Pampanga is known to be a culinary spot in the Philippines and I have proven this during the time when I was assigned in the City of San Fernando in Pampanga. I stayed there for almost 5 years and it was during these times that I was able to discover the culinary delights that Pampanga has to offer. In fact, I believe that it is only in Pampanga where you can find the best tasting Sisig in the country.
Pampanga is a flat terrain, north of Manila, that largely depends on farming and fishing as two of its main industries. It is a province that has earned popularity because of its culinary expertise that ranges from main courses and sweets. Two of the biggest names in the breakfast product market has its roots here in Pampanga – Pampanga’s Best and Mekeni. It is also believed that the popular dish “Sisig” started “along the riles” of Pampanga.
So when an invitation to go on a Pampanga food trip came around last December, it was an easy “yes” for me to tease my taste bud as a way to end 2015 travel journal.
Our first stop was LA Bakeshop at the San Fernando City Public Market. I would have to say that they have one of the best tasting cheese bread in the Philippines and I am sure of that. The bread is soft that melts in your mouth and it goes well with coffee. A definite must try.
Along the old road that connects the City of San Fernando and Bacolor is a small shop known among locals as Lelut Baculud. It was our first stop and this was where we intend to have our breakfast.
Lelut in local dialect is “lugaw” or congee while Baculud is the old name of Bacolor hence the name is roughly translated as “Lugawan sa Baculud”. It is open 24 hours and has a regular following among the locals mainly from Bacolor and San Fernando City. I remember dining here a few years back when it was like a garage-type of restaurant. Now, it has changed a lot with better interiors but it was able to retain its homey atmosphere.
The restaurant is known for its “Lelut” or rice porridge that come in chicken or pork. I always go for the chicken. But apart from the congee, Lelut Baculud also offers other Kapampangan dishes to keep your tummies happy and full.
Sidetrip: San Fernando Old Train Station
500 meters away from the Lelut Baculud is one of San Fernando’s heritage site – the San Fernando Old Train Station. But unlike my first visit, the site have undergone a major facelift from my last visit. It was nice to see that the city government have given the needed attention to rehabilitate the Old Train Station.
Just to refresh your memories, the Old Train Station in San Fernando, Pampanga is historically significant because of two events. The first was on its platform where Dr. Jose Rizal disembarked in 1892 as he was on his way to Bacolor to meet with the recruits of La Liga. The second being the end station of the actual walk of World War 2 fighters who were able to endure the Death March from Bataan.
The Old Train Station is now a museum of sort with a couple of statues that depict scenes of World War 2. They also have a narrative of different experiences from actual survivors of the Japanese occupation. A lot of things can still be improved but having the station restored for the younger generations to appreciate is the good step towards connecting us to the rich history of our country.
Mila’s Tokwa’t Baboy and Sisig
The congee has not settled yet inside our tummies and we were at it again. We took the national road to Angeles City to check out our next food stop – Mila’s Tokwa’t Baboy and Sisig.
Tucked within the confines of Santo Domingo in Angeles City is a foodie spot like no other. I already mentioned that the best sisig is STILL found in Pampanga and Mila’s is no exception to the rule. This restaurant is a popular spot among locals for its wide selection of dishes. The restaurant is void of all the fancy with its straight to the point homey atmosphere. It is the usual off-beat restaurants that was set-up by the garage of the house so do not expect the fancy ambiance of the usual food stops.
However, the food here is to die for. This is definitely not the place for vegetarians and for those on a diet. Mind you, this is a great place to hold your cheat day. I ordered the usual fare that I go for which is Crispy Pata while our hosts, IG friends @vansquared and @iam_reju, suggested a couple of dishes that were not for the faint of heart.
Here are my list of what to eat when you find yourself at Mila’s:
Chicharon Bulaklak – I cannot stop munching on it as soon as it was placed on the table. It was darn good that I just kept munching and munching until there was none. The salty flavour and crisp was just right. I consider it one of their bestsellers and definitely a must try.
Barbecue – Their barbecue is one of a kind. It is pork tocino on a skew. It was definitely a twist from the usual barbecue and I just loved the slight twist that they did on the usual breakfast fare.
Pako Salad – The right combination of pako, onions, tomatos, and salted eggs was enough to get my taste buds excited. It was a great way to start the meal – you eat healthy before you eat start eating anything else.
Sisig – Of course, never miss out on this Pampanga dish when in Pampanga. Pampanga still has the best Sisig in the country and there is no doubt about it.
Sidetrip: Holy Rosary Parish Church
Dark clouds were already forming when we reached the church just right after lunch. We had to let the food settle down so we decided to take a walk along Angeles City’s heritage house. Our first stop was the Holy Rosary Parish Church.
Often referred to as the “Big Church”, the Holy Rosary Parish Church was first constructed from 1877 to 1896 through forced and unpaid labor. The church was fully completed in 1909. The church, apart from its religious significance, was also a mute witness to history with its courtyard being a place of execution for Filipino rebels during the Philippine revolution. The church also saw the horrors of World War 2 with the church’s belfry being damaged in the 1940s.
Now the church serves as a center of religious activity in Pampanga. It is a frequent destinations of devotees during the Holy Week because of the Good Friday procession where followers of the Apung Mamacalulu, walk barefoot.
The church stands out in the midst of the busy streets of Angeles with its two belfries jutting out of the sky. The church’s architecture is simple but mirrors the Spanish period church architecture. The church actually reminds me of Molo Church. It is simple and yet it exudes strength because of its massive structure.
The inside of the church is beautiful and glamorous. The white-interiors made the church look bigger. The interior was very similar to Molo Church because of the pillars that was lines along the sides of the church. The focal point of the church is the altar where it is highlighted by the image of Jesus Christ on the Cross and the Virgin Mary. Interestingly, you will also find a sculpture of the mourning of the Virgin Mary on one side of the church, which also happens to be the same image that you can find at the Manila Cathedral. Only difference is that the one in Angeles City is bigger.
Sidetrip: Pamintuan Residence
Just a 2 minute walk from the church is the 125-year old Pamintuan Mansion. It was built in the 1880s, the house has its own story to tell as it was once served as a government headquarters, a municipal hall, and a Banco Sentral ng Pilipinas office. At present, it is now under the jurisdiction of the National Museum and is now the Museum of Philippine Social History under the curatorship of Miss Bettina Arriola.
The mansion stands silently along the busy street of Angeles City. I have passed through the area during my brief stay in Pampanga without realizing that it was a house that was historically significant. It was only during the trip that I realized the role that it played in Philippine history. The house looked like a simple “Bahay na Bato” from the outside and, as soon as you enter the compound, you will realize the grand lifestyle of its original residents. Greeting you is a grand staircase from the second floor leading to the courtyard.
As you enter the heritage house-turned-museum, you are again greeted by a grand staircase leading to the second floor. We were lucky to be toured around by Miss Bettina who gave us a brief of the house and details of the exhibit. The museum has 9 galleries that showcase the development of social history in the country that covers clothing, architecture, games, music, and even Filipino mythical creatures.
The house was able to maintain its old feel charm with its grand staircases, antique furnitures, old photographs of its owners, and the original flooring of the house. It was interesting to note that General Aguinaldo once roamed this house and once raised the Philippine flag on one of its windows in celebration of the country’s independence.
The house has a watchtower and we were lucky to be given the opportunity to actually step out of it. It gives you a panoramic view of the city. From a short distance, you get to see the church and its belfry. On the other side, you get to see the houses that surround the mansion. It also has a tunnel that is believed to be connected to another mansion BUT the tunnel is off-limits to the public for safety reasons.
Being the music and history lover that I am, I enjoyed going through the antique furniture in the house from its tables, chinaware, clothes, bed frames, and personal things of the previous owners. It gives a glimpse on how they lived during their times.
One thing to look forward to is the music room where you get to experience the evolution of Philippine music through different times. From the kundiman to modern music, you will realize how rich our talents are when it comes to music. There is really no question why most Filipinos are musically-inclined.
The Pamintuan Mansion is a must-see when you are in Angeles City. It will give you a preview, and hopefully make you understand, the diversity in our culture as Filipinos. Kudos to Miss Bettina who took the time to show us around and made us enjoy history.
Café Museo: Batirol, Bibingka, at Puto Bumbong
It started drizzling when we came out of the Pamintuan Mansion. We did not even realize that we actually spent a long time enjoying the galleries of the museum. We were not exactly hungry BUT we were up for another gastronomic treat so we headed to the Museo Ning Angeles.
Just across the Holy Rosary Parish Church is another museum that showcases the development of Angeles City from a sleepy town to a bustling city that it is now. Unfortunately, we were not able to explore the museum because we had another reason for being there – it was snack time.
We came to the Café Museo to try out their famous Batirol, a chocolate drink, and their rice cakes. I was told that this was a favorite activity among locals during their afternoons. The open air café is situated at the courtyard of the museum. Alongside the café are small entrepreneurs that sells rice cakes.
I must say that this was the best way to end our food tripping in Pampanga, a nice cup of hot chocolate drink and a piece of rice cake while sharing stories with friends under a café umbrella. Not to mention, it also started to rain. Nevertheless, the time spent with friends over the rich taste of their hot “batirol” was worth the snuggle and the attempt to, at least, not get wet was a great way to call it a successful day.
Pampanga is definitely one of the top destination when it comes to gastronomic travels. Apart from the usual food restaurants and the places that we went to, there are still a lot of food spots that you can still discover not just in San Fernando City and Angeles City but also in other towns. There are also the exotic delicacies that you can try out to which I am NOT really keen on trying.
Along the way, you can also touch on the history that go with the province of Pampanga. You can get a sneak preview on the lavish lifestyle of the landed Kapampangans and the patriotism that the locals have shown during turbulent times of Philippine history.
Again, Pampanga is worth a trip if you are out to get your tummies filled, that will also leave you smiling. You can explore the grills and eateries along the highways and you can also go for the fancy restaurants that have the Kapampangan trademark.
Getting there: You can take a bus that go to Bataan from Cubao and then asked to be dropped off at SM City San Fernando. From there, you can take a jeep to the public market. You can then take a tricycle, jeep, or a kalesa to Lelut Baculud. You can take a jeep from San Fernando to Angeles. You can take a tricycle to get around Angeles City.
Marc del Rosario
I believe in education, entrepreneurship, and caring for the environment.