Iloilo Culinary Tour: Tabu-an Illongo Heritage Breakfast at the Iloilo Central Market

Jun 25, 2012


As the penultimate event to our recent tour of Iloilo facilitated by the Department of Tourism Western Visayas and Cebu Pacific Air, the Tabu-an Ilonggo Heritage Meal is the brainchild of Chef Rafael “Tibong” Jardeleza II and had its genesis last November 2011 with the 1st Western Visayas Ilonggo Heritage Competition and Food Fair held at Esca’s.

“Tabu-an is Hiligaynon for Meeting Place,” explained our host Atty. Helen J. Catalbas, OIC-Regional Tourism Director for Western Visayas. “Besides a culinary event, it is also a cultural and heritage event which seeks to promote the Ilonggo tradition of having your meal at the market to meet you friends and catch up on the latest news around town.”

It’s interesting to note there’s a very similar tradition in Cagayan de Oro where the locals have their snacks or meals at the Painitan (snacks section) of the Cogon Market. Somehow, the latest piece of gossip seems juicier in the company of friends and piping-hot tsokolate which, like the Ilonggos local kape, were also served in a “take-out” tin can. Hopefully, the Heritage Conservation Advocates of Elson Elizaga and Nono Montalvan can also do something similar to Chef Tibong’s Tabu-an to preserve this vanishing tradition.

A similar tradition also still persists at the painitan of the Dumaguete public market where the residents enjoy each other’s company along with bud-bod (the local version of suman) or puto maya, sweet mangoes and tsokolate but mostly for breakfast only.


Tabuan Ilonggo Heritage Breakfast at Iloilo Central Market

To experience a Tabu-an, you need to bring together a minimum of  10 friends and give Chef Tibong at least three days notice. Our party included five travel writers (moi, Froilan Gallardo, Ed Montalvan, Orwin Austria and Butch Enerio) from Cagayan de Oro and our “caregivers” from DOT-VI led by Atty. Catalbas with Ping Jimenea and Pam Cababasay and “escorts” from JG Summit Holdings and Cebu Pacific MP Pestano, Len Balmonte and Selrahco Management and Consultancy Service Charles Lim and Precious Heradura. I understand the menu would vary from day to day since Chef Tibong would serve what is available as the ‘fresh catch of the day’.

Chef Tibong presents all these with a bevy of banana leafs which make the yummy dishes stand out and somehow make them look more mouth-watering. To properly enjoy your heritage meal the traditional “kinamot” way, he advises it’s best to select with your left hand and feed with your right.

Our breakfast started off with a bracing  Sinabawan nga dalagang bukid nga may baluggay  kag patola (Dalagang bukid with moringa and sponge gourd) which must be Chef Tibong’s twist of the venerable sinigang. 

Sinabawan nga dalagang bukid nga may balunggay kag patola

For appetizers we had a choice of ginisang bihod (fish roe) with sliced tomatoes, onions and salted eggs or Lato and DilisLato was frequent item in our house in Zamboanga where I spent my growing years and we usually ate it with calamansi.

Tinabu-an meal highlights

Adobo nga tagbak con ajo

Next up were two Jardeleza heirloom recipes by Chef Tibong’s Lola Esca: home-made pork and beans  with chorizo bilbao, and chorizo ricados. On top of those we also had embotido, tapa, binate nga native nga itlog (native chicken scrambled eggs) 

Home-made pork and beans with chorizo bilbao

Lola Esca's Chorizo Recados

And for that taste of  the exotic worthy of Andrew Zimmer’s Bizarre Foods: crispy adobo nga Maya (yup, the former national bird), Parong sang Manok (fried cock’s comb!), and for the piece de resistanceObre or cow’s teats cooked in soy sauce and garlic best described as tasty chewing gum.


Toss in the Tabuan’s signature “Fresh Catch of the Day” from the sea: Jumping shrimps (they were still jumping when cooked!), Sinugba nga scallops (barbecued scallops) and adobong tabagak with garlic sauce (reminds me of the renowned sardinas of Dipolog).

Sinugba nga scallops

Then enhance all that with either Kamusos nga may kalag (red rice with dilis) , Sinanlang nga kan-on may ajos kag sibuyas (fried rice with onions and garlic), pan de sal ni Pa-a or Manapla puto.


Of course, all these taste better washed down with the ubiquitous sinamak, the Illonggo version of Iligan’s famous spicy Pinakurat vinegar.


The next time you’re in Iloilo and want to enjoy an authentic Ilonggo heritage meal, just contact Chef Tibong Jardeleza directly through his mobile #0917-620-6800 or PM him through his Facebook Page Tab-uan . He’s easy to talk to and can put together the best menu for your budget.

Cebu Pacific flies directly from Cagayan de Oro to Iloilo thrice weekly on Mondays, Wednesdays, and
Fridays. Cebu Pacific is the largest airline in the country with the lowest year-round fares.


[Photo credits in this story goes to Chef Tibong Jardeleza and Flavours of Iloilo blog ]


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