor and I, we all managed to hear Sunday mass at the breathtaking Molo Church just 10 minutes away from the city proper. I could say it became one of the highlights of our trip because other than the hilarious jeepney ride going there (winks at Vikki) and stepping foot in one of the most beautiful churches in the country, we loved the fact we heard mass together again… and in a Feminist church at that.
It gave us the chance to deepen our bond as great girl friends. Yes, I’m a sentimental.
Molo Church, otherwise known as the Church of St. Anne, stands proud in the Chinese district of Molo as one of its more prominent landmarks. Back in the 1800’s, it used to be a watchtower warning the Ilonggos against attacks from the shore.
Its gothic–renaissance structure is quite striking as most churches in the country are usually Baroque– or Romanesque– inspired. Architecturally speaking, it’s strange. What’s inside holds the key to its distinguishable quality though.
At first glance, one would not have noticed that the saints lining its interiors are all women thus earning it its name as the ‘feminist church’. We only realized that after mass. Very cool and creepy at the same time.
The fact that we also almost entirely understood the homily said in Hiligaynon was just coolness-overload too.
After taking more photos and saying our prayers, we found ourselves deliberating on where to have dinner. Pretty tough, I must say. Especially since Edz and Vikki spotted an Andok’s nearby.
The only other time I’ve been to Iloilo was with my mum about 3-4 years ago and we only managed to grab some grub in Afrique’s Italian Restaurant for their yummo pizzas and pastas.
I didn’t do my research as well so I had close to zilch to offer the table. Doubted the girls wanted Italian anyway.
The choices were overwhelming especially since we only had a night in Iloilo and only ‘til noon for the day after. Should we eat then explore the nightlife around Smallville? Or should we just eat? Ambot-ah. Goodbye, Clark Kent.
Aaah… food… the piece de résistance. Shall we get right on it?
First Stop: Dinner at Tatoy’s Manokan And Seafoods
-located at Arevalo, the city’s garden district, is a humble restaurant by the sea. One can choose to dine in the open-air restaurant itself or by the shore in nipa cottages.
*Must Try’s: Tatoy’s native lechon manok (back in Cebu, we call this Manok Bisaya) and basically, all their fresh seafood.
Although my friends didn’t get to try this whole-lotta-poultry-goodness, we managed to have our first taste of grilled catfish. Flesh that just melts in your mouth? I found my Ilonggo addiction right at that very moment.
Still can’t say the same for fresh seaweed salad though.
Second Stop: Lunch at Breakthrough Restaurant
-just on the same road as Tatoy’s is the native-style restaurant (also by the sea) popular amongst locals and visitors for its fresh and affordable seafood.
I’m starting to think all this seafood mania is due partly to me and my elusion for pork, beef and chicken. Sorry, girls.
*Must Try’s: ginat-an na alimusan (catfish in coconut cream/curried), diwal (baked angel wing clams) and yes, all their fresh seafood. Not to mention, rare?
It’s noble to take note that the diwal, the succulent and downright highly prized shellfish native only to a few parts of the world including the Western Visayas Region in the Philippines (particularly Capiz, Aklan and Iloilo), had been nearly extinct back in the 90’s due to overfishing. At present, its numbers have gradually returned to normal and foodies can finally enjoy them again.
Shouldn’t have written that. Now I feel bad for having a couple.
It’s particularly exciting to include our dessert to the list, pulot (a muscovado sugar-coconut milk/jam mix in a bamboo container), all thanks to Mr. Vendor man who happened to wander in the restaurant.
It resembled waxing paste. We bought 1 just to try it but decided to buy more to bring back home. Imagine the things you could do with the thing! Mr. Vendor Man disappeared though… never to be found again. Sigh.
Final Stop: Biscocho Haus in Jaro for pasalubongs
‘Nuff said. Why, hello there biscocho (toasted bread with milk and sugar). Yemas. Barquiron. Butterscotch. Barquillos. Piyaya. Rosquillos. Draining wallet.
You can actually buy some at the airport if you don’t mind the obviously inflated prices.
And thus ends our intense, calorie-filled trip to Boracay + Iloilo. Thank you again, girls! And especially to Lor for helping me out by taking really pretty photos!
The next time we visit, we should add these up on our food trip list too: (Sticking it in here for future references, yo!)
1. La Paz Batchoy @ the La Paz Market/Ted’s Oldtimer/Inggo’s La Paz Batchoy
2. laswa (seafood and veggies; the Ilonggo version of pinakbet)
3. Pancit Molo
4. Chicken binakol (chicken and veggies in coconut juice)
5. baye-baye (coconut, sugar & pinipig), bandi (discs of peanuts and caramelized sugar) and ibus (glutinous rice with coconut milk) on sidewalks or public markets
6. kansi (bulalo + sinigang = bone marrow sour soup) @ Pat Pat’s Kansi House
7. Tsokolate @ Camina Balay sa Bato in Arevalo – sucker for the oldschool stuff
8. baked oysters @ Tib’s Rock
9. KBL (kadios, baboy, langka)
10. budyawe (buri palm fruit)… etc. etc. etc. Drool. Drool. Drool.