Iloilo and Bacolod are both famous for delectable food. Iloilo has the memorable Batchoy, while Bacolod is proud of its to-die-for Kansi. Both regions are known to be home to a pleasure-loving people, and most of that pleasure is centered on food.

Kalibo, Aklan, still a part of the Western Visayan region, is not exactly known for awesome food. In fact, it’s a place where Chowking went out of business and folded up. Only a few specialty food places have survived, and these do, indeed, serve awesome food. These are relatively new places, and they serve the Akeanon versions of Italian and Japanese specialties:

  • Kitty’s, near the Police Station in Kalibo’s plaza. It serves great, affordable, authentic Carbonara at Php 65 for the highest-priced pastas.
  • Seafront, with branches in Supermarket and on Roxas Avenue. It serves a renowned pizza, as taught by a retired French baker to the owner.
  • Abre Test Kitchen on Veteran’s Avenue, fronting the Kalibo Fire Station, serves pastas at Php 75 for the most expensive.items on the Specialty Pasta menu. Other items range from Php 50 to Php 100 only. They also serve fusion Japanese.

But we’re not here to talk about the Filipino versions of Italian food. We’re here to talk about local specialties.

In a small store in the area known as the “Supermarket,” there is a delectable kind of beef stew: the bendunggo.

“Bendunggo” usually refers to an animal’s gut parts. This could be ox tripe, beef offal, or if you’re using other kinds of livestock, the offal and tripe of these. In the bendungguhan frequented by The Scribbler, they use the choicest innards of beef, boil them for hours in laurel leaves and more MSG than a Chinese stir-fry. When they serve the dish, they dump burnt garlic into the mix, making it loads more flavorful.

Every morning, that store is always over-capacity, as tricycle drivers and other Kalibo residents get their fix of the one dish that they serve. Their tiny place gets customers occupying seats in shifts, because it’s really bustling like that. It’s almost hard to believe that this family was able to achieve that, simply because they only serve that dish and rice.

This small, one-dish karinderya is owned by friendly, humble and unassuming couple Romeo Isada and Lederna Enero-Isada. This street resto started in another, smaller spot in Supermarket. According to those who got to eat in the old spot, the place was half the size of the space it occupies today. The old space can only occupy Mrs. Isada, who cuts up and serves the Bendunggo dish itself, the dishwasher, the pot where Bendunggo is cooked, and a lone customer. The rest eat in tables outside, and Mr. Isada dispenses the rice outside the stall as well. Today, the Bendunggo space can now seat at least 4 customers, an assistant cutting up the beef offal, a dishwasher slash busboy going around working on clearing the tables, Mrs. Isada, the Bendunggo pot, and Mr. Isada dispenses rice right beside her. The larger space is testament to the couple's progress in business.

The bendunggo itself only costs Php 25, and the rice will set you back only another Php 7.00. If you want a softdrink to go with your meal, the owner will go out and buy you the drink of your choice from another store. In all, you’ll probably spend less than Php 40 for your meal. If you want to have two servings* of the dish, and two servings of rice, plus a softdrink, you’ll probably pay a bit more than Php 60, but less than Php 70. Yes, for such a filling, delicious meal, you will be paying only so much.

The small karinderya is located behind Aklan Catholic College, near the town plaza.

*Note: Try to have only one serving of the dish. Consuming copious amounts of MSG may make you feel a little light-headed.