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 re-energized.
‘The Monk of Mokha‘ (Knopf, 2018) by Dave Eggers tells the story of a young Yemeni American Mokhtar Alkhanshali, founder of the coffee company called The Port of Mokha.
I bought this book in Utrecht last February on the way to a conference in Belgium. Because Dave Eggers. Because nonfiction from a region in the world recent events compel us to know more beyond headlines & click-bait articles. Because it’s a migrant’s success story. Because it a story about coffee. Because it is more than coffee. Because it is a new release and the title is intriguing, the cover attractive. This is one of my summer reads that I finished in three locations: I started reading it in our farm house in Antique, brought to my holiday in Sicogon Island, and finished in my bedroom back in Manila. Relatively thick, it is an easy read: accessible language in conversational tone, the straightforward narration flows as a thriller: will he survive, can he bring out the coffee from Yemen, can he get financing, will the ship indeed arrived with his coffee in good condition? It is your postcolonial epic hero’s journey. Mokhtar survived it all: the checkpoints, the bombings, his first boat ride in the Red Sea, the flight out back to the US to attend with his friend Andrew. We are led to admire him. He possesses the qualities for success: curious, gritty, passionate, street-smart, socially adept. Like Mokhtar, Eggers wants us to believe there’s always a way amidst precarious and difficult situations like war, and people who can lend us money and fully support us to actualize our dream.