Go Local with AirAsia

November 29, 2018

I believe travelling is both an idyllic and a learning experience. We enjoy the novel charms of each scenery and spot while harmoniously assimilating the culture and customs of its society. It blossoms an enriching perspective which in turn cultivates personal growth. Aside from being beguiled by both natural and man-made wonders each place tries to present its visitors, its histories and culture are true testaments of how travelling swerves us into whole new worlds and introduces us into the abundant faculties of each tribe or nation. Recently, I was able to venture on a journey to Iloilo, where most of my relatives came from, courtesy of AirAsia’s inaugural flight from Cagayan de Oro to Iloilo. This was made even more special with company of select members of CDO Bloggers. First activity that primed my itinerary was, no other than, a food crawl!
The Ilonggos are known for their opulent antiquated history and for their prowess in their signature dishes and delicacies. Its significant history and innovative people have created and blended the sundry elements which are reflected on their culturally sound gastronomic culture. The oldfangled Spanish influences are marked in their efficiently preserved quaint mansions and in the techniques continuously used in meal preparation. Indeed, travelling to Iloilo brought me back down memory lane, where the ilustrados of the príncipalia class during the Spanish era have traversed and raised the city into what it is now.

Knowing that I would just have a minimal time in strolling around the city since I decided to join the group for Carles, Iloilo, I immediately thought of an itinerary wherein I could relish on the local cuisines the Ilonggos are known for, with, of course, a stretch of historical side trips to two of its famous ancestral houses.

Camiña Balay nga Bato

This heritage mansion was built circa 1850s. The balay nga bato or house of stone is a symbol of wealth during the Spanish era in contrast with lower classes’ bahay kubo made of mostly organic materials. Currently, the house is owned and managed by the fourth generation of the Avanceña family. Remarkable features of the house are thealmacen, the warehouse which is a typical element hailed from preceding nipa huts, and the outrageously steep escalera, stairs, primarily made as such to prevent any attacks of the bandits. One’s tour in the balay nga bato would not be complete, if without the tasting of flavorfully rich tsokolate-a with baked pastries on the sides. This is prepared through manual stirring of the chocolate drink in the traditional batirol. They also serve pancit molo for booked tours and a heritage buffet for a minimum of 10 people. Camiña Balay nga Bato is located at 20 Osmeña Street, Arevalo District, Iloilo City. 

Netong's Original Special La Paz Batchoy

A famous and common staple among tourists who visit the City of Love is La Paz Batchoy. Batchoy is a noodle soup, comprising of pork or beef offal, cracklings, broth, and round egg noodles. And, when it comes to authentic and original batchoy, right inside the market where it was derived from, Netong’s Batchoy is a formidable authority among those who claim to be for its rich broth from long-drawn-out simmered “buto-buto” or pork and/or beef bones, for its wide array of choices for noodles, toppings, and sides (A puto or rice may come in handy for your taste buds!). The eatery has also organized quite of a show with an open kitchen at the entrance of its La Paz Market branch where one can gradationally follow the preparation of the flavorful soup served which is rather a resemblance of the hawker centers found in other parts of Southeast Asia. It is located at La Paz Public Market, Rizal St, La Paz, Iloilo City, Iloilo.

Madge Café

Coffee is our trusted companion to set us up into every morning and Ilonggos surely have their own traditional way of getting out of the best of their daily coffee grind. Since 1951, Madge Cafe has made its mark as the locals’ favorite neighborhood coffee shop, placing itself as a highlight in every visit to La Paz Public Market. Madge Cafe is known for its local brew flocked by both regulars and newcomers. The beans are harvested from northern parts of Iloilo and Guimaras. Meanwhile, the coffee is extracted and prepared using a curador, a flannel sieve, in contrast with the conventional espresso machines. One may also customize their coffees according to their liking from strong, mild, to regular coffee with mill or black coffee; and cappuccino, vanilla latte, chocolate caliente, and varieties of teas.  It is located at La Paz Public Market, Rizal St, La Paz, Iloilo City, Iloilo.

Tatoy's Manokan and Seafood

Almost all places in the Philippines have their own versions of the ihaw-ihaw style of cooking. But only a few can be considered as having distinct trademarks in taste. One of which is Iloilo’s very own, Tatoy’s. It is synonymous with its Native Lechon Manok, a symphony of tastes from calamansi, lemongrass, tamarind leaves, and charcoal grilling. Seafood finds such as grilled milkfish, kinilaw, fish soup, grilled stuffed squid, sizzling crab meat, and baked scallops, guaranteed to be freshly caught as the place is just around the vicinity of the coastline, are available to suit one’s cravings. A definite winner for me was the baked talaba, filled with melted cheese, garlic bits, and seasonings, wherein the oyster meat literally melts in your mouth. As the number of patrons continue to swell, the restaurant became a reputable institution and a big name in Ilonggo dinning.

Despite the rise of different cooking methods and cuisines, the Ilonggo cuisine’s resilience has been tested through time considering that what was once a general tradition has became those as of familial ones where each family continues its own kindred versions and practices and pass these down to its own posterity, somewhat considered as a family tradition such as taking a daily coffee buzz after a mass at Madge Café or going home just for the much sought Netong’s Batchoy. That is how culture becomes alive more than ever and hopefully that shall be the course of other customs and traditions of other parts of the country while adapting to the urbane landscape. Chase these wonders in Iloilo with AirAsia, as they now cater flights from CDO to Iloilo and vice versa, thrice a week!

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