Returning from a trip to Iloilo empty handed is not an option – a friend told me before I left Boracay a couple of weeks back. For Pinoy’s, a pasalubong is a gift you bring for family or friends after you return from someplace. While at first the obligation can seem overwhelming, in fact it’s now something that I look forward to. Being me, I try to make my pasabulongs as unique and outrageous as possible. In Iloilo City, believe me – that’s not hard.
Panaderia de Molo
As I was wandering down Guanco Street in Iloilo City and just enjoying doing a bit of window shopping, I was really enjoying the surprises that keep popping up in the pasalubong shops and stalls I saw. There was no shortage of the distinct flavors, smells, and odd looking delights that you find throughout the Philippines, but the real interesting things are pure Ilonggo.
Your Iloilo invasion will never be complete without trying and buying Biscocho – a delicacy that has been a top choice for the Ilonggo’s and Iloggo’s at heart. Tourists can also buy Biscocho Haus products at the city’s major malls like SM City, Robinson’s Place and Gaisano. Biscocho Haus is also known for their butterscotch pastries and piaya which are also famous Ilonggo delicacy.
If you have ample time, you may want to visit an old bakery in Molo Iloilo called Panaderia de Molo – they are also popular for their cookies and other baked goodies.
Pasalubong Shops @ Iloilo International Airport
The dried seafood section of the markets is incredibly big. As you walk in you will catch a waft or two of, shall we say, pungeant aromas which might just linger with you until your next bath. Of course the usual items were all there the pinakas nga guma-a and the dried squid. All of these in various sizes and flavors for those who love nothing better than a chewy lime flavored piece of octopus tentacle.
Local Dried Fish
Personally, I prefer the chili flavored dried mussels for breakfast and usually save the others for lunch or dinner. You can find fish bones, dried up guts and organs, and boneless dilis to excite your nose and your palate. Don’t forget to get a big brown pile of guinamos/bagoong. That’s all kinds of dried fish, mixed together with salt and spices and then allowed to ferment into a sticky and pungeant past. After that it can be dried and then crushed into a powder which is used to season anything from mangoes to hamburgers.
The truth is the pasalubong itself doesn’t matter so much as the idea that you are considering someone else while you travel and the more unique you can make your gifts, the more likely they will be appreciated and talked about. Even if it gets kept in the freezer next to a box of baking soda that still won’t be able to absorb the powerful smells.