Our first challenge was the Battle of the Batchoys:
Ted's or Deco's
A.'s internet survey winner was Ted's although Deco's batchoy was not far behind. The soup for both actually taste similar- beefy, salty with a little peppery kick. The difference between the two is in the texture. Batchoy ingredients include chopped liver and innards. Ted's liver slices were crustier and have that grilled taste. Deco's batchoy had more al dente misua noodles. In the end wherever you find yourself, it doesn't matter as long a you get your batchoy, piping hot, with a dash of pepper and a siding of pandesal or puto manapla.
Next up on our list was Breakthrough, a beach side restaurant frequented by locals and tourists alike for its fresh seafood fare, paluto style. We went there for lunch and for starters had fresh plump oysters blanched just long enough to get the shell to open and soon enough so that the succulent meat remains tender. Dipped in spicy sinamak (vinegar falvored with chilies and langgawas, a pungent type of ginger) the oyster was a I finished one whole serving with the help of a bottle of ice-cold Cerveza Negra.
We topped the meal with a simple dessert bought from a streethawker. "Pulot" is like liquid kalamay hati (a concoction made of sticky rice, brown sugar and cconut cream) (heavily infused with melted panutsa or molasses. The sweet amber dessert was packaged quaintly in a piece of slender bamboo covered with dry banana leaf.
By dinner time, we were craving for some chicken inasal and decided we'd go to Nes & Tat's (run by the long-time seaside resto, Tatoy's) in Mandurriao. The place was a bit deserted which left us wondering if the food would be worth the visit. They had no chicken inasal on the menu but we were offered the lechon manok using free range chicken. It was expectedly gamier and the meat darker than the usual broiler chicken we are used to but it was easy to eat and the skin was crispy. Dipped in sinamak (local spicy palm vinegar) and paired with hot rice, the chicken was a tasty treat.
As it was drizzling, we also ordered Malaga (Bass) and had the head made into Sinigang soup (Tamarind-based soup with local vegetables) and the rest of it grilled.
Dinner at Nes & Tat's was filling, although it makes one miss the rural seaside ambience of the orginal Tatoy's.
Since it was A.'s first trip to the province, we decided to skip a day at the beach in Guimaras and opted to go the touristy route, visiting churches.
Tigbauan Church altar mosaic
During our self-imposed Visita Iglesia, we chanced upon many bibingka stalls outside the churches. these are not the type you get from Ferinos but the palm-sized rice cakes made of ground malagkit and grated coconut baked in open-fire make-shift ovens. The sweet, chewy cakes are packed in brown bags, hot and ready to eat while you walk around the church and the adjoining pasilios.
Our guide for the day also took us to the home of Mama's kitchen where one can buy hand woven pinya cloth and the famed Mango Chewies.
One destination I never miss when visiting the provinces is the local wet market. At the Iloilo Central Market, I got me some freshly made langgaw (palm vinegar), batuan (a souring agent used for Kansi, the Ilonggo Bulalo) and guinamos (dry shrimp paste).
It was a pleasant surprise to find out that the market vendor could pack the guinamos, ready to be hand-carried for the trip back to Manila.
On our way back, I nearly had a fit as the airport security guy didn't want me to check in the langgaw. Had to bring out my Ilonggo accent and whatever little of the language I knew to convince him. A few hair flips, and a stilted dialogue that included mentioning that my dad is Ilonggo, airport guy finally relented and let me go home with the my smelly stash of Iloilo wet market goodies.