2nd Ilonggo Night Market and Street Food Hawkers Festival

Everyone loves to eat. Who doesn’t? If given an opportunity to splurge on unlimited food trips with our loved ones, wouldn’t we just altogether respond with that resounding “yes!’? When it comes to the best food spots, we all have our favorites and just by limiting our gaze at the metropolis, every city hosts at least one. There’s Kapitolyo in Pasig, Poblacion in Makati, Maginhawa in Quezon City, and, of course, Binondo – the World’s Oldest Chinatown.

Chef Rafael Jardeleza Jr during the Iloilo launch of Let’s Cook with Nora book

But if I were to pick a place outside Manila that for me is one of the best hubs when it comes to food trip and dining escapades, it would be somewhere down south in the Western Visayas region. Today, we venture outside the metropolitan center of the country and shine the spotlight on Iloilo City, also known as the City of Love.

Few weeks ago, I got invited by Chef Rafael Jardeleza Jr., known to many as Chef Tibong, to visit Iloilo for the 2nd Ilonggo Night Market and Street Food Hawkers Festival. I was also requested to sit as one of the judges at the 1st Nora Daza cooking contest. Allow me to share with you my experience in this truly remarkable food trip.

Heavily Crowded 2nd Ilonggo Night Market and Street Food Hawkers Festival

For some reason, our PAL flight got delayed, but I guess my excitement to see Iloilo kept me going. After less than an hour of flight time, we finally reached the progressive, bustling city of Iloilo. Chef Tibong is the main man behind the extraordinary food fest we were going to attend at, so from the moment I received the invite to the time the plane touched down on the city, I had it in mind that it will be a huge success. And it was.

My room at Courtyard by Marriott Iloilo

But before we go to the highlights of the event, let me give you a sneak peek of my experience in Iloilo. If you think this city is only all about Biscochos and La Paz Batchoy, think again. Check out some of the interesting food spots we visited.

Day 1: To Iloilo We Go

Upon safely landing at Iloilo International Airport, we started planning where we wanted to eat. What I liked about this trip was its spontaneity. We just thought of our favorite food and visited the places where we can find them.

La Paz Batchoy Brunch at Decos in La Paz Market Iloilo

Our first stop was at Decos in La Paz market where we savored on a bowl of La Paz Batchoy. It was the very first Decos shop opened by butcher Federico “Deco” Guillergan Sr. in 1938. Where it all began, the stall is small, simple and still looks like the eatery it’s been in the past. People from all walks of life eat here. I shared the table with the children of celebrated late Chef Nora DazaChef Sandy Daza and his sibling Nina Daza-Puyat—and of course, Chef Tibong and fellow writer Domenic Galeon. Food is food. And no matter where you eat it, if the food is good, people will go in droves especially since this place has contributed a lot to Iloilo’s culinary heritage.

Decos Original La Paz Batchoy in La Paz Market
Deco’s La Paz Batchoy
Iloilo Puto best paired with LaPaz Batchoy

While we were finishing our bowl of Batchoy, Chef Sandy suggested that we treat our palate with something sweet – the Ube Brazo de Mercedes found in La Paz Bakeshop. As the name implies, it’s a purple-colored Brazo de Mercedes with sweet purple yam filling inside–a fresh take from the original custard-filled version.

Ube Brazo de Mercedes

Located just a few steps away from Decos was an old panaderia which also serves frozen birthday cakes and their ube-flavored specialty delicacies. The panaderia offers a number of tables for those who want to dine in and although the place is not air-conditioned, I still highly recommend this place to be included on everyone’s Iloilo food trip itinerary.

Day 1.5:  Celebrating Chef Nora’s Legacy

After our satisfying Batchoy brunch, we then proceeded to Courtyard by Marriott Iloilo, our official home for our three-day, two-night (3D2N) stay in Iloilo City.

Let’s Cook with Nora Cookbook launch in Iloilo City

We then left our things in our respective hotel rooms and then headed to the Courtyard’s executive lounge for the launch of the latest version of the cookbook Let’s Cook with Nora which was published in 1969. The event was attended by foodies and some important guests who witnessed the legacy of Chef Nora Daza, one of the most celebrated chefs in the country.

Nina Daza-Puyat showing the latest version of the cookbook Let’s Cook with Nora

The new and improved version of Chef Nora’s National Bookstore bestseller was redesigned and updated with tried and tested ingredients. The cookbook’s recipes were reconstructed in such a way that it would be easy to follow and understand. There were also some cooking tips and pointers to remember.

Miss Nina Daza-Puyat welcoming the guests

Miss Nina Daza-Puyat, Chef Nora’s youngest daughter, gave a short speech to share the story behind the new and improved edition and what we can expect from it. Chef Sandy also demonstrated how to cook one of his favorite dishes which he learned from his mom, the ginger and spring onion chicken.

Chef Sandy Daza and Chef Rafael Jardeleza Jr during the cooking demo
Miss Nina Daza-Puyat and Chef Sandy Daza during the Book Signing event

As we enjoyed the dishes served to us which by the way came from the recipes in the cookbook, Chef Sandy and Ms. Nina went on with the book signing and photo opportunity with the guests. The event was really jam-packed, yet remained solemn and genuine.

After the event, we had a chance to meet Justice Francis Jardeleza during a dinner he hosted for his family and close friends. We then trooped to Robinsons Place Pavia to experience the 2nd Ilonggo Night Market and Street Food Hawkers Festival.

Iloilo Night Market and Street Food Hawkers Festival
At the Ilonggo Street Food Festival photo via Robinsons Place Pavia FB Page
Local Food Products at the Ilonggo Street Food Festival

Robinsons Place Pavia (FB Page) lies along Old Iloilo-Capiz Road, a major thoroughfare that links Iloilo International Airport to the city center. The highway is lined with shopping centers, food hubs, office structures, hotels, and commercial establishments.

Day 1 of the 2nd Ilonggo Night Market and Street Food Hawkers Festival

The festival was held in a vacant lot right in front of the mall. It was a huge foodie haven which could potentially satisfy just about everyone’s hankering for almost anything yummy–may it be street food, grilled, home-cooked, fried, baked, or roasted. There were also desserts and even hot and cold beverages–not to mention, the ones alcoholics would love. Anyone with an insatiable hunger surely had a gastronomic treat in this event.

Read PART 2: FOOD TRIP: Exploring Iloilo’s Best Food Spots

Searching for best hotels and affordable flights? Check out our complete list of affordable hotels and resorts via Agoda or you may also see available Airbnb properties in the city.

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