What’s a hole-in-the-wall, you may ask. Foodies would define it as a place with something very special (and popular) to offer. Despite a straightforward ambiance and maybe almost obscure location plus all the hassles just to be there, still a lot of people (from all walks of life) make and find time to visit. It could be street side carinderia with a to-die-for specialty, maybe a stall in a corner that sells something special or can be a small restaurant having a unique recipe. It’s really all about good food and the experience! There could be many hole-in-the-walls in the city but one really stands out - for it has, literally, a hole in the wall.
A “hole” new world
This bakery, owned by a rather conservative Chinese family (the Foos), started decades ago (presumably before the war era) and their business of baking and selling breads survived slowly but surely. What started out as a nameless bakeshop is now among the most popular because of its quality breads and a signature hole (buho) in the wall - where the orders are taken and served when the bakeshop is closed. The concept stuck with the patrons and eventually the owners decided to call it “Buho Bakery”.
Tucked within an alley between Mapa and Ortiz streets in downtown Iloilo City is this simple bread store that many Ilonggos revere. It integrates a bakery and a snack shop yet one might get lost along the way for the passage is not conspicuous to outsiders plus it seems rundown and not too inviting from the main street.
But like a pot of gold at the end of a rainbow, as the cliché goes, the gastronomical delights one can find plus the memories of yesteryears an old hang-out brings back are the treasures themselves.
Our holey bread
With a promise of “daily hot bread from the oven”, patrons have never gotten enough of what Buho Bakery has to offer.
The most popular of which is the pancho (or “panso” as spelled on their menu) – a bread filled with a desiccated coconut concoction. Comes in big or small sizes but the little ones (sold for PhP1.50 each) seem to outsell its big brother (PhP4.50).
Another equally popular bread is teren-teren, sold for PhP8.00, and its name is derived from how individual breads (with sweet stuffing) are connected to look like train cabooses. They also have filling meat rolls at a fraction of what is sold in most bakeries – for only PhP9.50.
Of course, there are the staples like pan de sal, pan de leche, pan de siosa, ensaimada, monay and Spanish bread. And some interestingly named too, like turtle bread, pogi, mistisa, bola de oro, baston chips, sambag-sambag and half-moon. Aside from these, Buho Bakery also has loaf breads, hamburger and hotdog buns and a lot of toasted bread varieties and chips sold in big packs.
The bakery, since then, has satisfied a lot of hungry (and curious) Ilonggos no matter what time of the day. Ovens start shelling out hot baked goods around 5am as regulars start knocking for breads that would do well for breakfast. The “buho” serves as the transaction area – the main shop is still closed just for precaution during “unsafe” hours. As the sun rises, the clientele ranges from workers passing and commuters dropping by to bulk orders from homes and offices in the area. Students also form a big part of its market as it is a stone’s throw away from schools like Sun Yat Sen and University of Iloilo.
Like most traditional Chinese businesses around the city, it closes around noon for lunch break and opens around 3pm until nightfall. But the bakery is open for business round-the-clock as one can just knock in the “buho” and make a purchase. Just a simple marketing strategy borne out of need that eventually became a trademark – no costly advertising, just words of mouth that for years may have said “didto sa Buho” (from the “hole”).
With a history spanning decades, with simple quality breads that satisfy and with a uniqueness all its own, Buho Bakery is really more than just this hole on the wall. It is now considered to be an Iloilo landmark.
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