Celebrating Heritage Cuisine at Camiña Balay nga Bato in Iloilo


There’s always something about old houses transformed into bed and breakfasts or restaurants that piques my fascination. If given a choice between a post-modern establishment or a repurposed heritage home, I’ll pick the latter any day.

The Camiña Balay nga Bato - an important cultural property

This is the case with Camiña Balay nga Bato in Iloilo. Literally means “house of stone”, the Camiña Balay Nga Bato, also known as Avanceña House, was originally built in 1865 in the Arevalo District along the Iloilo River by Don Fernando Avanceña as a present to his wife, Eulalia Abaja.

Levy Amosin
The house also doubles as a museum where antique items from typical Iloilo heritage homes are displayed

Cha Ocampo
Every corner is pleasing to the eyes.

Father Anselmo Avanceña, the first parish priest of Molo town in Iloilo, designed the house in the 'arquitectura mestiza' architectural style, which refers to the concept of fusing indigenous Filipino elements with Spanish influences.

Milet Miranda
The 'balcon comedor' or the home's casual dining room

The home has undergone many restorations, but some of its original features, such as the capiz windows, narra floors, and kamagong wooden walls, remain intact. The original wooden posts—there are more than twenty of them—are still the primary pillars that support the house, as the owner claims.

Charisse Vilchez
The buffet table

Through the years, the house was handed down from generation to generation until Gerard Camiña and his wife, Luth Camiña (4th generation), came about to become its current owners. A marker outside the house describes it as an “important cultural property,” as declared by the National Museum in 2015.

Where to eat in Iloilo
Kaon ta! 

The decision to build the house near the river was a strategic one, as back then, the Avanceña was engaged in the trade of woven cloth, specifically hablon weaving, and the river serves as an easy gateway to transport materials and finished products to adjacent towns.

Kazane Windy
Pair your meal with their tsokolate batirol

Serving the Best of Ilonggo Cuisine

I've had the wonderful fortune of having dined here on three occasions now, covering each of my recent trips to Iloilo. The home-cooked delicacies, a representative of heritage Ilonggo cuisine, made each dining experience feel more like coming home.

Krisma Rodriguez
Just some of the dishes included in the buffet selections

Aside from their specialties, the flavorful pancit molo and tsokolate batirol, which is prepared in front of you using a 'batidor' (whisk made from guava tree) to beat the tablea mixture in a heated cast iron jug, you can enjoy a feast with your family and friends with their day’s buffet menu served in the house's airy casual dining room, or what was called back in the day as 'balcon comedor'. 

Krisma Rodriguez
Ratotoy is fried eggplant topped with fresh farm tomatoes and onions and served with a unique sauce.

On my last visit to Camiña Balay Nga Bato, the buffet menu consisted of ratotoy (an Ilonggo version of ratatouille), fresh spring roll lumpia, empanada, minatamis na saging, pork binuog with hot spicy dip, chicken inasal, grilled and fried garlic bangus, embotido de arevalo, adobo rice, papaya pickles, pancit miki bisayas, mixed seafood, and of course, pancit molo and tsokolate de batirol.

Embutido de Arevalo consists of meat loaf filled with ground pork, carrots, and raisins, wrapped around slices of eggs and sausage.

As this most recent Iloilo trip of mine winds down to this last day, the finale of DOT’s Philippine Experience Tour of Iloilo and Bacolod, we made the most of our hearty lunch by capping it off with great conversations and a song number from DOT Region 6 Regional Director Krisma Rodriguez, who belted a few Disney songs before us participants made our way to Iloilo airport.

Marky Ramone Go
Me and my Gregorio Del Pilar shirt

What better way to bookend another memorable trip to Iloilo than having a fine meal at the Camiña Balay Nga Bato. Like a returning son, I look forward to coming back to this heritage house that feels like the ancestral house in the province that I never had.