Diving Into Iloilo With Chef Tibong Jardeleza Jr.

From “The Best Food in Iloilo with Erwan Heussaff (Part 1)

Iloilo is a land full of culture from our traditional Filipino roots to Spanish and Chinese influences. The same can be said for its cuisine. The Iloilo City official website tells us that the city gets its name from its geography. The city is cut by the surrounding rivers to look like a nose hence being called “Irong-Irong” or nose-like which eventually evolved into the city’s current name. 

Chef “Tibong” Jardeleza Jr., author of the “Flavors of Iloilo” cookbook served as our guide on this culinary expedition, showing us all sorts of delectable spots to try out. Safe to say we ended up having a full day’s meal before noon.

If you’re ever going to take your own food trip around Iloilo City, our first recommended first stop would be the Iloilo Public Market where you can try the local produce such as the bukaka fruit with its earthy flavor. You can also pick up a few local ingredients such as the batwan, used to sour dishes as well as the wide assortment of dried fish.

Be sure to come back later around lunch time to try Jr. Rawit’s Native Lechon Manok as it’s been going strong for 35 years. Though if you prefer a late-afternoon snack, they serve beer and ihaw-ihaw starting at four in the afternoon.

Once you’re done with early morning groceries, you can have a nice breakfast/brunch at Nora’s eatery which traces its origins back to 1969. With an array of grilled, Tagalog, and Ilonggo dishes, you won’t know what to try first. We recommend Sinabawang Isda na may Batwan for a traditional feel and the flavorful Pinamalhan nga Isda.

For a more savory meal care of Chef Tibong’s childhood is Cyril’s Eatery It’s a good place to try Arroz Valenciana which is a rice dish with coconut milk, turmeric, and meat as well as some delicious Lechon Paksiw.

So far, we’ve encountered a few unfamiliar dishes (unless you’re a local) but for many, these are flavors of home. For Bruce Buenafe, former OFW and current owner, cook, and even market runner of Beige Eatery, he missed the flavors of home during his time abroad and so he’s committed himself to delivering some of the food that he loves eating, withdishes like sauteed scallops or Chicken Biga-Biga.

No food trip would be complete without a round of dessert to wash it down and Maridel’s has you covered with amazing pastries.You have to try their Snicker’s Pie and Duck Pao. Take some home too!

Last but not the least is Breakthrough. Perfect for those who want a seaside view and an entire feast in front of them. Started in the 80’s, the restaurant is one of the city’s many icons serving both traditional and modern dishes such as Imbaw soup, a broth with hints of garlic, fresh bagoong, and Diwal or Steamed Angel Wings Clam with a butter dipping sauce.

By the end of this trip, you’ll probably feel like you’ve eaten a week’s worth of food. We can’t blame you, the smells that you’ll encounter alone are sure to fire up your appetite. One last tip both from us and from Chef Tibong is that exploring Iloilo’s food scene is something best done over the course of a week. Either way, we’re sure it’s already square on your bucket list!


“History.” Iloilo City, https://iloilocity.gov.ph/main/history/. Accessed 9 October 2023.

Written by: Miguel Lindog

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