Impressed by Iloilo's Irresistible Cuisine

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Flag of Philippines  , Visayas,
Friday, April 14, 1995

Iloilo holds a special place in my heart as it was there where my ancestors, who all hailed from Antique, have first settled for quite some time before striking their roots in Mindanao. A few relatives, however, like my father's younger sister, have opted to stay there, ready to play gracious hosts to any visiting kith and kin.

Blessed with so many irresistible charms, Iloilo — both the province and the city — offers a wide array of attractions ranging from the historical, cultural and natural that would make a visit to the place a wonderfully enriching experience. Its centuries-old churches alone, which are found in Alimodian, Miag-ao, Tigbauan, San Jose, Guimbal, San Joaquin, to name a few, are enough to dazzle you with the Ilonggos' rich heritage as well as architectural prowess.

Of the many charms that Iloilo possesses, there's one that has etched a stirring impression on so many palates: Ilonggo cuisine. Home to authentic gastronomic delights that can satisfy even the most discriminating taste buds, it has made an indelible mark into the consciousness of every food-loving Pinoy here and abroad. Just think of La Paz batchoy and pancit Molo, two Ilonggo dishes that can really make my day.

Like most typical dishes in the country, simplicity characterizes Iloilo’s homegrown delights. But even without frill and fancy, they count among the most sensational Pinoy cuisine you’d ever get to taste. Known for their tenderness, sweetness and graciousness, Ilonggos seem to bring these wonderful traits into their cooking, thus, achieving something which they term as manamit (delicious).

Seafood forms a good part of traditional Ilonggo fare which is usually prepared using different spices and garnishings. Take for instance the delectable oysters that it’s famous for. Known as talaba in the native tongue, the scrumptious bounty from the sea can be cooked in a variety of ways — grilled, fried, baked, sautéed, boiled. While sinugba nga panga (grilled tuna jaw) still tops my choice of the perfect handmaiden, or pulutan, if you wish to all it, to dear old, iced cold beer, I think talaba promises to be an equally sumptuous alternative.

Another Ilonggo delicacy that’s been tickling many Pinoys’ taste buds, including mine, is inasal (grilled chicken) which can be found in almost every restaurant in Iloilo. A marinade of local herbs and spices gives this mouth-watering dish its unique flavor. Tasty but not salty, it has the right amount of sweetness that leaves you hankering for more. Inasal, which is cooked over hot charcoal, is best served with piping hot rice wrapped in banana leaves and then eaten with bare hands.

Well, that’s just a sampler of what Ilonggo cuisine is all about. As for the two most popular delicacies — pancit Molo and La Paz batchoy — they’ll have to wait for their turn to be written separately after I’ve heeded the call of my tummy for some fillers. How I wish it’s one lunch with talaba as main course.
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Where I stayed
Aunt's house
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