Golden Girl is Back to the US

It’s been a few weeks since I returned to LA. In true Pinoy fashion, my entire clan picked me up at the airport and we went out for some Vietnamese food. My husband J.T. could not contain his happiness and I would like to think it was because he missed me, or that he was particularly excited about the spicy Pho at our favorite Vietnamese restaurant. I failed to mention to him that my heart (and tummy) has already fallen in love with Iloilo’s La Paz batchoy!

Being reunited with my family and grandchildren helped me get over my jet lag quickly. With pride, I passed around my phone and showed them pictures of my adventures in the Philippines.  I took 3,000 photos! Can you believe that?

When my grandchildren saw photos of the jeepneys in Manila, they immediately begged me to find one so they can try riding in it. A functioning jeepney in the U.S.? Hmm.

All in all, I can’t seem to run out of stories to tell them regarding my Manila, Tagaytay, Cebu, Boracay and Iloilo trips. I have such fond memories of the people I’ve met, the long-lost friends and hometown relatives I’ve finally caught up with, the food I’ve savored, the beautiful scenery that captivated me, the cultures of the cities I’ve experienced, and the warmth and welcoming embrace that the Philippines have given me.

Eastwood City was a wonderful surprise – shopping, dining, leisure and entertainment all rolled into a self-sustaining “city”. It even has its own Walk of Fame!

And how can I forget Davao’s majestic monkey-eating eagle? Or the tasty, though notoriously foul-smelling, durian?

I will definitely miss the one-of-a-kind Cebu lechon. Just thinking about it makes my stomach growl. How truly memorable it was to stroll leisurely in Megaworld’s Mactan Newtown to enjoy the best of Cebu and all its modern conveniences.

In Iloilo, I still remember my stay at Richmonde Iloilo and how the staff made me feel well attended and right at home. La Paz batchoy anyone?  It’s simply the best.

I have postcard-perfect photos of Boracay’s famous sunset. I will miss the fresh seafood, the powder white sand, and my ATV adventure!

A quick trip from Manila is the cool and modern city of Tagaytay. Seeing Taal Lake was breathtaking. The cool climate was balanced out by the tasty and heavenly bulalo. Oh, I would love to be able to own a vacation home in Twin Lakes in Tagaytay and have access to a vineyard.

And Manila’s hippest place, Burgos Circle, made me feel young and “cool” (is it still cool to say cool?).  I exercised and jogged within Fort Bonifacio which has been developed into a place worthy of international standards.

I am indebted to my many friends, family, and new acquaintances for making my stay in the Philippines an experience that I will cherish forever. I have indeed crossed-out a major item from my bucket list but I know that this is not the last of my trip back home.

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Strolling in the Philippines’ City of Love – Iloilo

As soon as the plane touched down in Iloilo Airport, it felt as if my heart was going to burst anytime. I’ve been so excited about visiting the so-called Philippines’ City of Love, Iloilo, with a very sweet memory of love imprinted in my heart by my grandmother when I was a kid.

Leonora De Jesus (Lola Nora), my grandmother, met the love of her life and my grandfather, Caesar Vinluan (Lolo Caesar), when they were still teenagers. Both of them were serving the church as choir and altar boy respectively. Grandma was really lovely when she was young and with her voice, Lolo Caesar was totally captivated. The Sto. Tomas de Villanueva Parish, better known as the Miag-ao Church, in the town of Miag-ao was Lola Nora and Lolo Caesar’s witness to the blossoming of their endless love for each other. Lola Nora used to tell me that she never doubted the moment Lolo Caesar confessed his love for her in front of the altar. She thought that the angels whispered on her to say Yes to Lolo Caesar – it was indeed a love match made in heaven.

Bearing that beautiful love story in my heart made my journey in Iloilo a romantically nostalgic one. I never wasted time and made sure that I visited the beautiful and UNESCO World Heritage site Miag-ao Church.  It was love at first sight that it was no wonder an endless love just like my Lola Nora and Lolo Caesar had taken place. I prayed and talked to Lola Nora and Lolo Caesar asking for their guidance to all couples who are having a blossoming love story just like theirs in the lovely church of Miag-ao.

Masadya diri sa Iloilo! (It is fun here in Iloilo!)

Iloilo City for me is a very promising place in the Philippines. From the old nostalgic churches in Jaro, Guimbal, San Joaquin and Miag-ao; and establishments rich in cultural heritage in Calle Real and Plaza Libertad to modern hotspots in Iloilo Esplanade and Iloilo Business Park, Iloilo is truly the center of the old and new.

Iloilo is also famous with its religious and cultural festival called the Dinagyang Festival. It is a feast of faith to honor the Sto Niño or the child Jesus celebrated every fourth Sunday of January. From simple foot and fluvial processions, Dinagyang Festival has gone big with street parties, beauty contests, medical missions, and food festivals. Too bad I missed the chance to witness it for the first time but I’ll try my luck next year to attend the Dinagyang Festival.

Aside from the sceneries to go to in Iloilo, I have also enjoyed the company of the Ilonggos I’ve met along the way. They have been so malambing that there have been times I almost fell like being cradled every time they were talking to me. These Ilonggos were so sweet, hospitable and kind-hearted to everyone, especially to someone who tours around like me. To all the Ilonggos, especially to Tessie, Danica, and the Tiangao family, you all are special to me. Salamat gid!

Here are some of the highlights during my stroll in the Philippines’ City of Love:

Richmonde Hotel Iloilo

From the Iloilo Airport, Tessie, my dear Filipina friend in the US who also happened to be in Iloilo during my trip, took me straight to the Richmonde Hotel. Tessie mentioned that the Richmonde Hotel opened last July 2015 under the development of Megaworld Corporation. Upon arrival, the hotel staff pleasantly greeted me and assisted me to my room. It was really a relaxing stay I had in Richmonde Hotel as well as very convenient since I had easy access on local transportation to the rest of my itinerary.

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My lovely hotel room. It was a lovely stay. Thank you, Richmonde Hotel Iloilo!

La Paz Batchoy

Since it was rainy season in the Philippines, I did not miss the chance to have one of the Iloilo’s famous noodle soup dish, the La Paz Batchoy. It has vegetables, miki noodles, pork meat and pork innards – yes, pork innards. I think I had La Paz Batchoy almost every meal during my stay in Iloilo. It did not only warm my stomach with the chilly weather in Iloilo because of the rains; it definitely also warmed my heart. Hindi lang pala talaga City of Love ang Iloilo dahil sa mga mapupuntahang lugar dito kundi dahil na rin sa mga pagkaing makakapagpasaya sa’yo tulad ng La Paz Batchoy. 🙂 ❤ Namit Ah talaga!

 

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A bowl of hearty delicious meal. Namit ah!  as they say “it tastes great” in Ilonggo.

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