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Iloilo’s iconic ‘carinderia’ faces eviction

THIS scene at Nora’s Eatery in Iloilo City will never be seen anymore if it is torn down to make way for the expansion project of a park outside the Iloilo Customs House. (Tara Yap)

THIS scene at Nora’s Eatery in Iloilo City will never be seen anymore if it is torn down to make way for the expansion project of a park outside the Iloilo Customs House. (Tara Yap)

ILOILO CITY – An iconic “carinderia” (informal restaurant) serving native Filipino food since the 1960s is fighting to retain its spot at the heritage district here.

The Bureau of Customs Iloilo has given Nora’s Eatery until the end of February to vacate the area outside Aduana de Iloilo (Iloilo Customs House). There are plans to further develop the newly opened Sunburst Park, a pet project of Senate Minority Leader Franklin M. Drilon, an Ilonggo.

Owner Susanita Galila has sent a letter to BoC Commissioner Rey Guerrero and Drilon appealing that Nora’s Eatery can stay at the 107-square meter lot owned by the agency.

Nora’s Eatery is regarded as an Ilonggo culinary institution for its “lutong bahay” (home-cooked) menu. It dates back to the 1960s when Nora Palacios, Susanita’s aunt, started a mobile food stall near the old wharf.

From there, Nora was the go-to food seller inside the Aduana building. By 1969, Nora’s Eatery opened the carinderia at its current site after having been allowed by the BoC.

For more than 50 years, Nora’s Eatery has served Ilonggos from different social circles. It is where construction workers and drivers can eat alongside teachers, cops, soldiers, firemen, doctors, architects, engineers, reporters, politicians, business owners, and “balikbayans” (returning Filipinos).

People from other areas of Panay and Negros Islands have flocked to Nora’s Eatery for its “Sinabaw nga Isda” (fish soup) and “Sinugba nga Isda kag Baboy (grilled fish and pork). Even Philippine Basketball Association players, musicians, and Agriculture Secretary Manny Piñol have tasted its food cooked over “uling” (coal). Nora’s Eatery still does not use gas stove or rice cooker.

Susanita, who manages the carinderia with her two sisters, is still clinging to hope that the government will reconsider and help preserve an intangible heritage. She also vowed Nora’s Eatery will cooperate with the government in the redevelopment plan.

There is an ongoing signature drive calling Ilonggos to help save Nora’s Eatery. (Tara Yap)

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