Ilonggos are also a business minded persons; they have different kinds of business. The Iloilo city are one of the improving provinces in the Philippines because people here are hardworking and a businessman. Many stall that you see in the city selling fruits, drinks and other things that they can earn. Many sidewalk vending earn for their own living.
As we embarked on our journey to the Philippines one thing all the travellers had in common was FOOD! This meant we were all eager to try anything and everything Iloilo had to offer us without any restriction and Iloilo did in fact have so much to offer. From the aromas of the many meats marinating in the streets to the juicy mangoes and buko (coconut) shake- we tried and enjoyed them all!
We had already heard about the very famous balut, which is an 18 day old chick/duck egg, (not for the weak stomach), a challenge we were willing to accept. On our very first day just outside the University we were able to see the many vendors selling all types of food ranging from the oh so SWEET Guimaras mangoes to chicken intestines, balut and lechon (BBQ pork) and so much more! Everything was basically at our door step.
First we started with the small and not so horrific experiences like the pinasigbo.This dish was presented to us when we arrived at the Gender Building of the University of Philippines Visayas, and is a native delicacy which is sliced caramelised banana and sweet potato with a drizzle of sesame seeds. Although it was chewy, it was so delicious and refreshingly sweet, and the best welcome snack we could not get enough of.
Pinasigbo, the first thing we tasted in Iloilo.
Not so long after, we were then introduced to ibus. It is considered a very popular local delicacy, not just in Iloilo, but the entire Western Visayas area. It is surprisingly easy to cook up yourself! Ibus is quite similar to a Sri Lankan dish called kiribath also known as milk rice, so for me it was a taste of home away from home. It was basically made of glutinous rice also known as pilit mixed with coconut milk. However the making of this dish still requires some artistic skill and resourcefulness when it comes to wrapping the rice with a coconut leaf.
Ibus, unwrapped and ready to eat.
(Picture by Emily Choong)
This thoughtful preparation just proves how complex Ilonggo cuisine is, with careful attention to detail being a priority as well. Also, one cannot fail to mention the Guimaras mangoes! The sweetest and most flavourful mangoes I have come across – so good that when we actually went to Guimaras Island we just had to have more! On this very same occasion we also had bibingka. Wrapped in a pandan leaf, it resembles sweet pudding made with rice and coconut milk.
Roadside stall selling bibingka (Picture by Emily Choong)
Everywhere we went one thing that refreshed us was the undeniably delicious mango shake! Available at almost every street corner, the mango shake replaced water! With a blend of just crushed ice, fresh mango, sugar and a drop of condensed milk we were sold after our very first one! Such a basic concoction, that I find it hard to believe why I did not think of it myself. This is one thing I will miss very much from Iloilo.
We did love our mango shakes…
On our tour to the numerous churches, we came across something which looked just like a pancake, just outside Molo Church. We were all wondering what the catch was exactly considering we were not yet used to the Ilonggo cuisine. When I asked our student guide Peter what it was he just bluntly replied “It’s just pancake lah..” Although it looked just like a pancake, obviously I did not believe him – I thought he had other plans especially since there was balut at the next stall. We all tried it and were definitely not disappointed! – topped with butter and sugar, so simple yet so tasty, definitely kept me wanting more.
Just pancakes. No catch.
As we actually approached the moment of tasting our first balut, although none of us mentioned it to each other, it was obvious that some of us had begun to chicken out – first with the excuses like ‘ I’m too full from all that other food’ or ‘I really loved the BBQ pork, let’s have more’. As expected only some of us were brave enough to try it and those who did actually loved it and had more! Although it looked quite strange and completely unappetizing, the taste can best be described as that of a normal chicken egg, but with a slight tinge of saltiness.
The infamous, but ultimately innocuous balut
(Photograph by Emily Choong)
Another delicacy that could not be missed was biscocho. It was simply baked bread topped with butter and sugar, although occasionally topped with garlic. It was the perfect snack while on the go, and is freely available in convenience stores as well as street vendors. Despite not being as exotic as balut or chicken intestines, biscocho is definitely a must have in Iloilo city.
Biscocho. Simple and delicious, especially when served with tsokolat
Lastly, the most popular dish in Iloilo by far was most definitely the various barbecued meats and fish. These meats included the not so regular parts as well – there were chicken intestines, pigs’ ears and so on. Although I did not come across the latter, the chicken intestines were a definite go! Our student guide, Paolo stated that if it tasted bitter, it meant that it had not been cleaned properly which also meant that the chicken’s feces were still present. Luckily, however, it was not bitter but actually quite tasty. Would I have it again? Probably not. Still, barbecued with a mango sauce, it was just too good to pass. The texture on the other hand, was questionable – resembling that of something I just cannot seem to describe!
Chicken intestines… on a stick.
The food of Iloilo was most definitely a memorable experience, and I think it is safe to say that we were completely satisfied – or rather, our stomachs were completely satisfied with the variety of food we consumed. Iloilo clearly had so much to offer and we took advantage of that. The food mentioned is just a few of the many things we actually had. The food amongst other things is what makes Iloilo what it is, and I loved it.