Tag Archive: Pampanga



Nayong Pilipino translates to Filipino Village. This theme park near the Diosdado Macapagal International Airport sits in a 45-acre park within the Expo Pilipino Complex. Sorely in need of funding, I lament that it is not as “representative of the best in the country”nor as widely promoted as our other tourist spots.

 

 

20130430-125454.jpg

Nayong Pilipino (Filipino Village) in Clark Expo Zone

20130430-125606.jpg

The Barasoian Church where sunday masses are held 10 am .

 

 

I couldn’t remember the last time I visited Nayong Pilipino. And I’m referring to the old site near the Manila International Airport. Having a tourist site with replicas and miniatures of famous Philippine landmarks is a good idea. Locating it near an international airport serves travelers well, especially those with an extended layover. I am assuming THAT idea is intended to promote the country and perhaps encourage foreigners to explore more of the Philippines. As for the locals, I remember the old Nayong Pilipino as a must-experience for grade schoolers to introduce them to the beauty, history and geography of our country.

 

 

20130430-130534.jpg

Si Malakas at si Maganda (The Strong and the Beautiful)

20130430-130714.jpg

The Colonial Plaza includes the Rizal Shrine, Emilio Aguinaldo Shrine and the Apolinario Mabini Shrine.

 

 

I have a circle of visiting foreign bloggers who breeze through Manila on their way to the beach destinations in the Visayas and Palawan, OR to the rice terraces and colonial/heritage towns up North. Cebu and Bohol are popular destinations to view Magellan’s Cross, Tarsiers, and Chocolate Hills. Gaining popularity of late is Donsol for the whale shark adventures and while there, who’d dare miss our majestic Mayon Volcano?

 

 

20130430-131524.jpg

Typical Filipino huts line the perimeter towards the Nayong Pilipino .entrance.

20130430-131710.jpg

A representative Kalinga Village (Northern Philippines)

 

 

I am not confident this theme park highlights the best our country offers. I understand there’s a shuttle service from nearby SM Clark but if there was, ALL my foreigner-friends who flew in via Clark missed it. A free shuttle from the airport itself would have served the purpose better. (If there is, it should be promoted so as NOT to be missed!) Surely, extended layovers are better spent here rather than in the malls or duty-free shops.

 

 

20130430-133454.jpg

Replica of the Rice Terraces of Banaue in Northern Philippines. With real rice planted!

20130430-133529.jpg

On a hot and humid day, the shade from these trees are heaven-sent!

 

 

We went on a hot, humid day. Walking around without a hat or umbrella is guaranteed to give one a migraine. Luckily, we came prepared. But there were not enough markers and signs to tell the story, history and culture of the different regions represented here. I am not sure if there is a schedule of guided tours. I wish there is. And I hope they have good guides.

 

 

20130430-134211.jpg

An Ifugao House

20130430-134238.jpg

An Ifugao Village

 

 

I understand there is the issue of funding. The time I went, there were hardly any visitors. Now, those P100 admission fees from MORE visitors could augment the needed funding. A better-stocked cafeteria may likewise be a good source of revenues. So how about bringing in more visitors by offering free shuttle services on FIXED SCHEDULES from the Clark airport?

 

 

20130430-134950.jpg

Barasoian Church replica.

20130430-135005.jpg


I have never been to San Guillermo Church in Bacolor, Pampanga before. But I have certainly heard about it, and grieved with many when the mudflow (lahar) from Mount Pinatubo left the church and many parts of Bacolor, Pampanga half-buried in nature’s wrath.

 

 

20120701-201235.jpg

20120701-201300.jpg

San Agustin Church was built in 1571. San Guillermo Church dates back to 1576.

 

 

Mount Pinatubo put us back in the world map with its disastrous eruption after a hundred years of dormancy. A sleeping monster. The ash fall covered a large area just as I was spending a holiday in a beach in Zambales that sad day in 1991. We cut short our holiday then, but it didn’t end with that. The large deposits of lava emitted by the volcano was a serious threat to the areas surrounding the volcano each time the country experienced some heavy rainfall. Four years after the eruption, the town of Bacolor, Pampanga met its sad fate from nature’s fury. San Guillermo Church was not spared.

 

 

20120701-202106.jpg

20120701-202135.jpg

 

 

Sad to think that a church nearly as old as the San Agustin Church in Intramuros stood helpless when lahar flowed from the slopes of Mount Pinatubo on that fateful day of September 3, 1995. Four years after it erupted on June 15, 1991, Mount Pinatubo continued to wreak havoc on this Philippine countryside. Half of the 12 meters of this baroque and neo-classical architecture lay buried in mudflow. Yet faith and perseverance united the Bacolor folks who wasted no time excavating the religious statues, altar and retablo which they carefully and lovingly relocated under the more spacious church dome where it would fit.

 

 

20120702-144413.jpg

They moved the altar and retablo in this space under the dome, where it would fit.

20120702-144440.jpg

Those bats gave me the creeps…………

 

 

We were the only ones visiting the church at the time. The silence and presence of bats guarding the retablo added to the mood. Such sorrow at seeing this church “halved” by this catastrophe. We entered and exited through what used to be the church windows. We lamented seeing the arches touch the ground. So with the windows touching the now-tiled floor. We stooped through low archways to get inside the Adoration Chapel. Thank God many of the religious icons were salvaged and painstakingly restored and preserved.

 

 

20120702-145203.jpg

20120702-145236.jpg

Yes, it reached all the way up there.

 

 

The centuries-old religious statues on display is a testament to the town’s faith and pride. A popular TV series (“May Bukas Pa”) had their location shooting in this church. We didn’t miss checking out “Bro” — a statue of the reincarnated Christ. There were more where we found Bro. All equally finely crafted.

 

 

20120702-145723.jpg

Si Bro…..

20120702-145755.jpg

Don’t You Just Love This Image of this thumb-sucking Infant Jesus?

20120702-145823.jpg

 

 

For sure, “Bro” is pleased that nature’s wrath did not at all diminish the faith in this town. In a way, Bacolor “saved” the other towns in Pampanga as it served as catch basin for all that mud flowing down from Mount Pinatubo. Many lost their homes, businesses and loved ones. One can’t help but feel sorrow for their misfortune. God bless this town.

 

 

20120702-150618.jpg

20120702-150646.jpg


Read so much about it, but never tried. Till now.

 

 

20120630-094752.jpg

 

 

I’ve eaten frogs before in a Chinese restaurant in London. They called it “water chicken” there and I savored the dish without suspecting “water chicken” = frog. Not bad. In fact, I liked it. But I have not repeated that experience since. Till now.

 

 

20120630-095125.jpg

 

 

In a recent trip to Pampanga, lunch was in a place called Apag Marangle in Bacolor. Literally translated as “hain sa bukid”, or dining in the farm, this 4 year old restaurant is located along the old Olongapo-Gapan Road (now JASA) in Bacolor, Pampanga. Fast gaining popularity for its authentic Kapampangan dishes, the native cottages lining a man-made fishpond with grazing ducks add just the right touch.

 

 

20120630-100140.jpg

20120630-100226.jpg

 

 

Pampanga is regarded as the culinary capital of the Philippines. One story goes that the Muslim royalty driven out of Manila settled here with their royal household. Another version is that many Spanish friars who oversaw the construction of several 17th century churches here had their own coterie of artisans and kitchen masters. I’m more inclined to believe the former story, quite unable to imagine the likes of Padre Damaso feasting on frogs and crickets.

 

 

20120630-100739.jpg

20120630-100926.jpg

 

 

Unlike the frogs served in London, the Kapampangan frog dish had no pretensions. The frog — called “tugak” — was served skewered, 3 to a stick. There is also the stuffed version (“Betute”) but I went for tugak 😪. No one wanted to share the dish with me. But I had company when the mole crickets were served. Boiled in vinegar and garlic, then sautéed in chopped tomatoes and onions. Crunchy at first bite, moist inside. Again, no pretensions in serving this bug dish called kamaru or kamaro. Never disguised. They all looked like they were crawling just moments before they were served. Awwwww 😣😢😝

 

 

20120630-101351.jpg

20120630-102003.jpg

 

 

 

You don’t need a stomach made of steel to try these exotic dishes from this foodie province. Just a lot of spunk and “fear factor-ish” sense of adventure. Don’t worry, there is no scratchy texture to the cricket dish. Why, you ask? The cook makes sure they have rendered the mole crickets lame by removing the legs and wings. Aww! 😣😢😓

 

 

20120630-102436.jpg

20120630-102531.jpg

 

 

 

To be sure, order some other non-exotic Kapampangan dishes in Apag Marangle. The grilled seafood and steamed vegetables served with buro (fermented rice) perfectly complement Tugak and Kuliglig. And the carnivores can still satisfy their Lechon Kawali fix served with liver sauce while deciding whether to order the more exotic Betute. I opted out. Stuffed with minced pork before deep-frying, the dish looks like an oversized, obese frog to me. 😢😣😜. Much unlike its skewered cousins who can do with some muscle toning. 😱

 

 

20120630-103338.jpg

20120630-103455.jpg

20120630-103536.jpg

 

 

 

On our way out of Apag Marangle, we spotted some reddish thingy clinging to the bamboo poles and rocks. We were told they were snail eggs. We dared not ask if they were edible! 😝😝😝

 

 

 

20120630-103910.jpg

20120630-104250.jpg


It is actually named Saint James the Apostle Church. But you’d get by asking for directions to Betis Church. After all, every person in Pampanga has every reason to be proud of this historical and architectural treasure.

 

 

20120629-105443.jpg

 

 

Huge, but it doesn’t look much from outside. And for a moment, I wasn’t sure if the 1- 1/2 hour drive from Manila is worth it. I’ve seen many photos of this 17th century church and its famed frescoes and murals but thought it could all be hype. That happens. So I braced myself not to expect much.

 

 

20120629-105957.jpg

 

 

As we entered, we were pleasantly surprised to walk on wooden floors. Dubbed the “Sistine Chapel” of the Philippines, local artist Macario Ligon certainly didn’t disappoint. Biblical scenes and cherub paintings on the ceiling are guaranteed to give you a stiff neck while appreciating the majesty of this ceiling art. It confuses the senses whether to walk appreciating the native wood used for flooring, craning one’s neck so as not to miss the majestic “Sistine Chapel-ish” ceiling frescoes, or walking forward to get closer to the lovely and ornately-designed “retablo” of this church in Guagua, Pampanga.

 

 

20120629-110841.jpg

 

 

Don’t miss standing in the nave and spending a few minutes there just to take it all in. Check out the baptistery on the right side, “guarded” by a statue of the Nazareno, before taking baby steps towards the altar.

 

 

20120629-111816.jpg

 

 

The opulence strikes one with this pleasant sensation that a church as lovely as this has been spared from the disastrous lahar or mudflow from Mount Pinatubo. The neighboring town of Bacolor was not as lucky. By God’s grace, this church still stands in all its splendor so many more generations of Filipinos may appreciate this historical, cultural and architectural treasure.

 

 

20120629-112328.jpg

20120629-112436.jpg

20120629-112511.jpg