A Walk Through Iloilo Business Park
June 1, 2017
It’s been a while since I last visited Iloilo City, but memories of its rustic charm and down-home warmth are forever etched in my heart, nay, in my soul. Here, I saw a place that’s brimming with history and culture, every old but preserved building has a story to tell. I met people who welcomed me into their homes and treated me like family. And yes, I had my first-ever taste of Iloilo’s iconic batchoy — that popular La Paz noodle-cum-pork organs soup garnished with lots of crushed pork cracklings, garlic, and spring onions, and topped with fresh raw egg — that warmed my heart as much as it did my growling belly. I couldn’t get enough of the La Paz batchoy that when I stumbled upon a batchoy restaurant in a mall in Manila, I joined the long and winding queue on opening day.
Batchoy, but of course!
Happily, when I visited Iloilo just last week, I rediscovered batchoy at Netong’s in La Paz’s public market. It was everything I remember my dear old beloved batchoy to be (an overflowing, deep bowl of soup), but the server asked if I wanted to add bulalo to my soup? I quickly replied, thanks but no thanks, my blood pressure was on the verge of shooting up!
Apart from the delicious eats, there’s something to nourish the soul in Iloilo. Always a must-see are the centuries-old churches. Why travel abroad when you could go on your own little pilgrimage to the many historical churches of Iloilo? This time around, we visited Molo Church, San Jose Church, and the Jaro Cathedral.
Mention Molo and what probably comes to mind is pancit Molo. But did you know that in the Molo district of Iloilo is the feminist Molo Church of St. Anne? This Gothic-Renaissance church is called feminist because of the all-female saints lining the aisles leading to the altar.
Not to be outdone is the “male chauvinist” Jaro Cathedral, where there’s an all-male ensemble of saints, except of course for Our Lady of the Candles who has the distinction of being the only Marian figure to be canonically crowned by the late Pope John Paul II when he visited Iloilo in 1981. The miraculous image is said to have granted many an impossible wish.
Discovering the new Iloilo
Today, as much as it cherishes its rich past, the once sleepy, laid-back Iloilo has awakened to the promise of a bright new future. There’s just no looking back.
“People are excited to embrace progress,” Iloilo City tourism officer Junel Ann P. Divinagracia tells us. “All this construction going on, all these developments have generated many job opportunities for our people, who don’t have to seek employment abroad. We’re targetting 40,000 jobs for our people.”
“The pride of the Ilonggos has been boosted because of the developments, they’re very proud of their city,” says Jennifer Ann Palmares-Fong, vice president for sales and marketing, Megaworld’s Iloilo Business Park.
The new Richmonde Hotel Iloilo was our lovely home away from home in Iloilo. Did you know that you get the best view of Iloilo City and Guimaras from the pool deck of Richmonde? And get the perfect sunset view from the lounge at the pool deck? Surely, the best things in life are free!
Richmonde Hotel likes to do everything in a rich, grand way. Did you know that it’s got probably the cheesiest, yummiest, biggest ensaymada in Iloilo? They’ve got the plain (meaning just lots of grated cheese coating your ensaymada) and ube (your cheesy ensaymada stuffed with the creamiest, melt-in-your-mouth ube).
For a midnight fix, you can order room service — like the doubly hot nuclear chicken wings or the hot-off-the-grill surf & turf beef tenderloin and prawns. Just try not to go to bed with your stomach full.
Your Iloilo eat-tinerary
Fact is, I discovered a foodie haven in Iloilo with the assorted food choices at the Festive Walk Parade in the Iloilo Business Park (just a hop away from our Richmonde Hotel that’s part of this integrated township). The 1.1 kilometer-long Festive Walk Parade is envisioned to be the longest dining and retail strip in the Visayas and Mindanao. An architectural marvel, it’s a mix of the old and the new. A lot of these restos are well-loved homegrown concepts that are fast becoming popular even with the foreign tourists (read more in the Food & Leisure section of The Philippine STAR).
This city is also poised to become the convention city with its Iloilo Convention Center. “We want to be the preferred convention destination,” says a beaming Divinagracia. “They can have their R & R here, see the developments, and get to imbibe our culture.”
Did you know that Iloilo is a smoke-free city? Now, that’s one more reason to love Iloilo, especially for those who value their health (and who doesn’t?). I can go anywhere in Iloilo and not have to fear getting second-hand smoke from mindless smokers who puff away in public rides and places.
So what happens when you’re caught smoking? Well, you get slapped with a P1,000 fine. Now, that’s not fine, isn’t it?
Not only is Iloilo smoke-free, it’s also got the lowest crime rate in the Visayas (and probably in the country).
Life just gracefully flows in Iloilo you can walk down the Iloilo River Esplanade and enjoy the cool breeze along the clean, smell-free river that stretches 1.2 kilometers, traversing through several districts and the city proper and emptying out into the Iloilo Strait. You can actually go for a ride down the river. While Ilonggos enjoy their clean river, we can only cry a river over our polluted rivers in Manila. One visitor even said that Iloilo River was probably the cleanest river he had ever seen!
Lo and behold Iloilo — looking back at the past while looking forward to the future.