When in Downtown Iloilo: Gallery i, D’Top’s Bookstore, and KongKee
Iloilo City is my transit point between Manila, where I live and work for 18 years now, and Antique, my province. I go home regularly and I am always happy to stop for a while in the city. There are college batchmates and writer friends to meet-up for lunch and dinner over talaba and tinola. There are premiere hotels to budget rooms and heritage houses turned bed-and-breakfast. There are malls and malls with supermarkets stocking local organic produce. There are zones of green and open spaces friendly for biking with rows of franchised and home-grown restaurants and coffee shops. This summer, I chose to stay downtown, in the old district, the Calle Real, which is primarily the J.M. Basa and Iznart Streets. My sister and I found Gallery i. It is relatively new, one of the mushrooming galleries in the city. It is at the 2nd Floor of the old Eusebio Villanueva Building, across D’Top’s Bookstore. We caught them preparing for an art-and-bike event that week but we were allowed to come in. On display are the Hilway products crafted by women prisoners and curated by Rosalie Zerrudo of the University of San Agustin. D’ Top’s is known for its affordable textbooks. In absence of a decent bookstore in the city, that is, a bookstore that carries reputable titles and known writers both foreign and local, D’Top’s remains to be the bookstore to go, aside from BookSale in Robinsons. I found titles from UP Press.Nearby, in the same row of building, is KongKee, one of the oldest Chinese restaurants. We ordered lomi and siopao. We strongly recommend this place: good taste, good price, good service. There are many more gems to be revisited and discovered in the old district, such as of architecture & history, food & culture. These three spots filled me with both memories and visions: I left reenergized.