Iloilo is one of my favorite destination in the Philippines. Not only this is my parent’s province, but I also enjoy taking trips in the city and nearby town to taste delicious foods cooked in Ilonggo way. I used to remember when I was a little kid I am always looking forward going to Iloilo for a month long vacation. Every year, our whole family goes to Iloilo for a vacation. During our yearly visit I learned how to speak Ilonggo, because I remember it was hard to start a conversation with my cousins who do not know how to speak Tagalog… so what we do is I taught my cousins to speak Tagalog while they taught me how to speak in Ilonggo. Until now I grew close with my cousins in my father’s side of relatives. Actually my parents also converse in our house in Ilonggo and that is where we start learning the local dialect.
When Nins and I started dating he knew how frequent my visits in Iloilo. Every time I got to score a piso fare in Cebu Pacific and discounted fare in Air Philippines, I always drop by in Iloilo either with friends or with my sister. I didn’t know if it was fate but Nins was also spent his childhood days in Antique. Iloilo and Antique is two adjacent provinces in Panay Island. We get to tease each other that we might have met even before in ships going to Panay Island since the drop off point for those who is travelling to Antique is in Iloilo (or Aklan).
Who would have thought that while dreaming that my baby will get to experience long vacation in Iloilo, he would surpassed my summer vacation when I was a kid? 🙂 While settling some matters here in Laguna, I asked my mom to bring my son to Iloilo. My son was in Iloilo for two months. The reason that I had to take a 3-days short trip in Iloilo was to fetch my son. Since June 12 is Independence day holiday in the Philippines, I decided to booked my flight late in the evening of June 11 (Thursday) via Cebu Pacific and fly back early morning of (June 15) Monday via Philippine Airlines with my son in tow.
I left office at around 4 o’clock in the afternoon and took taxi to airport. Thankfully even if it’s a long weekend, the crowd in airport is quite small compared to other holiday and peak seasons. I do not have checked in items for baggage (I only brought only one backpack and shoulder bag) so I get to eat early dinner and stroll around the airport before finally settling in the waiting area for my flight. Thankfully our flight that is not delay and we are on schedule for departure (Thank you Cebu Pacific!). I arrived at Iloilo around 21:45 in the evening. I know I am used on going to Iloilo, but going back to our province gave me nostalgic feel. I think no matter how old I am, Iloilo has a special spot in my life.
My parents, sister and son fetched me at the airport. Since my grandparents house is just 10 minutes drive from the airport, they picked me up after I called them that my plane has landed. My mom told me that my son did not sleep in the afternoon when they told him that they will see me later in the evening. After my family picked me up, we went to our town’s plaza to stroll and met my cousins who were also at the plaza. We check out the improvements being done for the Independence Day celebration for tomorrow. The President of the Philippines will attend the events and in line to the preparation, the Spanish old Baroque church in our town was repaired, refurbished and cleaned. The moss covered stones of the church were scrubbed and the gleaming stones of the church façade stood proudly in illuminated plaza. We went inside the church grounds (the actual church is closed) and saw the few layouts of the original history and plan for the church. We candidly joked around the age old ghost stories of the church where in the middle of the night, there are footsteps heard inside like the feet was in chains and the headless priest who used to roam around the church to guard the treasure buried (but please take note these are all just ghost stories and nothing more).
After picture taking and pleasant stroll in the plaza we went home. My cousins watched movie downstairs while me and my parents catch up on the current status in Laguna while my son just lie down on bed and we didn’t notice that he already fall asleep hugging his favorite pillow.
Day 1 in Iloilo – June 12, 2015
We woke up late due to our catch up which was finished at around 2am. But still I was able to get up at 7 am (I think it is the perk of my habit to wake up early upon transferring to new work :)). I visited my lolo who was taking his breakfast and watching TV early in the morning. We talked for a few minutes with my cousin. I always miss my lolo so much, he is my only surviving grandparent since my grandmother from both side and my grandfather from my mom’s side are already gone. I still love how my lolo smiles when he sees his grandkids. I grew up endeared to my lolo because of his sweets and fondness to his grandchildren. After visiting and having catch up with my lolo, I went outside to walk on a nearby field to catch the early morning sun and see the developments of our town for the past few years. The last time I went in Iloilo for a visit was last Aug – Sept 2013 and it was my first time to bring my son to meet my parents’ relatives. I can still imaging myself running around and playing in these fields with my cousins and lolo. The sound of my childhood laughs and picture of myself running around in mud and grass reverberates in my head and puts a smile on my face.
After breakfas t, my sister and I went to our town’s market or called as “tinda” in Ilonggo. Every Tuesday and Friday, the town’s market is full of activity. Throngs of vendors and buyers fill the market with energy and buzz. And just like any other visit in Iloilo, I scan through the bargain stalls of second hand clothes, blankets and curtains or what people call as “relief” or in Manila “ukay”. Call me cheapskate but some of the items sold in these bargain stalls are barely used. You just need a sheer talent and patience to sift, choose and inspect the clothes you are going to buy. Over the years, I was able to score a sweater from United Colors of Benetton, polo shirt from Ralph Lauren and Aeropostale, and shorts from American Eagle. Nins even teased me that I have a talent in choosing and selecting clothes that were not obviously bought from bargain stalls. 😉 After an hour of looking through, I gave up but I was able to purchase a peach sweater. My sister just patiently waits for me since she knew how much I love going to town’s market. After our trip for bargain hunts I saw my favorite childhood delight which is the ice candy or homemade popsicles. I bought ten pieces of ice candies in different flavors of mango, coconut and coconut salad.
In the afternoon, my cousins, sister and I decided to take our merienda in the city. I suggest we tried the Netong’s La Paz batchoy in La Paz market. I brought my baby with me and Dad drove us up to La Paz market. After a few minutes of looking for the location of the batchoy shop and asking around we were seated at Netong’s famous La Paz batchoy shop. The place is known for its delicious and affordable local delicacy of La Paz batchoy. Since there was eight of us eating we were seated on other side of their shop and we had the places for ourselves. The place is packed especially later in the afternoon. La Paz Batchoy is my favorite comfort food and even if there are restaurants in Manila offering La Paz batchoy, I still crave for the authentic taste of batchoy in our province.
After our merienda in Netongs, my cousins decided to stroll at Iloilo Esplanade. The Iloilo Esplanade is one of newest attraction in Iloilo City and favorite hang out for students, senior citizens and people from different walks from life. You can walk, jog and hang out on the small stalls of snack houses. The Iloilo Esplanade was Iloilo City government in hopes of providing a clean park and reviving the almost dying Mandurriao river beside the park. My cousins and I happily walked on the esplanade laughing and talking. At the end of our work, my cousin treated us for a mango shake and local nachos.
My day one in Iloilo was packed with activities and bonding with my son and family.
Day 2 – June 13, 2015
My Day 2 began early in the morning doing my ritual walks in the field and visiting my lolo. During lunch my aunt (cousin of my dad) invited us for a get-together lunch at their house (just beside my lolo’s house). They prepared grilled fish, pork barbecue, pancit bihon and roast chicken. They also had ordered homemade moist chocolate cake (one of the yummiest chocolate cake I’ve tasted). My son loved the pork barbecue and chocolate cake. After the sumptuous lunch, my cousin and I were planning to take the overnight at Guimaras Island, unfortunately for us, it rained in the whole afternoon and early in the evening so that plans for island visit in Guimaras was stalled. (Please take note that it is best to visit Iloilo during summer months and during January because of Dinagyang festival to maximize your trip). When our plan did not materialize, my cousins and I decided to have our own videoke session and bonding just like the old times.
Day 3 – June 14, 2015
Early in the morning I accompanied my dad to buy my lolo’s breakfast at a nearby canteen with my son. We rode on my uncle’s motorcycle and cruise around town. Dad even showed me one of the houses he liked and we end up hopping from one subdivision to another. We spent the morning viewing different houses and design. My son enjoyed strolling and running around. Then later in the morning we accompanied lolo to his barber for his hair cut. Since my son ran to our van without his slippers on and was impatient waiting for our lolo, we strolled in town’s market and bought him cheap slippers. My cousins and sister were laughing because my son was too careful not to lose his slippers because the pair we bought was loose and do not have straps at the back. I also bought another batch of ice candies and pilipit (deep fried glutinous rice with brown sugar and sesame seeds). After lolo finished his haircut we ate our snacks at the van on the way home.
In the afternoon we went to SM Iloilo to have my eye glasses fixed and took early dinner with my cousins. After our dinner and buying pasalubongs, we went to nearby Plazuela Iloilo. The place is filled with tiangges, Starbucks, J. Co Donuts, local restaurants and bars. It is a fun hangout for students, families and friends because the place is filled with choices of food and place to shop. The fountain in the façade of Plazuela is beautiful at night. From the opposite side of SM and Plazuela is the Injap Hotel which was built by the famous owner of Mang Inasal franchise. Our night stroll was cut short due to pouring rain. We went home riding taxi and hanged out at my uncle’s nipa hut for catch up and talks.
My trip was quick and I wasn’t able to stroll a lot due to rainy weather every afternoon and evenings. Hopefully when I get back to Iloilo I would be able to get a longer vacation with Nins and visit Guimaras and nearby provinces in Panay Island.
Iloilo is close to my heart and I considered it as my second home. We never had any relatives in Laguna so bonding with my cousins is limited and precious. My parents make sure that me and my sister had the time of our lives spending summer vacation in Iloilo. I had fond memories of my lolo’s 50 pet dogs (I even owned one until college), riding the pigs and carabaos in the farm, slide down from hilly side with my cousins (behind our lolo’s house) using coconut branches as our “surf board”, waking up early in the morning seeing the beautiful sunrise in farm, picking fresh watermelons and melons along the road while visiting our other relatives, eating one peso bibingka, going to beach and climbing up coconut and mango trees. I dreamt that one day my baby will get to experience my memorable childhood in Iloilo. I knew he just started his orientation to our province and I am looking forward that my son would be able to appreciate our province just like what I did before. I knew my baby had a good time bonding with my family and experience the joys of playing in a farm, fields and meeting his relatives.