Mesmerized by Magnificent Molo

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Flag of Philippines  , Iloilo,
Monday, April 17, 1995

Tasting Iloilo's much vaunted homegrown cuisine, I realized, enhances the tang and titillation of a trip to this fascinating city in Western Visayas. Although there are a number of restaurants in my place serving Ilonggo dishes, especially pancit molo, I still felt that nothing beats the real thing. And I was proven right when I finally got to savor authentic pancit molo, right in the place where it originated — the district of Molo in Iloilo City.

Home to many Chinese immigrants, Molo used to be an enclave known as Parian whose name was changed to Moro because of the frequent inroads of Muslim pirates. Over time, the name evolved into Molo. With 25 barangays falling under its jurisdiction, it currently ranks as the fourth largest among Iloilo's six districts (in terms of number of barangays).

Chinese influence has obviously spilled over into the district's culinary heritage, giving rise to the very popular pancit molo. Said to be an adaptation of the wonton (sometimes spelled as wanton or wuntun) soup, this dish, which took its name from the former Chinese enclave, is made of dumplings and meat broth.

Unlike your traditional pancit, it makes use of flat wonton wrappers made from flour instead of the usual long, thin noodles. The filling is typically made of ground pork, coarsely diced fish, whole shrimps or oysters, minced ginger and onions.

But there’s more to Molo than its homegrown specialty. It’s also the home of probably the only feminist church in the country: St. Anne’s Church. Done in Gothic-Renaissance style, its high-pointed spires heading upwards into the sky exemplify local artistry and symbolize the Ilonggos’ unswerving faith in God.

The church’s dazzling interior, which is a fusion of Gothic-Romanesque styles, features five wooden altars and two tastefully decorated pulpits. But its most distinctive features are the two rows of Corinthian columns holding the statues of sixteen female divinities. Embellished with their respective trademarks — either a flower or a musical instrument — the saints’ representations provide a soothing contrast to the church’s seemingly dark and cheerless interior.

Standing right in front of the town plaza, the church, which could be easily mistaken for a castle because of its stately fašade, can be reached via a ten-minute jeepney ride from downtown Iloilo.

History has it that Dr. Jose Rizal visited this church on his way back to Manila from Dapitan. After he laid eyes on it, the national hero was said to have been smitten by its beauty, aptly describing it as "la iglesia bonita" (beautiful church).

Just like Rizal and the other tourists who’ve been there, I was also mesmerized, not only by Molo's church but also its cultural and culinary delights.
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Where I stayed
Aunt's house

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