Sunday, August 14, 2011

Kwentong Kaladkarin #26: Back to Iloilo, The Place I Still Call Home

Da Where: Iloilo City and Capiz, Philippines
Da When: August 6-9, 2011
Da Who: I'd like to call this a solo trip but since it's home, I say, throw in my family too! :)
Da Trivia: I'm shamefully 'fessing up; it's been 2 years since I last I stepped foot in Iloilo. :(

It all started when I got a text message from Nanay, saying that Lola wants me and my sister home for her birthday. Yikes, has it really been two years since I've last set foot in my hometown?

Though I have been living and working in Metro Manila for the past six years, I still call Iloilo my home. After booking last-minute roundtrip flights (my heart missed a beat coz I hate paying for regular airfares ;D) and wormed a 1-day leave approval out of my boss, I found myself on a Cebu Pacific flight bound for Iloilo International Airport early Saturday morning, right off a work shift.

Forty-five minutes later, I stepped out of the plane and took in the verdant views and gulps of fresh air. Yes, I'm home. Back to sights, sounds and tastes familiar. :)

Comfort Food at its Finest: LaPaz Batchoy

Not many people know that I was born and spent the first decade of my life living at my grandparents' house in LaPaz, a 3-minute walk away from LaPaz Public Market, the birthplace of the LaPaz batchoy. If you've been living under a rock and don't know what batchoy is, it's a noodle soup made with pork organs, beef strips, crushed pork cracklings, chopped onion stalks, chicken or beef stock and round noodles.

It's the first thing I ask for when I'm home. And there is no other restaurant here in Manila that could ever duplicate the authentic taste of LaPaz batchoy. I should know. I grew up eating this dish, even maybe before I could walk and talk. ;D

Super Special LaPaz Batchoy
Photo credit: Deco's LaPaz Batchoy

Early Morning Hiligaynon Mass

I only slept for four hours but woke up early to hear Mass with Tatay at the poblacion church, Our Lady of the Immaculate Conception Church in Oton, Iloilo.

It's been a long time since I last attended a Hiligaynon Mass and the sweet, fluid cadence of the local dialect, my first language, brought a smile to my lips. It was a beautiful homily; the priest talked about faith in turbulent times.

Our Lady of Immaculate Conception Church in Oton, Iloilo

Steamed Talangka or Shore Crabs

One of my all-time favorite dishes when I'm home is the good 'ol steamed talangka or shore crabs. After breakfast, Tatay and I dropped by the poblacion market and bought 2 kilos of fresh talangka (kalampay  in Hiligaynon) for breakfast. Paired with a mound of hot white rice, breakfast lasted for about 2 hours. ;D

Steamed talangka
Photo credits: Lia's Food Journey

Countryside Roadtrip from Iloilo to Capiz

Probably the most tiring part of my 3-day trip home was the road trip from Iloilo to Cuartero, Capiz. With Tatay on the driver's seat, we breezed through several Iloilo provincial towns and dropped in to see family friends before heading to Dumalag and then Cuartero in Capiz. My Lolo from the maternal side of the bloodline is a Dumalagnon and Nanay wanted us to visit after several years.

Road trip with my siblings! :)
Fields of green. :)
Old ancestral house where my mom spent a part of her childhood years.
Dumalag's town church...
...and the town plaza right across. Awesome view, ain't it? :)

Acres of green fields greeted us in every town and we dropped by at Suhot ('crawl, pass through' in English) Cave and Springs when we finally arrived in Dumalag, Capiz. The last time I was there was about 15 years ago. I remember the underground pool waters' temperature was near freezing that picnickers submerge their beverages in the water to keep it cold.

Entrance arc to Suhot Cave and Springs in Dumalag, Capiz

Now, that piece of land was donated to the local government and has been developed into a resort. It has a function hall and a resort for overnight accommodations. Sadly though, the crystal-clear cold waters that I remember was no longer what I saw. I even brought extra clothes in the hopes that I can go for a dip but seeing the underground pool has turned murky, I changed my mind. The locals swimming in the pool even used shampoo and soap for bathing. :( Sigh. I hope they put the P10.00 entrance fee to good use by educating the locals and visitors.

My siblings at Suhot Cave and Springs
Overlooking the cave pool. It's so different from the last time I was there.

They've also put up a Forest Park where you can walk along a tree-canopied trail. I think this was the only part of the resort I enjoyed.

Stairs up to the Forest Park.
Under the tree canopy at the Forest Park trail.

On our drive back to Iloilo, we enjoyed grilled native corn bought along the road and I fell asleep halfway. Tiring but certainly fun. :)

Another comfort food I don't get to eat a lot anymore - grilled native sweet corn!

And They Say Ilonggos Are Sweet

Maybe it's because some of the best pasalubong products from my hometown are for sweet-toothed ones!

I have yet to meet anyone who will say no to the Original Biscocho Haus' butterscotch. Also, Nang Palang's buko pie from Trapiche, Oton is simply divine. When I was in high school as the school paper's managing editor, I even interviewed Nang Palang about her business and brought home a whole pie at no charge! Glad to see her business has extremely flourished since then. :)

Original Biscocho Haus' butterscotch
Photo credit: Digital Format
Simply yummy buko pie from Nang Palang's
Photo Credit: Flavors of Iloilo

Sometimes, all you need is some fresh air, a few batches of delish home-cooked meals, comforting good ol' sights and the familiar sounds of laughter from the people closest to your heart and the world is all right again.

Happy to have been home. :)


  1. oooooh! you made me crave everything in this post! you still understand ilonggo/hiligaynon?

  2. @happysole - I'd kill for a batchoy on this rainy Sunday night. :) Yes, I can still speak and understand the dialect. Always will. ;D

  3. Gusto ko pa rin ng Teren Teren. Wala dito sa Manila eh.. ;)

  4. @epol - Haha, wala nga, unfortunately. I also miss kamunsil (camachile) bread. Best paired with ice-cold Coke! ;D