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Published: December 27th 2016
It is NOT a first time for us. Time and again, we'd set off for the love of..... FOOD. in this case, OYSTERS. AND MANGOES. You see, I grew up in a place where oyster farming was a family business. Many weekends were spent visiting old folks, armed with a picnic basket which contains nothing more than rice, drinks, local lemons called "calamansi" and condiments like vinegar and fish sauce. We'd head over to the river where the "boys" would harvest oysters while the girls get busy "picking" fish from the fishpens. The old folks start a fire where all harvests go and then, everybody gets ready for lunch. Those were the days. Until the waters spilling from Manila Bay grew polluted and fishing and oyster harvesting weekends became a thing of the past. There were still other folks engaged in the business but we simply stopped feasting on those oysters for health reasons.
Consequently, my cravings for oysters come every so often. They travel with me, but the prohibitive price abroad left me feeling even more deprived. Until we learned that the fresh oysters to be had in many Manila seafood restaurants are supplied and delivered from
these provinces a good hour's flight south of the metropolis. Among the Panay Islands, we chose Iloilo. If one can have their oyster fix and then feast on what's claimed to be the sweetest mangoes in the country, why not?
SEAFOOD , SEAFOOD, SEAFOOD, Etc
Sure, Iloilo boasts of several heritage churches that could be visited in a day's trip but the first order of the day is making "courtesy calls" on landmark institutions known to serve the freshest seafood. Oysters and another shellfish called diwal and another shellfish whose name I can't recall. Two landmark dining places for such seafood are Breakthrough and Tatoy's, the latter having gained fame for its chicken inasal (barbecued) dishes too. Just a half four drive out of the city center. We rented a car here for these pitstops on our way to visit the heritage churches.
I will never grow tired of oysters, and it remains my all-time favorite but there is certainly an abundance of clams and other shellfish here that spells adventure. Such adventures compete for attention with the heritage churches to be found here in Iloilo. I must confess I couldn't
wait for my next meal here. Iloilo has a very distinct cuisine that has invaded national consciousness. The noodle soup oozing with crunchy, unhealthy, meaty goodness hails from a town called La Paz --- hence, the soup name "La Paz Batchoy". the chicken barbecue called "Inasal" is also very Ilonggo. And just a short boat ride away is the world-famous mangoes from Guimaras Island. Surely, this is a gastronomic trip. Foraging takes on a whole different meaning here in Iloilo!
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