Indulgence in Iloilo

In the land of batchoy, molo and biscocho, Iloilo is also inching its way to be known as the ensaymada-landia. Thanks in big part to the pastry department of Richmonde Hotel Iloilo.

Fluffy and moist and sweetened just right to still taste a hint of saltiness courtesy of the finely grated cheese, the hotel’s ensaymada is a pièce de résistance. Its traditional taste brings back the mouthwatering foodie recollection of one’s childhood. Yes, it is an outstanding showpiece of the hotel that dining in its outlets can begin and end with ensaymada — at least for the initiated. Now, you and I know.

But that’s going ahead of the story. This story is really about a weekend staycation at the Richmonde Hotel in Iloilo and how, in two nights and three days, in empty arms, if may I add, I found love.

The three-year-old Richmonde is love, young and sweet. If you indulge in a life that’s “rich,” that’s love. Make that double love because Iloilo is dubbed as the “City of Love.”

The pool area of the hotel.

Hemingway’s short story A Clean, Well-Lighted Place comes to mind when at the hotel’s doorstep the experience begins. The bright and contemporary lobby attended by gracious staff, if anything, is a precursor of a vacation that will be both enjoyable and enriching. And the comparison of the hotel to that of the literary work of the American writer stops at the title of the short story. Richmonde is nothing like most of the dark plots of Hemingway’s body of work.

But the hotel in itself is a literary work, so to speak, if we take into consideration the poetry that is created between my spacious one-bedroom suite and me. In my lonesomeness — yes, alone but not lonely, for how can one be sad in the company of luxury — I find the reason to celebrate. It helps that in my room, I find some friendship and comfort in the plush beddings with 300 thread-count sheets and duck-feather pillows. On the 12th floor, I have a glimpse of the part of the city. And I see joy even if, at that moment, Iloilo is blindingly covered in unabated downpour.

“As the pioneering first-class hotel in Iloilo City, the 149-room hotel is committed to delivering its promise of world-class facilities and signature Ilonggo hospitality to its guests,” says Natalie Lim, the sassy resident manager of Richmonde Hotel Iloilo. She adds that the food they serve at The Granary and BizBar are soul food because the vegetables and seafood are sourced from the farmers and fishermen of Iloilo. She informs that in just two years of operation, Richmonde has had a few awards including a Highly Commended Hotel Interior Design award during the 2015 Philippines Property Awards.

Luxury resides at the one-bedroom suite of the hotel.

But don’t just take Natalie’s word for it. It’s also important to know that Richmonde is a homegrown brand by one of the country’s premier real estate developers, Megaworld Corp. Truth is, the hotel is part of the Iloilo Business Park, which is Megaworld’s 72-ha. integrated urban township development located at the site of the Iloilo airport in Mandurriao district. It is ambitious in its desire to be the biggest business and tourism hub in Western Visayas. But that’s no empty claim if you consider the developer’s five condominiums (One Madison Place, Lafayette Park Square, The Palladium, Saint Honore and Saint Dominique) and seven residential towers, its cyberpark offices that generates 40,000 jobs in the IT-BPO sector in the region.

On top of that, there’s the retail and leisure component to the development like the Festive Walk Iloilo, an integrated lifestyle mall complex composed of Festive Walk Mall (where we watched Mamma Mia! in the most comfortable cinema seat I have planted my butt on), the 1.1-km. Festive Walk Parade and the Festive Walk Annex (that houses some government agencies like PhilHealth, LTO and NBI).

The Iloilo Museum of Contemporary Art.

What gives the township its soul is the Iloilo Museum of Contemporary Art or Ilomoca. Its façade will remind you of a fraction of Palacio Royal in Madrid. Inside it are artworks that define the Filipino identity — our travails and triumphs as a people. I can stay in the museum for one day and soak myself up in a cerebral pursuit of understanding each artwork. With Moon alone, a collaborative installation art between National Artist Abdulmari Asia Imao and his son Juan Sajid Imao, half a day is not enough to ogle its beauty and intricacy. Ditto with Manny Garibay’s Nobelista, Melvin Guirhem’s The Creation, Lyra Garcellano’s Invictus 1 2 and Nunelucio Alvarado’s paean to the sakadas titled Kaupdan Sa Kampo.

“Ilomoco is the first art institution of its kind in Visayas and Mindanao,” says Bacolod-born Harold Geronimo, senior assistant vice president and head of media affairs of Megaworld Corp. Harold is a walking-talking encyclopedia of Megaworld. He can engagingly tell you everything about Megaworld’s projects — their size, when they opened, when they will be operational, the prices and modes of payment, how many more units are available, even how Megaworld chairman Dr. Andrew Tan conceived of those projects — replete with anecdotes.

Pièce de résistance — Richmonde ensaymada.

The best part about the township is everything can be discovered on foot from Richmonde. From the poolside of the hotel, a glimpse of Ilomoco is an inviting site. (Oh, I swam at the pool even if the raindrops fell on me like pellets of a toy gun. I still enjoyed it. The sunset lover in me will one day experience the much-touted sunset by the poolside while nursing a mojito by the Zabana Bar.)

It rained on my parade, literally, in Iloilo. But Richmonde kept me warm. In its embrace — plus the ensaymada in my room — I felt the love.

I was home.

(E-mail me at [email protected]. I’m also on Twitter @bum_tenorio and Instagram @bumtenorio. Have a blessed Sunday!)

High tea at Richmonde. (From left) The author, Honey Jarque Loop, Megaworld’s Harold Geronimo, Nelia Neri and Richmonde Hotel Iloilo resident manager Natalie Lim.