Ilonggo Bucket List: Buho Bakery

By spencer ravago

Ilonggo Bucket List is an ongoing series that hopes to showcase the Ilonggo experience, one place or activity at a time. For more Ilonggo Bucket List articles, check out the archives.

If you’ve been to–or at least, heard about–Buho Bakery, then you probably know that it’s named after a literal hole in the wall. Yes, we know there are other “hole-related” puns you’re probably about to comment right now on Facebook to show how clever you are. However, being the high-brow writer that I am, I’m going to avoid going down that same road and try to be more “literary” in my descriptions about Buho.

Who am I kidding? I can’t resist a good pun because I’m Ilonggo, so here it goes: Buho Bakery, despite being a humble establishment, has a “hole” lot of history in it. Get it?

Now that I’ve got that out of my system, let’s get back to our scheduled programming.

Buho Bakery - Project Iloilo

I’ve probably lived under a rock [Editor: It’s probably covering a hole, too. Okay, someone kill me now.] for quite a while now, since I’ve only heard of Buho Bakery fairly recently. And what do you know? At least we’ve got another one to include with the rest of the Ilonggo Bucket List!

Of course, said list often deals with places and experiences that are probably “novel” to you, the reader. Personally, Buho was full of novelties for me. Apart from having the experience of transacting through a hole in the wall, it’s also located in an alley smack-dab in the middle of downtown Iloilo. Hardly a glamorous place to bring friends over, I can tell you that.

So, with a bit of free time on my hands, I went there on a whim one Saturday afternoon. I’ve actually been meaning to do so for quite a while now since I wanted to get rid of the manol in me. After asking around, I headed to Mapa Street where Buho is said to be located — in a small alley situated between Sun Yat Sen High School and a commercial building. When I arrived near the vicinity, I saw a security guard stationed near the alley so I asked him if that was indeed the alley where Buho is located. After confirming it with manong guard, I went on to my destination, pretending in my mind that I was on a holy pilgrimage of sorts as I head through the alley.

Buho Bakery - Project Iloilo
After a short walk, I finally found Buho Bakery, complete with the legendary hole and the old sign hanging above the entrance. Peering inside, I noticed all the tables were empty. I assumed it was normal on that afternoon because it was a Saturday and the usual clientele of students and office workers weren’t around. The only patrons that were there was a group of men waiting for their take-out order.

Looking very much like a tourist, I looked around the place for a good couple of minutes before heading towards the counter where, like a delusional Moses parting the Red Sea, the guys at the counter gave way for me to pass through. It was then I placed my first-ever order at Buho.

I don’t eat a lot of bread in general, so I opted to just have my order to-go. I made sure to order what the attendant recommended: their flagship pancho (P2 each) and teren-teren (P9 each). They also had sambag-sambag and halfmoon at P5 each. I wanted to try their siopao, but they didn’t have any available at the time.

While waiting for my order, I chatted with the attendant a bit. I found out that Buho Bakery was established in 1949 at the same location it is still standing today, but under a different name back then. The buho was devised as a means to serve patrons during the after-hours in a relatively safe manner. They typically close at around 6 pm but leave the hole “open” until 9 pm. Since many of their regulars began referring to the place as “buho“, they decided to make that into their official business name. I wasn’t able to ask around much after that since my order arrived at that moment.

Buho Bakery - Project Iloilo

Upon arriving home, it was really unfortunate that I found myself a bit disappointed with their pancho. Maybe the novelty just wore off by that time, or maybe I just over-hyped it too much in my head (probably both), but it was not what I expected. I grew up with the old-school pancho that had more coconut shredding in the filling. Buho Bakery’s pancho, on the other hand, is smaller than what I was used to, and the filling is more than just a yellow paste and without any coconut. At P2 each though, I really couldn’t complain much. Considering it has stood the test of time, I’m sure there are a lot of fans of Buho’s flagship product.

However, I did enjoy the teren-teren as it was exactly what I was looking for — soft bread with creamy filling connected together like a big caterpillar. But of course, that’s just my personal preference talking, and you may still differ with me in the comments section below (just be civil about it, of course).

Again, I admit bread isn’t really my thing and I’m really more of a carnivore. But as a kid, I’ve had many afternoon snacks that involved pancho and teren-teren. Although I’ve never been there before, going to Buho Bakery seemed to fulfill my sense of nostalgia.

Buho Bakery - Project Iloilo

Certainly, Buho Bakery has become more than just the “bread” or its “hole” in this day and age. Like many old eateries in Iloilo, it has become an unofficial institution that holds many memories for Ilonggos. If anything else, it’s a throwback to the mom-and-pop businesses that have been devoured by the big corporate chains. It represents a time when small family businesses would flourish all over the city. I generally don’t mind the big companies but, like many Ilonggos, I am hoping that Iloilo’s rapid development leaves a place for institutions like Buho to thrive. After all, it is the small establishments like these, along with its people, that make Iloilo truly unique.

So, do you have any favorite old bakeshop that you are still frequenting today? Do share your personal Ilonggo Bucket List at the comments section below!


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