Iloilo is known for its La Paz batchoy, a pork noodle soup filled with innards and egg noodles, topped with fried garlic, spring onion, and pork cracklings. It is believed that the dish was invented at Netong’s, located in the middle of the La Paz market.
Netong’s was started in 1948 by Leonito Guillergan, whose nickname is Netong. “Now it is owned by my father. He is the 15th son. He’s the youngest. Before my father, it was my tito who was handling this business,” says Patrick Guillergan, Netong’s grandson.
Patrick says that there are two main stories about the invention of batchoy. The first says that batchoy started with Macanese immigrants, whose original recipe has been tweaked to suit the Ilonggo palate. “Our story began when my grandfather married a butcher’s daughter,” Patrick explains. “They took the unwanted meat parts and used them as ingredients for the batchoy. That’s how it started.”
At Netong’s, a bowl of batchoy comes with unlimited soup, pork rind, and condiments. They’ve been using the same recipe since the restaurant opened. “There’s no secret in making batchoy,” Patrick says. “What makes it special is the broth. That’s where the different batchoy houses differ.”
Patrick himself doesn’t know what goes into Netong’s deeply flavored broth. “A lot of people have asked me how we do it and I tell them the recipe hasn’t been handed down to me yet.”
He explains that the broth is still made by his uncle, though he’s fairly sure that his father knows the recipe as well. Everything is made the same way his grandfather made them. It’s a time-tested, time-honored taste, and an Iloilo tradition as well. “When you have a restaurant, the hardest part is to maintain the quality of the food. I think for the longest time, Netong’s maintained the taste and the quality of batchoy,” Patrick says.
How best to enjoy a bowl of batchoy? Patrick says anything goes. “There’s no proper way of eating batchoy,” he says. “The best way to eat it is to eat it right away.”