I explored Pampanga via Philtranco and discovered its many flavors. I’m not just referring to the food, but also about the places we visited. When I learned about this trip, I thought we will just be eating. After all, the province is dubbed “The Culinary Capital of the Philippines” and that got me excited, foodie as I am.
I’ve been to the many parts of Pampanga but never had the chance to get to know the province that well. My family thought about visiting, but never got the chance to making it happen. I guess the thought of driving to the province stalled our plans. But now that we’re aware that Philtranco is offering the Manila-Pampanga route, it’ll happen sooner than later.
We were at the Philtranco Bus Station in Pasay early in the morning and left at past 6am. I was with fellow bloggers, media representatives and other guests. Although the travel from Manila to Pampanga via Philtranco was not that long, we still didn’t mind because we were entertained on the bus. The Philippines’ Adobe Queen, Ms. Nancy Lumen joined us and was the emcee of the short program onboard Philtranco.
As soon as we reached Pampanga, we didn’t immediately dive in to eating. We visited St James The Apostle, Betis Church in Guagua. Being a non-catholic, I’m not excited to this destination. I mean, I’ve seen many old churches before, and they all look the same. But as soon as I entered the church, my nonchalant attitude took a 180 degrees turn.
The church has paintings on the roof, and they’re beautiful. I learned that Betis Church is nicknamed “The Sistine Chapel of the Philippines” because of the feature. We were also told that these paintings were done with the artist lying down on his back.
Established in 1607, the church was declared a National Cultural Treasure by the National Museum and the National Commission for Culture and the Arts. If you intend to visit this church, make sure you’re dressed conservatively, or at least have something to cover yourself up like a shawl or similar material.
Our second stop in Guagua is JB Betis Woodcraft. I grew up with ornate furnitures. For one, my grandfather owned a lumber in our province. Because of that, the family had a penchant on carvings and all that jazz. Pampanga would come up in our discussions when talking about wood carvings and those beautifully crafted furnitures.
JB Betis Woodcraft does all that and our second visit in Pampanga was at their factory showroom. The place is definitely every furniture lovers’ dream. It’s filled with pieces that are exquisite and carefully crafted. Most of the ones on display were for export, mostly to the Middle East. Although I’m into modern design, I can’t help but admire the craftsmanship and fall in love with some of the pieces.
After Guagua, we proceeded to Bacolor, Pampanga still onboard Philtranco bus. Our first stop was at San Guillermo Church. Unfortunately, the church is closed due to ongoing renovation. Would have been great to check out the church, built in 1576, and was buried halfway by lahar when Mount Pinatubo errupted in 1991.
We spotted a lady selling rice cakes and Tamales. It seemed like a signal to our next stop, at Laring’s Special Kakanin also in Bacolor. This place was such a delight because not only did we get to see how Tamales is made, we also got to taste them.
I did enjoy the dish made of rice flour and topped with hard-boiled eggs, ham and chicken. It’s a savory dish that you might not like the first time. So I only bought a handful to bring home just for tasting. I regret doing that because I ended up enjoying it.
The rest of our trip to Pampanga via Philtranco was spent in Angeles. Just in time for lunch, we proceeded to 25 Seeds Restaurant owned by celebrity chef, Chef Sau del Rosario. It’s location is at the second floor of a homey ancestral house where you feel like you’re a guest by some rich family. The place is very open, giving that airy feel to it.
Of course, the food is something else. I enjoyed all the dishes that was served to us, including the exotic Crispy Camaro (crickets) which tasted like “sisig”.
After lunch, we hopped back into our Philtranco bus to buy treats to bring home. Everyone crammed to get pasalubong at Susie’s Cuisine. I just checked out what’s for sale. Sad to say that what they offer are also available in Manila, so I skipped the shopping. Besides, I already have a handful of food to bring home.
Another trip on the bus took us to the Pamintuan Mansion which is now called the Museum of Social Science and History of the Philippines. Apparently, the heritage house was once a residence of Gen. Emilio Aguinaldo. The place was where the first anniversary of the Philippine independence was celebrated, attended by Pres. Aguinaldo, Gregorio Del Pilar and others.
We also visited the Center for Kapampangan Studies inside Holy Angel University. The place is the university museum showcasing Kapampangan culture & history, with diverse artifacts, dioramas & photos.
After filling our minds with Kapampangan culture and history, it was time to fill our tummy with delicious foods. Our early dinner was at Aling Lucing’s Sisig, the place where this popular dish was reinvented. The owner, Lucia Cunanan, aka Sisig Queen, was credited for the reinvention by serving the dish on sizzling plate for a crispier dish.
I was told that the restaurant is usually filled with people. I guess lots of people would want to experience the original sisig from the place acknowledged by the Philippine Department of Tourism has having established Angeles City as the Sisig Capital of the Philippines.
Nothing beats the original. Void of bells and whistles such as the mayonnaise and sunny side egg, Aling Lucing’s Sisig is really good. We also enjoyed the other dishes at the restaurant – Bulalo, Chicharong Bulaklak, and Ensalada.
Our last stop was supposed to be at Kabigting’s Halo-Halo. Unfortunately, we no longer have enough time that we ended up taking them on the bus. This is like history repeating itself as I remember enjoying halo halo on the bus in one of our trips as well. This time, Kabigting’s offer a special mix. It’s simple, yet sweet and creamy.
Travel with Philtranco
Once again, I had an awesome time, this time exploring the many flavors of Pampanga. Visit the Culinary Capital of the Philippines and be filled with experience for body, mind and soul. And yes, take a trip to Pampanga via Philtranco. Better yet, travel the Philippines with Philtranco. The bus company provides transport services going to Southern Tagalog, Bicol, Eastern Visayas, and Mindanao. Visit www.philtranco.net for routes and schedule of buses.