Hometown glory

Once every few months I hop on a plane home for a short break to recharge my well-worn mind, body, and soul as well as rediscover and reacquaint myself with the City of Love that I love. Not only do family and friends never run out of interesting stories to tell over sumptuous Ilonggo dishes and other flavors of home, several new and noteworthy restaurants have popped up since my last visit and I was excited to check each and every one. Besides, with all the outpouring of blessings in terms of progress in my city, things are definitely looking up on our side of the archipelago.

The warm hospitality and sing-song accent of the Ilonggos ("Hi Pangga!") are only two of the many traits that make us dear and possibly lovable to most. Although attempting to keep up with the construction and traffic, it's still not as busy as Metropolitan Manila either, so Iloilo is the perfect place to put my hair down, kick my shoes off, and just unwind. You should try it too!

Of course home is not home if it's not filled with the people I love and not to mention the wonderful feast set on the table every time we gather. Trust my grandma's cook to whip up my favorite meals on short notice. I also got to bond with our adorable cousin who was in her terrible twos for the longest time now. I brought her some Disney movies and her reactions to every scene are priceless. I'm not as close to her compared to my other siblings who smother her with love and attention but I do enjoy every second we are together, even if it's spent on a long afternoon nap.

I flew in late Friday night and, as timing has proven to be the enemy, I only had Saturday to have my Iloilo-based family together. The following day, my little sister flies back to Manila for her second year of college after her four-months long break (Welcome, new academic calendar!) and Mom will be accompanying her throughout enrolment and changing of dorms. Bummer. Meanwhile, that afternoon we supported our brother during his practice game. Their team obviously won by a great margin with a couple of goals courtesy of our very own soccer champ.

Merienda cena was in the 60s-themed Dad's Diner Mom frequents, especially for their yummy and affordable burgers and taco fries which you can down with the tastiest homemade lemonade. On Sunday I had plans to see some of my high school classmates for after-lunch desserts at the lovely Healthy Kitchen. Despite the two weeks of planning, Facebook event inviting, and constant reminding from my end, the turnout was disappointing. Nonetheless, I was able to catch up with the friends I haven't seen in ages and discuss our bright, bright futures.

I rushed to church shortly after to see my closest and longest friends from grade school. I appreciate that they took a couple of hours off of their study time to become the future doctor (Lyza) and future dentist (Virgie) they dream to be just to indulge me. We sipped iced coffees and had Thai dinner, all while exchanging tales ranging from mundane to out of this world. Later, the "recharging" part of my trip came and I spent it by my lonesome lounging at home, catching up on reality television. After just one day I got bored out of my mind and spontaneously accompanied my cousin Nikki to the university campus which was about an hour or two away from the city but surprisingly had incredible wifi signal!

I'm also so glad B squeezed a brunch date with me in her extremely hectic schedule, studying medicine and all. We met up at the recently-opened New York-inspired sidestreet cafe right across the town plaza. B and I used to be neighbors until her family moved to new location altogether and this has kept me from spending late afternoons (which easily turned into sleepovers) at their home. I later found out that she skipped a class just for me, I'm flattered but somehow felt a tinge of guilt for it. She assures me that she's not missing anything major in the hour we spent together. Douva's entrees and interiors gave us the perfect solace from all our ridiculous miseries; our little piece of the City that Never Sleeps in our hometown.

That evening, together with Nikki and my Tita Men, I paid another item on that to-check-out places in Iloilo City list a visit: Bistro Carcosa. The restaurant won me over interiors-wise with its rustic, homey, but sleek vibe (I ought to see how it looks in broad daylight). The menu, however, could use a little improving. I couldn't even remember the last time I've had some quality alone-time with this mother-daughter tandem. We talked on and on all night about anything and everything (mostly about career choices, a gruesome yet exciting topic if you ask me), there was clearly no generation gap at all. We went home past our Cinderella curfews with our empty Starbucks cups and laughter filling up the car.

Currently on his senior year in high school, my brother started attending a different school thanks to a well-deserved soccer scholarship from a generous family. With this, Mom can't help but be more hands-on when it comes to his education and we sisters are truly thrilled for that. I visited him one lunch time and saw how he's enjoying it so far. In the afternoon, after a little portrait shoot, I tagged along as Mom attended a parent-teacher conference of sorts and it somehow made me look forward to being a supportive mother too one day. We ended the night with a seafood and native food feast all while our eyes and ears were glued to the Titanic-like Ikaw Lamang Book 1 finale on the television, just like everyone else in the diner.

I began August with a happy heart, something home never fails to graciously give me and which I will always come back for. Thank you for welcoming me with open arms as if I never left... Until the next trip, Iloilo!

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