Whilst the Philippines isn't celebrated for its food in comparison with other South East Asian countries, foodies in need of a fix can still find some exotic and unusual cuisine in the province of Pampanga, Central Luzon - hailed as the Culinary Capital of the Philippines! Lying on the northern shore of Manila Bay, you'll find an authentic slice of Filipino life, lush landscapes and the thriving city of Angeles, and you'll surely be welcomed by the accommodating 'Kapampangans', the people of this area. The area is also famous for its annual hot air balloon Fiesta.
Things to do in Pampanga
- Hot air balloon festival:
Take to the sky in a multicoloured air balloon to enjoy views over the entire province of Pampanga. Every year in the second week of February, locals and guest celebrate the Hot Air Balloon Fiesta. They usually hold the event in Clark, Pampanga, where families and friends gather together to experience a true Kapampangan festival! The event was initially formed as a 'passion project' to promote 'aviation awareness' amongst visiting pilots from all around the world and to exchange cultures and traditions. It has now become a huge event in Asia. The event also promotes Philippine tourism, volunteerism, cooperation in the community. It costs Php 350 (per person) for the admission tickets that can be bought at the Fiesta gates. And don't worry if you are a first timer, professional pilots will be the ones navigating the balloon for you!
- Pampanga for foodies
If you are planning to explore Pampanga more, you should not go back home without trying their authentic signature dishes! Pampanga did not earn the name the Culinary Capital of the Philippines for nothing! Throughout the years, Kapampangans have captured the heart and stomach of every tourist and even some stubborn locals too! The area is famous for its unique, exotic flavours - but are you are adventurous enough to eat insects served hot on your plate!?
Check out these restaurants in particular which serve the best Kapampangan signature dishes:
- Aling Lucing's Sisig
- Everybody's cafe (try the Morcon!)
- Abe's Nature Farm
- Kusina ni Atching Lillian
- Halo-halo sa Corazon
And some dishes you should try:
- Morcon - Very meaty! Ground beef and pork mixed with chorizo, wrapped in sinsal (pork intestinal lining) simmered in a pepper sauce!
- Batute Tugak - Stuffed frogs.
- Pindang Kalabaw - Buffalo meat.
- Camaru - Mole crickets.
- Balo balo
- Taba ng talangka - pure fat from tiny crabs.
Camaru - Mole crickets.
- Picnic in Paradise
Located in Clark Air Base, Pampanga, Paradise Ranch is an environmental project that intends to educate the public on protecting the environment and saving wildlife. And since it is situated up in the hills, you can experience fog and the cooler temperature comparable to Tagaytay. Not to mention a breathtaking view of the entire Clark Zone, overlooking the Sacobia River, surrounding cities and towns, Mount Pinatubo and Arayat - all free of charge!
- Go on a horseback ride
If you are looking for an unusual adventure, head to El Kabayo, Angeles City, Pampanga for some horseback riding! You'll be amazed at the replica of an old western town directly out of an American cowboy movie! Aside from riding, El Kabayo also has amenities where you can experience and witness how horses are groomed, fed and trained by the professionals. Of course, souvenir items such as cowboy hats, cowboy boots, bandanas, cowboy figurines, pellet revolvers, bows and arrows are available in their shop. Hungry? El Kabayo offers great food such as BBQ in an American Style old-west dining establishment. Are you still in the Philippines?
How to get to Pampanga
Angeles City in Pampanga is located a few hours north of the capital, Manila. You can take a bus from from EDSA (Victory Liner or Five Star, both have bus stations at Tramo in Pasay and Cubao) that head north to the Mabalacat bus station (look for a signboard that says DAU) and cost around 125 pesos. From there, take a short walk to the Caltex gas station, cross the street and you'll find jeepneys to Angeles City proper (look for the C. POINT or HOLY signboards).
Where to go next?
About the author - This guide was written by Rommel Zambrano.