Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Iloilo diary

I really, really was planning to do updates regularly throughout my trip, but for the last week or so, I stayed in remote places where there was no Internet connection. Then I went to Boracay, where there was Internet, but given the choice between going online to blog (and catching up on work and checking my email) and drinking beer on the beach, well, it wasn't much of a choice really. It wasn't until today, back in the office, that I was able to go online for an extended period of time.

But I do have lots of stories scribbled away, so I figured I'd just write up a really long post about my trip, Pancit Canton style. Speaking of which, is it weird that I get a bit thrilled when I stumble upon blog posts that mention the old site. Also, a couple of weeks ago, I saw this weird entry in my site's logs:


Patay tayo diyan.

Anyway, here's what happened over the past weeks:

January 9 to 10 - Iloilo City

After Bacolod, I went back to Iloilo to my tita's place. Didn't do much during my first day back, except to watch TV. I got a kick out of watching the guy who anchors the local Iloilo evening news. I think they just hired the person who looked most like Mike Enriquez.


I also went to a couple of La Paz batchoy joints. Ted's Oldtimer La Paz Batchoy was the big player, with the chain having an outlet at every mall and public place in Iloilo. I went to their old shop just outside the La Paz public market:


Then I tried Ted's new competitor, Deco's Original La Paz Batchoy, at its outlet in Gaisano in La Paz. Like Ted's, the restaurant has been around for a while, but a businessman (who happens to be a cousin of a cousin of mine) bought the restaurant and has also turned it into a chain. Their outlets are really nice and offer free wi-fi. The batchoy is awesome too, and you can get unlimited refills of the broth:


On the evening of the 10th, I met up with my Tito Roland who took me around Iloilo's nightspots. Now, here are a couple of things you need to know about Tito Roland:

  1. He gets around the city in a motorcycle.

  2. 2. He likes his Red Horse beer, and he matches each bottle of my San Mig Light with a Red Horse 500ml; and mind you, I can put it away, too-- I think I had nine bottles that evening.

The night started out promisingly enough. I even began to entertain the thought of buying a motorcycle, because it's just so much easier to get around. By the end of the evening though, I was already quite certain that I was going to die a horrific death in the backstreets of Jaro.

Anyway, we ended up okay, and we were able to go to a couple of, er, interesting places, even though we didn't stay long in any one place. The most, er, interesting place we went to was this club in the second floor of the building that had rooms for rent in the ground floor. I don't even remember the name of the place, we really didn't stay long -- maybe Kwan could tell you. It was like a really, really poor man's version of Genie/Goodlife.

January 11 to 13 - Carles, Iloilo

At first, I thought the town of Carles was in the middle of absolute fucking nowhere. I was wrong; looking at the map, it was the edge of absolute fucking nowhere.


The plan was to go island-hopping once we got there. Unfortunately, the weather was so bad that we couldn't risk going on the pump boat, so we were stuck hanging out in the resort with nothing to do.




It just so happened that on the evening of the 19th, there was a dance (baylehan) at the baranggay's basketball court. I was hanging out with the resort owner, William, and he was trying to get me to go to the event. It was, apparently, a very very big deal for the people there, and William even had a table reserved for him, so he really wanted me to go. Our conversation went like this:

William: "Sama ka na, masaya yun!"

Me: "Naku, wala akong hilig sa ganyan eh, tsaka medyo nilalagnat pa ako."

William: "Meron tayong isang case ng beer dun..."

Me: "Tara na, lakad na tayo, baka gabihin pa tayo eh!"

William: "...kaya lang, Eagle lang ang iinumin natin dun."

Me: "Bah... walang kaso ah!"

If you've never been to one of these things, well, it's quite a sight. It's the sort of shindig that only happens every so often, so the whole baranggay was there, with people whose ages ranged from 4 to 80. When we walked in, cha-cha music was playing and there was a middle-aged couple who were enjoying themselves a *little* too much. I mean, it wasn't freaking, exactly, but only because there wasn't any grinding happening.

The music was as eclectic as the crowd, which included the town's vice mayor and the municipal administrator. Apart from cha-cha music, here are some of the songs that played during the evening:

It was also the first time I'd tried Gold Eagle Beer, and I didn't think it was that bad. It certainly tasted like it was watered down, but that meant you can drink it lukewarm without puking. For a moment there, I was even a little jealous of William. Living quietly at the edge of absolute fucking nowhere, drinking cheap beer till the sun came up, it's a hell of a life.

January 13 - Side trip to Estancia, Iloilo

Two towns away from Carles was Estancia, which was the seafood capital of the province. The town's public market was right next to the sea, and it had a charming quality to it. I went in to buy some dried fish and squid for pasalubong, and had this exchange with the vendor:

Me: "Ne, pila di sa danggit?"

Her: "380 per kilo."

Me: "Diri sa lukos?"

Her: "480. Preska na ya."

Me: (thinking) "Taena, paano magiging fresh yan, eh dried pusit yan."

Anyway, I ended up buying a whole bunch of dried fish and squid, as well as a week's worth of rights to use the line 'Daing for my love'.

January 14 to 16 - Passi and San Enrique, Iloilo

I made a quick pit stop at a tito's place for dinner after getting back from Estancia (more beer!), before going back to Passi the next morning. Another tito of mine owned a grocery in Passi, where I'd hang out in the bedroom upstairs and watch cable, and in the evening we'd go back to our family's old house in San Enrique.


About the only interesting thing that happened during this time was I had a case of the hives, which I figured I'd gotten from higad while drinking at my tito's farmhouse in Iloilo. A couple of days and lots of anti-histamine later, however, the allergy still hadn't gotten better. They decided to bring me next door to an albularyo, who concluded that I must have disturbed a nuno sa punso. He whispered his magic into a piece of ginger, which he gave me to keep tucked under my shirt. After our session, I drank another tablet of anti-histamine. That same afternoon, my allergy was gone.

January 17 to 20 - Boracay

There really wasn't anything interesting that happened in Boracay, which was perfectly fine by me.


(Tomorrow: pictures from Ati-Atihan)

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