ILOILO : Camiña Balay nga Bato and their Super Hot Tsokolate

Camina

I’m not sure if people read blogs on a Saturday? But I really don’t mind posting this on the same day that I experienced it just a few weeks ago (it’s hard to get over it, you know). 😉

If there’s only one place that I could go back to in Iloilo where I can spend the whole morning or afternoon, it would be this place they now call Camiña Balay nga Bato. As mentioned from my previous post regarding our hectic but fun itinerary in Iloilo, this part of our almost “failed” visit turned out to be one of the highlights of our trip and my personal favorite for so many reasons (which I’ll be sharing below).

But first, let’s revisit this beautifully preserved Avenceña and Camiña Ancestral home together.

The ‘almost’ failed visit…

we took a peek from this part good thing we did say hi and went inside the place

This was the only “opening” from outside the house where we took a peek to check if it was open for weekend intruders like us. :)

It was an early and quiet Saturday morning when we decided to ride a jeepney going to Arevalo. We just had our breakfast at the hotel and we were kind of rushing so we could make the most out of our morning before our friend’s wedding that afternoon.

Knowing where we wanted to go, our jeepney driver suddenly stopped the vehicle and expressed that we’re already at the “Bahay na Bato”.  It was so quiet and there was no hint that the house was open for surprise visitors. We were already thinking that it could have been closed on that weekend. It actually looked like a normal house where intruders like us weren’t allowed.

More about this on my post tomorrow (with video)

The beautiful Ancestral House called Camiña Balay nga Bato :)

Uninvited and persistent (we almost felt “sayang” and “bitin”), we took a peek at the only opening that we could see from outside the house. We looked in between the black-colored grills and called “Manong/ Manang” inside a somewhat darkened room. We were then guided to walk at what seemed to be an alley just before the house.

Just a few steps and voila! It was the house’s main gate. So I pulled the rope to ring the huge bell that was hanging just before the gate when manong approached and opened Camina Balay nga Bato to us. Suddenly, we felt safe and no longer total intruders! It was like we were the expected guests of the Don and Doña of the house.

This was our experience as we stepped inside the beautiful home of this family (click photos for the slideshow):

WHY I WAS SO FOND OF THIS PLACE:

1. THE MEMORY OF MY GRANDFATHER. This ancestral home reminded me so much of my Lolo Maximo’s old house in Manila (which was sadly turned into a building before it was sold). The ground floor of my Lolo’s house served as their bakeshop, which was one of the main sources of income of the family and where my mama used to help at when she was young. The second floor of Lolo’s house also had windows made of capiz shells and the whole house made entirely of wood.

2. HOME AND FAMILY. This special dwelling, which is also known as “the house beside the river” speaks a lot about HOME and FAMILY. It’s inspiring to know how the generations of this family were able to preserve their 150-year-old ancestral house. I’m actually grateful to see how their 10 years of restoring this place became a benefit not just to their own family and the Ilonggos but people like me who wanted to experience true Filipino heritage.

3. THE SUPER, HOT AND FAMOUS TSOKOLATE. I have my own reasons for using such superlatives in describing my tsokolate de batirol experience from this place.

It’s first “SUPER” because drinking their hot choco made me reminisce my childhood. I remember my 92-year old Lola Gliceria’s own tsokolate, which she usually patiently make with her own batirol every afternoon for merienda. I also remember the palitaw that we used to pair it with. With my lola’s age, I don’t think she could still carry that heavy cast-iron tsokolatera but I hope I would be able to buy her some tablea from Camiña Balay nga Bato and drink hot tsokolate with her next time.

Next, I think the hot chocolate here was “HOT” (as in Paris Hilton’s hot for cool) as it brings us back not just to our childhood memories but the culture of Filipinos. Drinking this thick, rich, sweet and literally hot chocolate in such ambience was totally cool! (Not to mention, it’s bottomless! Drink-all-you-can tsokolate until you get naturally sugar high.)

4. THE VINTAGE PIANO. It was too late when I found out that there were other people who were still around the Sala Mayor when we started to sing and play the piano. I actually felt sorry for the other guests (sorry po). :) As I mentioned above, I think this was a serious effect of sugar high from drinking cups of hot tsokolate. So be warned.

We love that anyone can play the piano at the second floor while enjoying the classic atmosphere at the Camiña Balay nga Bato. This part of the house also reminded me of my piano teacher named Tia Pacita (bless her) when I was seven years old. She would always give me pasalubong (“present” or bribe?) with her D.I.Y. crafts every time she visits my grandparents’ house to teach me how to play the piano. I wanted to be taught modern songs but instead she taught me the classics from Que Sera Sera to Chopsticks (The Celebrated Chop Waltz) and Blue Moon.

I wasn’t able to say goodbye to her but I’m always grateful on how she patiently taught me (even when I didn’t show any passion, just a bit of sweetness that time).

*** I have a video below when my friends and I played “Maalala Mo Kaya”. Please let me know if you know the title of the second piano piece. :)

5. ILONGGO FOOD. Okay, so this was the one that we missed at this place – the food! It was already too late when we found out that they can also serve breakfast, lunch and merienda (upon reservation) Ilonggo style! Huhu…cry, cry. We missed the opportunity to eat their home-cooked pancit molo, adobo rice, lumpia and other dishes. But this also means that we can still look forward to experience this on our next visit.

This video will show you more about this ancestral house and the Ilonggo food that they can prepare for you when you visit them. :)

So there goes my top five reasons why I love this place! What about you? What do you think of this ancestral home? Do you know other places like this in Iloilo?

A quick look of Camiña Balay nga Bato’s Sala Mayor and our hot tsokolate de batirol experience (click HD):

Travel: Iloilo’s Heritage Home and Native Tsokolate (and the effects of sugar high) from JM dela Rama on Vimeo.

From a slow and sleepy lady to someone energized and happy from drinking some velvety and delicious hot tsokolate de batirol. Thanks Camiña Balay nga Bato for the exprience and very memorable atmosphere. We had a hard time leaving your place. :)


OUR FULL ITINERARY IN ILOILO:

Iloilo City Philippines Sunset Travel Tour

NEXT POST:

Will post more about our trip here on Thursday

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16 Comments

  • June 7, 2015

    Parker

    Hi Joanne! Literally, “balay nga bato” means “house of stone”, as opposed to river which is “suba” in Ilonggo. Too bad you weren’t able to try their Pancit Molo there, I’m quite positive you’ll love it!

    • June 7, 2015

      Joanne-Marie

      Hi Parker! Thanks for that. :) Yeah we missed that one. :( But it’s definitely one of the dishes that we NEED to try on our next visit…

  • June 7, 2015

    VINCE

    If you are into Ancestral homes. Try going and round Jaro and Molo district because they have a number of beautiful and well preserved ancestral house. I think the Lopez Mansion/Nelly’s Garden also offers tour packages. Please feel free to search it up.

    And I must say, you also have to check out the churches of Iloilo City and the neighbouring towns especially that of Miagao’s. If you are a sucker for fantastic architecture I’m sure you will definitely love it.

    I am just so proud of Iloilo. Where the past is always present.

    • June 7, 2015

      Joanne-Marie

      Thank you for those tips, Vince! :) Iloilo makes me proud to be a Filipino too.

  • June 7, 2015

    Michael John Sabido

    Hi Joanne! Glad you were able to visit Camiña Balay na Bato. You should definitely try their Pancit Molo next time. I think I’ve read somewhere that their pancit molo is from Kap Ising’s. Kap Ising’s Pancit Molo is one of the most popular pancit molos in the city and I swear, it’s really delicious! I’m actually craving for a hot bowl of pancit molo as I write this. lol 😀 Anyway, if you’re into vintage stuff, you should visit the 200-year old Casa Mariquit next time. They have a lot of vintage cameras and oil paintings on display. It’s the house of Maria Salvacion “Mariquit” Javellana-Lopez (wife of Fernando Lopez – Former Vice President of the Philippines)

    • June 8, 2015

      Joanne-Marie

      Hello Michael! You got me with vintage cameras there! Thanks for that…Oh yes, the pancit molo!!! huhu… I shall return to Iloilo and try that at once!

  • June 8, 2015

    Ria Mae C

    I’m glad you enjoyed JM! I love that you love my province. Anyway, the ginger-like stuff we put in the sinamak is actually not turmeric but galangal which we call lengkuwas, just like the Indonesians do. They’re so similar to each other though, which is why most people mistake one for the other.

    • June 9, 2015

      Joanne-Marie

      Hola Ria! :) Oh I see… I got the info kasi from the video of Camiña Balay nga Bato. But good to know about that! :) I’ve been learning a lot from you guys!

      • June 19, 2015

        Ria Mae C

        Yeah, I know that vid! We mentioned it to them if they could change it. Apparently they didn’t get around to do so yet. It’s so fun that when you go around the different islands, you realize there is more to the Filipino cuisine that we can learn. I hope you were able to try the more obscure Ilonggo dishes that are so, so good.

        • June 20, 2015

          Joanne-Marie

          I agree! That’s why it would be nice to go around and explore more. 😉 So many things to discover about the Philippines.

          What are those obscure Ilonggo dishes? We had just a weekend to explore the city so not much time to try the other interesting dishes.

  • June 13, 2015

    Cons

    Hi JM! Thank you for this feature. I’m an Ilongga but I haven’t been here. I used to pass by this bahay nga bato on my way to school but didn’t get the chance to visit. I guess I have to drag my friends to come here when go home next month. Anyway, if you’re into ancestral house, Casa Mariquit in Jaro is also open to public. The red brick house is 200 years old, I believe and it was owned by the Lopezes. I’m not sure if they have the tsokolate experience though but you may drop by Panaderia ni Pa-a which is a few meters away from Casa Mariquit. The bakery is one of the oldest in the city and they still cook their pandesal and biscocho using a very old pugon (brick oven).

    • June 17, 2015

      Joanne-Marie

      Hi Cons! You should visit Camina Balay nga Bato with your friends next time and try their hot tsokolate and have merienda there. :) I’m sure you’ll enjoy it. Thanks for your suggestions. That panaderia sounds interesting and I’m sure their pastries are good (old pugon = better taste). :)

  • June 17, 2015

    mustachio

    Their tsokolate is so good. I drank three cups!

    • June 17, 2015

      Joanne-Marie

      Super good! I also had 3 cups and could have had more. :)

  • June 23, 2015

    agustin cartagena

    Another entertaining article, beautiful photographs and beautiful models…saan ka pa :) haven’t been to the balay nga bato myself grrr..what a shame being an ilonggo me haha. Definitely i will visit the place one day. imagine my appetite and curiousity for netongs batchoy ay nagising after reading your blog haha..guess what i bring my wife to the Atria and try for ourselves and you’re right…original na special pa… namit gid! If we crave for batchoy Netongs na. wala bang joanna’s fans club? :) :) :)

    • June 24, 2015

      Joanne-Marie

      I think your wife would love to have a date at Balay nga Bato. 😉 Maybe you can even arrange a special date with her there. Then yes, have some steaming Batchoy! Atria is a nice place if you want to eat in a more comfortable place hehe iba kasi ang view sa market although it adds to the “authenticity” of the Batchoy. Enjoy your date with your wife. :) Hahaha Joanne’s fans club talaga? :p