|Jaro Belfry at Jaro, Iloilo City|
Some travels are triggered by the innate wanderlust in a person. There are those that are work-related with no fun included. And there are those that are enkindled by the desire to comfort someone in deep distress.
I was reminded by an article that I read a while ago about the alternative, or I should say, the main reason certain travel should mean to a person. It is so true that while we are going and visiting beautiful places to fulfill our burning desires to conquer the world, it is also true that we are losing the real essence of exploring an area. As a person, there is always that aspiration is us to be an inspiration to others, to motivate others with our own stories and adventures. This time around, travel should not just be about visiting historical places, shopping for unique finds, or selfie-taking in a picturesque landscape.
Going on a mission trip, traversing mountains to reach indigenous people and offer gifts they don’t expect, or simply going to an orphanage and hand out presents to little kids who need love. Those are trips that give us more sense of fulfillment and satisfaction in life while making our travels more meaningful in a sense.
One trip that prompted me to evaluate my intentions for travel is this: Paying a visit to a friend afar off who lost a loved one. It might sound boring and uneventful, which I thought so myself before going. But having known this family for so long, I just couldn’t bear the idea of not paying a visit. Their son passed on to another life, so young and so unexpected.
Jan 7, 2017
12:00 AM Having just arrived from a long day at the amusement park, my sister and I hustle off to get our stuff ready for a flight to Iloilo City at 4:20 AM. Our companions, my pastor, his daughter, and a wife from church, arrive at our house soon after. They wait for a little while, as we pack and print out tickets which we purchased just hours earlier. This has been an unexpected trip, so everything was rushed. We don’t even bother to book a hotel since we know our pastor already took care of that.
6:00 AM At around this time, we are in Iloilo City already, with so many eye bags as well as anticipation to visit the family. We wait for the pastor’s friends to pick us up and we drive off to the hotel to check in our luggage.
9:00 AM We stop at a local restaurant, favorite for its old-time ‘Chicken Inasal’ and we eat a-plenty for breakfast. We chat and they catch up as we savor the traditional Ilonggo cuisine.
10:00 AM Almost an hour away from Iloilo City town proper, we arrive at the Monte Claro’s place in Miag-ao where the wake is being held. As soon as we step in, Mrs. Flores, the child’s mother, comes out and hugs us, as tears flow down her cheeks. In an instant, memories of my sister’s agony on her own child’s death come through my mind, and I couldn’t help but shed a few tears of my own. In a few hours, the body will be buried, and we will say our final goodbye to the remains of a childhood churchmate and friend.
2:00 PM We assemble at the church building nearby to start the service. Eulogy to be given and special thanks to those who attended. Special numbers and final picture taking with the love ones will be held as a final adieu to the boy. Seeing the casket at the center of the church reminds me so much of my little nephew’s funeral service where I found myself shedding so many uncontrollable tears. The cause of both their death is so similar that I could not help but wonder again why God do such terrible things like this to these faithful people.
3:00 PM We start to head out of the church for the procession to the graveyard. When we arrive, another mini service is held as we bid our final goodbye. I listen and observe as the family tries to control their tears in front of friends and family members. There’s no denying the fact that this is a lot harder than losing a less than a year old baby. This boy was 16 when he passed away, so memories with him have already been gathered – which would be harder to forget, especially for the family. I can’t even begin with that. I hug the mother and the daughter, feeling their grief as I hide mine. Nonetheless, they try to remain put together because they know that their son is now in good hands with God.
Jan 8, 2017
There has been no problem so far. Last night, we were treated to dinner by my pastor’s old friends at a nice restaurant where flavourful foods were served.
Today, we went to church to have Sunday service with some friends. It was interesting to observe how close these people still are. The older they get, their bond seems to get even stronger. I guess that’s how old Ilonggo culture affected their relationship. Their friendship passes on through their offsprings. Hospitality is more substantial here as well, with beso-beso as their respectful greetings to everyone.
After church, we were invited to one of these friends’ house for a visit and see the new baby in their family. I sat there, observing and smiling at how courteous and admirably soft-spoken these people are compared to the uproarious Batangenous I have been used to hearing. They can easily transition to a proper American English without changing much of their accent and intonation. Which to me is really quite impressive.
Jan 9, 2017
The next day, we only had half the day to spend before my companions head back home to Lipa. We had the chance to go around town to view some historical buildings still existing.
Back at Miag-ao, we passed by the Miag-ao Church – a Unesco World Heritage Site known for its Baroque-Romanesque architectural style which served as a defense tower against invaders. Although we didn’t have time to stop and look around, the facade was already too captivating to miss.
|Restored Molo Mansion|
|Handcrafted Goods courtesy of Kultura|
|More goods courtesy of Kultura|
|Alfresco snacks area at the gardens of Molo Mansion|
Today, we stopped by Molo Mansion. Erected in the 1920s by the Yusay-Consing Heritage, this mansion was said to be destined for the wrecking ball. But, upon finding the historical value of the building, it was bought and restored by a private developer, SM Land Inc. It now served as a tourist destination, with local goods and delicacies being sold inside, facing another historical landmark, the St. Anne’s Church – a gothic-inspired cathedral.
|Sipping a cup of Hot Choco made from Tablea with Tsokolatera and Batirol|
After spending a few snapshots at the Molo Mansion, we entered Camiña Balay nga Bato – another heritage house that was built in the 19th century that combines gastronomy and antiquity. With its age-long design and structure with the ambiance of real Spanish-era, it’s really a walk back in time. It’s amazing to me how the locals respect their ancestors by preserving what’s really theirs, and it really portrays how they love their culture by sharing it with other people.
|Stairs made at almost 45-degree angle to keep invaders out and so that the person going up will have to stoop forward as a sign of respect to the Illustrados (the wealthy owner of house)|
|Antiquities and other stuff inside Camina Balay nga Bato.|
|Mememntos and photographs passed down from generations.|
|Tsokolatera and batirol traditionally used in making a cup of hot chocolate that comes out smooth and thick|
I’ve only seen the city proper thus far. But from what I have gathered from this trip made me realize that with the warm and approachable way of the people in Iloilo City, the generosity they shew us and the love and respect they have for the history of their place, it’s no wonder it has been dubbed The Philippines’ City of Love.
Indeed, just look at the map, and you’ll notice that it does look like its the Heart of the Philippines.
TIPS AND TRICKS
- Don’t forget to try the La Paz Batchoy, Deco’s or Ted’s – both originally from La Paz, Iloilo City.
- Do check out all the historical churches. You will be amazed at their grandeur.
- Do check out all the historic houses as well. It’s their heritage, and they are worth seeing.
- Do notice the difference in their cuisine, which the locals said are typically sweet and spicy.
- Do try their Bibingka. I was amazed at the difference it has from the ones they have up North.
- Batirol and Tsokolatera: Camina Balay Nga Bato Ancestral House
- Molo Mansion: The Yusay-Consing Mansion, Molo, Iloilo.
- Miag-ao Church: The Baroque Fortress Church of Iloilo: Miag-ao
- Jaro Cathedral: Jaro Cathedral: Our Lady of Candles Parish Church, Iloilo.