So last February was the 24th Singles for Christ International Conference (SFC ICON) in Iloilo, and as always, I was excited for it in more ways than one. Of course I was always excited about our annual conference, which is always my first vacation for the year, but I was more excited about it because the province was a big thing in Keep the Faith.
But here’s the thing: it was my first time in Iloilo. I had planned to go there several years ago – and I even had a ticket! – but I didn’t push through. Then when I was writing Keep the Faith, Nico was supposed to be just another guy in Manila, but somewhere along the way, I made him Ilonggo. I can’t remember why or how it led to that (I remember why I put the Ilonggo verse, though, haha), but it became that. But I’ve never been there, so I had to rely on research, Google Maps, and friends.
Anyway, so I finally got there last February, seven months after the book was released, so of course I christened it my “Field Trip with Nico.” Because I’m still sort of in love with this LI, and why not?
On my first morning in the city, I met up with Clarisse and we chatted about books, romance tropes, and #romanceclass events over breakfast. She also told me about the rush hour in Iloilo, and I’m still blown away by this until now, haha.
So, back to Jaro Cathedral – or, the National Shrine of Our Lady of the Candles – is the location of that final scene in Keep the Faith. There are some differences, because some elements weren’t actually there, but I could still imagine Nico and Faith talking by the entrance. Hee. I wasn’t able to hear mass here, but in the short time I was there, this place earned a special spot in my heart. And it’s so pretty.
We also visited Madge Cafe in La Paz Public Market, and I love, love, love their coffee. This wasn’t in Keep the Faith, but when I was working on the next book, I had a scene where two characters went here to have a heart-to-heart talk.
The rest of the places weren’t too relevant in the book anymore, but I could imagine that these were the places that Faith visited when she was on mission in the province, and where Nico spent some time growing up, and where the two of them would go when they’d be in town. Just like how I fell in love with Nico while I was writing him, I kind of fell in love with Iloilo when in the short time I was there.
Will I go back? I definitely will, if only to eat at Tatoy’s, or to finally go to Gigantes (because I was too tita to travel too far, haha). I also want to write more stories set (or even partially set) in Iloilo, and in other places in the Philippines. There are too many stories, too many interesting things to write about in so many places that there’s not enough time to write about it! But thank goodness there are so many #romanceclass writers who are willing to fill this gap.
I had a lovely time, and it was a very fun vacation. Salamat gid, Iloilo! ♥
And to everyone who asked me to bring home Nico – hay nako, if he were real and if I found him there, I wouldn’t have let him go. 😉