round the clock in the queen city of the south

After the Pinatubo hike, that’s when we realized that it would really be the busiest month of 2010. After booking some more flights we ran around Manila like foreign tourists, minus the public transportation piece of it. We gave our guest from Vancouver an ultimate Manila experience–from the down and dirty foodie heaven of Estero to the glitz and glams of the Philippine fashion week.

After the fabulous holiday runway show of our friend Santi Obcena, I went straight to work, while Monette went home to prep-up for her 5 AM flight to the queen city.

Jeff and I hit the airport after a tiring day at work, wearing the same outfit I was wearing in the last 20 hours.


Monette landed at Ilo-ilo International Airport before the break of dawn, so she has extra time to check-out some places of interest within the city. After her little three-hour church hopping adventure, we arrived and decided to meet-up at (where else?) the SM Mall. That’s when we closed a good deal with a taxi driver and commissioned him to take us around and out the city for the sweet price of PhP 1500 for the whole day trip.


The cold fresh buco (coconut) water extinguished the heat and replenished my energy. I’ve been up and awake for more than 24 hours and I’m not slowing down and miss this Ilo-ilo experience.

We checked out the small towns and found out that Ilo-ilo got a fair share of beautiful churches. The strong colonial influence from the last century is still palpable in the local culture.



While walking around the Guimbal church, that’s when reality b*tch-slapped us. I asked Monette about our itinerary and prospective plan for the next three days–“Carles, we are going to Carles.” Then the driver interjected “Carles? ay malayo yun, sayang oras nyo sa byahe, dapat nag Kalibo na lang kayo” (Carles is really far, you’ll be wasting a lot of time on the road. You should have taken the flight to Kalibo if you’re planning to go to Carles).

(We) I calculated the time of flight back to Manila versus travel time to Carles (Monette shifts to cactus mode every time numbers and calculation come up) so Carles is out the window. We are officially lost.


We did some research while running around the town of Miag-ao. We’ve been searching the WWW faster than the car’s engine. We still have to book and make a reservation. We tried calling several beach resorts in Guimaras but the one day notice is too short and some are ridiculously expensive that we have to actually pimp Monette to a dirty old caucasian tourist in the city center.

Cramming temporarily stopped when we saw the breathtaking facade of Miag-ao church.



Built in 1786 by Spanish Augustinian missionaries and was declared by the UNESCO World Heritage as “One of the four Baroque Churches of the Philippines” and the only catholic church in Asia that has an aztec art influence on its bas relief.

I was astonished by the details of the coral stone sculpture-relief, It has Saint Thomas on the central oval above the sancta porta. A deeply chiseled portrayal of the local flora made a an impression of a molded plastic on its pediment. A coconut, papaya and guava tree. I was continuously snapping shots when I suddenly froze!

It is an image of Saint Christopher!


For months I was talking to Monette about getting a tattoo of Saint Christopher. He is the Patron of the Emergency Room, male nurses and coincidentally, travelers! I was even thinking of going to Paete Laguna where the saint is venerated as the town’s patron and get inspiration from the ecclesiastical art at the town’s church for my tattoo design.

I guess this was an obvious sign.


Detail of the Sancta Porta




After spending a lot of time learning the history of Miag-ao and some intriguing folklore from the parish caretaker, we gave a little donation and hit the road back to the city. We started to feel our physiologic clock ticking, time for some alcohol! So we consulted the locals as to where’s the best place to feed our little monsters. They all pointed to one direction, the  sea side restaurant of “Tatoy’s.”


The overrated Tatoy’s Chicken Inasal (or maybe we just ordered the wrong dish).


And oh, this is worth mentioning, the underrated Ilo-ilo’s buco and egg pie will give colette’s a run for their money.


Manong dropped us at “the place to be” where the hip crowd of Iloilo converge to hang out, talk on some bottles of booze and pretty much have a good night time fun (I’m salivating while typing this). Smallville is like the Tomas Morato and Greenbelt of this city, and NO Clark Kent has nothing to do with it. It was a Saturday and the perfect time for the three of us to chill.

After less than an hour and several glasses, my circulatory system started slowing down. I left Monette and Jeff with the able hands of the bartender. I took a cab back to the hotel and hit the sack, I reached lala land in no time.


The following morning, we woke up early and the two girls were talking non-stop about what I missed in last night’s party. They showed me some photos Tita wouldn’t be very proud of. Monette has this natural tendency of being… <this portion was intentionally deleted by Monette. LOL>


Biscocho, binakol, tinu-om, inasal, molo, AH! LA PAZ BATCHOY!!! Yes, that’s what I was craving for, so we attacked to the one who popularize this local version of noodle soup, Ted’s. Where we had our sumptuous myocardial infarction inducing breakfast while calling out for reservation to our next destination.


Then we head off walking to the next town…