Ilo-ilo: a potential paradise for foodies

"Mmm... Ang sarap! Ang mura! (This is good! And cheap!)" was something Greenminds, the Ilonggo BFF, heard over and over again when he showed me around Ilo-ilo. 2 days were too short for a city filled with so many good restaurants, street treats, and cafes to try.

Breakfast, snacks, or late night dalliance over coffee
Bowls of batchoy for under Php40? Pastries (butterscotch, coffee bars, revel bars) no more than Php15? Head over to JD's Bakeshop. Regarding the batchoy, yep, forget the ones in Manila, the Ilonggo batchoy even without the addition of patis is really, really tasty.

Cookies for PhP5? Coffee that can give Starbucks a run for its money for less than Php50? That can be had at the popular local hangout Coffeebreak.

Bluejay Coffee and Deli, another local coffee place, has interiors as cool as their "dangerous" claim: they make the best ensaymada. Of course, what child who grew up Pinoy would dare not try to disprove a claim like that; pwedeng magkaron ng best ensaymada FULL STOP? Reeeally? Bluejay didn't disappoint. The ensaymada was pretty, bigger than usual, and really cheesy. Maaaring hindi best, pero may laban.

Dapat may photo-op with the best ensaymada
Photo c/o F. Grate
Dinner and heavyweight feasts
For full meals or special dinners, go to the aptly named Ponsyon ("feast" in Ilonggo) at Plazuela (near SM Ilo-ilo).  Greenminds specifically brought me here to try the managat, a special fish which, as far as we know, is only served in Ilo-ilo. The taste and texture is quite creamy. Have it sinugba (grilled) or sinabawan (with soup). If you're in the mood for something more sinful, order a plate of Ponsyon's lechon kawali, too (bless your heart, it was so good).

Turtle, my foodie friend, would insist that you visit Tatoy's, perhaps my greatest omission this time around. Promise Tatoy's, sasaludo at makikisalo ako w/ friends sa lamesa nyo next time. From Turtle's stories, the lato and the buttered clams were heavyweights, in terms of serving size and taste.

I'll be back for you, Tatoy's
Photo c/o J. Ferrer
Tatoy's lato, photo c/o J. Ferrer

Baon and pasalubong
And you don't have to part with Ilo-ilo at the point of boarding your flight back home just yet. The legendary Biscocho Haus (before "haus" was even street) lets you take its yummeh treats back to the land of no biscocho Manila. Don't miss out on the butterscotch bars (they're perfect with coffee!) or those thin, fun-to-nibble galletas.

Go crazy with shelves and cabinets filled with pasalubong
An Ilonggo's food language
Heading to Ilo-ilo to eat? Then, you must know the following:
  • "Taho" is not the soybean variant, but brewed ginger. It's "salabat" to us, Tagalogs.
  • Want some ginataan? Yes, the sweet, sticky soup with sago and bilo-bilo? Ask for "lugaw."
  • "Tinola" is anything with broth. So yes, they have tinolang isda over there.
  • Patis is pretty non-existent in their recipe list. Anyone who asks for patis is given toyo instead.
While "Pansit Canton" is a myth created in our lands, meaning, there's really no pansit canton in the Canton province of China, "La Paz Batchoy" is a specialty of the town of La Paz, Ilo-ilo. And Pansit Molo? Yep, its origins can be traced to the Molo town of Ilo-ilo. :)

*Thanks to Greenminds, Turtle, and the ValMan for their contribution to this post.


  1. Nagutom ako bigla! haha

    I'm glad you enjoyed Iloilo :)

    1. I had the best guide. Come to KL na. :)