I am a true blue Ilonggo, having been born and bred in the city, but it took me so many years to discover that we have some of the world's best cookies right in our own "backyard!"
I only discovered them in December 2004, when a friend took me to Iloilo Sinamay Dealer (please see "Exquisite local fabrics" tip above). Right at the ground floor of the old Spanish home, which doubles as a shop, is Mama's Kitchen offering the most scrumptious and chewy cookies this side of the planet.
Mama's Kitchen prepare their cookies ala-home-made, right inside the compound. The mango chewies are simply divine - the creamy, chewy, not-so-sweet dough spiked by the tropical flavor of what is arguably the best-tasting mangoes in the world, melts in your mouth!
What to buy: The mango chewies are a must-take home goodie. They offer other cookie varieties - chocolate chip, cashews, etc., but it's the mango chewies that have captivated my taste buds!
What to pay: 180 pesos per box (about US$3.50)
This is a one-stop shop for quality local crafts. The shop offers a wide variety of products, for which Iloilo has been famous for, from delicate pastries to exquisite shell and wood crafts to intricately embroidered pineapple and abaca fabrics.
Clearly, a showcase of Ilonggo ingenuity and artistry
What to buy: You name it, they are most likely to have it - bags and baskets, gifts and houseware, bamboo/wikcer furniture, ceramics, native delicacies, herbal medicines, woodcraft, shellcraft, bamboocraft, handmade paper products, handwoven fabrics, crochet dresses, paintings and artwork, T-shirt souvenirs, and lots more!
What to pay: Depends on your budget
Iloilo boasts of a grand tradition of producing handloomed fabrics made from fibers of banana (locally called "jusi" pronounced HUSI), pineapple ("piña"), and sinamay.
And this grand tradition lives on in Iloilo's most popular dealer for such fibers - the Iloilo Sinamay Dealer.
Jusi and piña fabrics are usually sewn into local dresses - barong Tagalog for men, gowns for women - which are traditional clothes for weddings and formal occasions. The fabrics are further enhanced by intricate embroidery handsewn by skilled artisans.
What to buy: Jusi and piña fabric with intricate handmade embroidery.
What to pay: Starting from about US$10
Another good place to get those souvenirs (and even bigger ticket items) is the city's Central Market. The local handicraft section there is a every souvenir hunter's paradise - baskets, bamboo craft, local fabric, etc. - all at very reasonable prices (and don't be afraid to bargain!). Plus, it's location - the city's major (wet) market - affords you a glimpse into the everyday life of ordinary Ilonggos.
What to buy: While at the Central Market, you might as well explore it, and sample its other offerings - fresh fruits and vegetables, the freshest seafood, local cuisine, dried fish and seafood (great takehome ideas, too) and lots more!
What to pay: Very reasonable prices, and don't be afraid to bargain!
Freshly-prepared food delicacies packed in plastic wrappers. Fast service.
What to buy: Buy here the pasalubongs or your wake-up food while driving on the road. Biscocho, tarts, chips, yema and other local food delicacies Iloilo is famous of.
What to pay: Reasonable prices being a 1st hand outlet.
The whole market was a microcosm of Iloilo life.
The people seemed so friendly and unhurried.
There was a good selection of fresh seafood and fruits.
The dry good section was filled with native products and other local produce.
They were even selling veggies I never saw before.
We had fun buying kaimito (chrysophyllum cainito) and eating it standing around a trash can (clean, if there was ever one:) and mini fishes that were later cooked for dinner.
What to buy: fruits and fish
What to pay: not much as the prices are reasonable.
At the entrance gate of the Miag-ao Church grounds, a small mobile cottage is put up to showcase and sell local crafts and foods. Best location for it considering that mostly of Miag-ao tourists primarily come to visit the church, hence not missing the shop.
What to buy: Hand-made souvenirs made in Miag-ao. T-shirts. Local snack foods.
What to pay: Fixed Price - reasonable enough.
My husband is what they call a "balikbayan" -- a Filipino returning home. It's customary that balikbayans bring their family stuff when they come to visit. We didn't bring anything during our recent trip, and SAM'S SHOES solved our problem.
Sam's is located in JM Basa, Iloilo's old town. I hear there are more branches, but I'm not sure where they are. They sell shoes coming in all shapes and sizes. Other than the variety, their products come incredibly cheap! My husband's family had a spree! We must have bought 20+ pairs of footwear and the total cost us less than $100. I've never seen anything like it. I myself bought 2 pairs of flip flops that I've been wearing for the past 4 months.
My mother-in-law tells me that SAM'S SHOES has provided them with shoes for decades. It's become like an Ilonggo tradition. So if you're from abroad and are worrying that you didn't bring home enough, just take your family to Sam's!
What to buy: Le Chic Slippers
Men's Formal shoes
What to pay: It's incredibly cheap! I'd say a tenth of what the shoe would cost in first world countries
Deco's own pasalubong store! Just located next door from Deco's La Paz Batchoy at La Sallette Bldg along Valeria Street. Here, one will find all known pasalubong delicacies brands and products from all over Iloilo - Biscocho Haus, Deocampo, Trappist Monastery, etc ... with very little price difference. They'll even pack them free in a Deco's branded box for your convenience if you leave Iloilo by plane.
Even SM supermarket across the street do not have a more complete line of pasalubong products and brands in their shelves. The friendly and helpful staff comes as a big plus too.
What to pay: less than Php2.00 price difference from price of sources
Numerous small kiosks advertising "baye-baye" lined the road going to the airport at Sta. Barbara town of Iloilo province. We got so curious we just can't leave Iloilo without checking it out.
What to buy: Baye-baye (pronounced ba-ye-ba-ye) is a pastry made from lightly sweetened sticky rice and flour shaped in 4-inch cylinders and wrapped in wax paper. A pack contains about 6 pieces and sold for around P25. From those coming from Luzon island in the Philippines, it's very similar to the espasol of Laguna.
What to pay: about P25 for half a dozen pieces
What to buy:
Iloilo city was primarily an old fishing town which developed all thru the years to a major hub in the Visayas islands. Locals have developed crafting skills that spans from fabric to carving. On the street i found this fairly made schooner (am i right?) replicas in varying sizes. Wanted to take one home if i had a place for it. Unfortunately ...
What to pay: Large = P800
Medium = P300
Small = P200
Whenever we needed something, we went to SM City Iloilo in Mandurriao District. We feel comfortable in any SM mall wherever it is.
What to buy: Anything you might need can be found at SM City Iloilo. When hubby was frantic about getting an extra SD card, we found one at SM City!
What to pay: Goods are priced the same or almost the same as Metro Manila prices
SM Delgado, originally known as SM Iloilo, is the first SM Department Store in Iloilo City. It is owned by SM Land Inc. and operated by Metro Manila Shopping Mecca Corporation of the SM Group that operates branches in other parts of the country.
SM Delgado first opened in May 1979 at Iloilo City's bustling commercial district along Delgado and Valeria Streets. It was demolished on February 2, 2004, then a new building was built on the same site, and was reopened to the public on December 8, 2004. An annex building was added In 2007 to complete the shopping center's expansion and redevelopment. Many people still shop at SM Delgado because of the convenient location.
What to buy: Hubby and I went shopping at SM Delgado for some smart casual clothes.
What to pay: less than P1,500 for smart casual clothes
Robinson’s Place Iloilo is owned and operated by the 2nd largest mall operator in the Philippines, Robinsons Malls. It is located right in the center of downtown Iloilo City, conveniently bordered on all sides by main roads, namely Ledesma, Mabini, De Leon and Quezon Streets.
There are more than 200 shops, dining outlets, entertainment facilities and service centers in the 3-level shopping mall.
We often went to Robinson’s Place for meals and shopping because it is walking distance to our hotel. Besides, when we “got lost”, we simply looked for Robinson’s Place, and upon seeing it, we always sighed with relief and easily found our way back to the hotel ;)
What to buy: Dinagyang souvenir t-shirts with good quality, mineral water, snacks and "pasalubongs"
What to pay: between P500 to P1,000 (depends on what you buy)
We "accidentally" found a branch of Deco's Pasalubong Shop while we were walking in the busy streets of Iloilo City after the Dinagyang Kasadyahan. It is a one-stop store for souvenirs.
What to buy: souvenir t-shirts, keychains & other souvenir items, dried seafood, popular Ilonggo delicacies like
butterscotch and yema from Biscocho haus, barquillos from Deocampo's, galletas and hojaldres from Panaderia de Molo, chewies and crunchies from Mama's Kitchen, products from Trappist Monastery, etc.
What to pay: Your P500-1,000 will go a long way already.
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