Brands We Grew Up With As An Ilonggo #4: Balbi’s

Sep 14, 2012 by

Special Palabok since 1960 by Balbi’s

Food, food and more food — one can never deny that Iloilo is home to countless original recipes that has the taste and aroma that is distinctly Ilonggo. When it comes to these, you can name a lot of restaurants in Iloilo that maintains its original recipe and is being patronized by many Ilonggos up to present. So if one is thinking about restaurants that is originally Ilonggo, Balbi’s will definitely make it to the top of the list. It was in 1960 when Balbina Zaldarriaga put up a canteen at a bowling alley in front of St. Paul’s Hospital and little did she know that the business will grow and would go a long way.

Balbi's Counter - My Iloilo

Back in time when Iloilo was not yet teeming with fast food chains, students from St. Paul’s College, Assumption Iloilo and employees of different business establishments around the area are some of the regular customers of Balbi’s. Ask the students from these aforementioned schools as well as Ilonggos who grew up in the 70’s and 80’s and they would gladly testify as to how they love the food being served there. Palabok and ensaymada are both the top favorites of the Ilonggos back then and up until now.

Balbis Pancit Palabok - My Iloilo

Balbi’s Specialty since 1960 – Pancit Palabok

From their original spot in front of St. Paul’s Hospital, they moved to Valeria Street where it is located up to the present. Only the location changed and Balbi’s has maintained the same taste of their food using its original recipe. This is the reason why customers would still patronize them wherever they are.

Balbi’s also underwent several changes in its management. From Balbina, it was handed down to her daughter Amparo.  But when Amparo could no longer manage, it was the loyal staff working for Balbi’s for so many years who took the initiative and run the business all by themselves. This ran for two years. In 2004, current owner Marissa Montelibano went home from the US and decided to take over the business that was started by her late grandmother five decades ago. According to her, she took the initiative so she can keep her grandmother’s legacy of serving food to the Ilonggos.

Balbis Dinuguan - My Iloilo

Balbi’s all meat Dinuguan with Puto Manapla is beyond words in yummyness.

Since Marissa took over, Balbi’s has improved a lot. Store makeovers were done and the inclusion of other snacks like hamburger and their must-try all-meat dinuguan with puto  manapla has drawn a wider Ilonggo market. We asked Marissa for some tips she could give to those want to start a food business and this is what she has to give: First, you need to come up with a unique product that people will love; Secondly, you need heaps of determination  and lastly, you need to maintain the quality of your products.

Balbis Burgers - My Iloilo

There you go, everyone! I know you’ve been curious all this time as to how the business survived for so many years. Of course, along with their secret recipes and maintaining the taste of their food, the words of Marissa may indeed be the secret why Balbi’s is still in the business for 52 years despite all the ups and downs it has encountered along the way.

Balbi's entrance - My Iloilo

Entrance SEBA Building


Marissa Montelibano - My Iloilo

Marissa Montelibano (owner) – Thanks for sharing your story with us.


1 Comment

  1. What I miss most is the empanada with its layers of crust. I do not see it anymore. The empanada I saw last year was the type you see in Manila – just a plain crust.
    Fortunately, we were still able to get ubod lumpia from Cheling Montelibano. My husband, Mike, misses his kadyos (or cadios) with pork. We can’t get kadios in San Francisco or lumpia ubod like Iloilo’s. Some enterprising women in Daly City make lumpia ubod from canned ubod but it is not the same as that of Iloilo.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>