Being just a two-hour drive away, Pampanga is one of those places that’s highly accessible from Manila. I’ve travelled to this province several times either on personal trips with my family or as part of a tour, and it’s something I will never get tired of. One can go shopping….
do physical activities like hiking in Mount Pinatubo…
or simply enjoy a weekend staycation at any of the hotels…they’re as good, if not more scenic, than the ones in Manila.
Recently, my fellow bloggers and I were invited to an Appreciation Tour of Pampanga by NorthPine Land which is marketing its first real estate project in Northern Luzon called Montana Views.
It was more of a religious, cultural and culinary trip – no hiking involved. Kudos to NorthPine MarComm head Myla Cammayo and team for the most organized press trip I’ve experienced of late. They prepared a notebook-style guide and had renown history buff Richard Pomar Burgos – head of DOST’s Science and Technology Information Institute no less – as our official guide. He ably gave us a background of each place of interest we went to.
(Photo courtesy of Juan Manila Express)
Our first stop was the headquarters of the world-renowned Betis Crafts. Inc – one of the Philippines’ top exporters of fine furniture. The low-key, unassuming owners Jose and Myrna Bituin were even present to entertain us in their Bali-style house within the huge compound.
Betis furniture is European in style, noted for their ornate designs and intricate carvings. As of our last visit, the workers were busy finishing orders that will adorn stately palaces and mansions in the Middle East and beyond.
One of the reasons why I joined this blogger trip was to see the St. James the Apostle Parish, more popularly known as the Betis Church. It looked so amazing in pictures, and now seeing it in person, I was rightfully awed!
This Baroque-style church dates back to the mid 1600s and has been declared a National Cultural Treasure. Most impressive are its elaborate ceiling murals and interior paintings which have earned for Betis Church the title of ‘Sistine Chapel of the Philippines.’
After a busy, hot morning of touring, we made a stop at the Kusina of Atching Lilian Borromeo who is recognized as the doyenne of traditional Kapampangan cuisine. At 76 years old, Atching Lilian still looks strong enough to rule it over her kitchen and she prepared a lot of her specialties that day. She even showed us how to make the famous San Nicolas cookies.
We ate bringhe, buro, chicharon, pochero, fish, pako salad, relleno, pochero, tibok-tibok and I really liked this sisig babi..it was to die for!
From the town of Mexico, we drove a little further to the capital of Angeles City to take a peek at the Pamintuan Mansion. It’s a century-old house which was intended to be a gift of loving parents to their son who was about to get married. But the structure has immense historical value as well since it served as the seat of government of the First Philippine Government under Gen. Emilio Aguinaldo from May to July 1899.
The interiors of the mansion are, of course, elegant and stately. One gets to imagine how aristocratic families lived in the late 1800s.
Afterwards, it was time to visit the Holy Angel University, notably its Center for Kapampangan Studies which traces the religious and ethnic background of Kapampangans and their role in various stages of the country’s history.
Within the hallowed halls of the University are two other points of interest: the Pinatubo Museum and the Vicente Manansala Art Gallery. Not known by many, Manansala – the National Artist – hails from Macabebe, Pampanga. His family has donated an extensive collection of his works and memorabilia for art lovers to appreciate.
There you go, the Top 5 things to see and do on a one day cultural trip to Pampanga. To refresh ourselves amid the humid heat, we also dropped by Toll House restaurant for their baked mac and Kabigting’s Halo Halo which has pastillas inside.
Thanks again NorthPine Land for our wonderful road trip. We sure had fun! 🙂