Monday, 7 December 2015

When In Pampanga, EAT!



Pampanga is that part of Luzon where the most diverse dishes are being served securing them the claim as the “Culinary Capital of the Philippines”.

Apart from the food, it also has theme park attractions to boast of (Zoocobia, Dinosaurs Island), Outlet stores (Robinson’s Starmills) that are on sale whole year round, Outdoor Adventures like Sandbox and Mt. Pinatubo Trek and Spa Town to name a few.

These are just some of the reasons why everyone needs to pay Pampanga a visit though food was already reason enough for me.

Having been booked last January 27, I was apprehensive if the trip will push through considering the number of months before its culmination. But hey if you’re meant to visit a place, the whole universe supports your calling and purpose.  


Cebu Pacific has 3 flights per week (Monday, Wednesday and Friday) from Cebu to Clark with a flight duration of 1 hr and 25 minutes though frequently the plane arrives ahead of schedule. We departed Cebu 4:50am on Wednesday and arrived in Clark approximately 5:55am.

There are no taxis in Pampanga, only jeepneys and trikes roaming around the city. Once you arrived in Clark, look for the air-conditioned jeepneys operating just outside the airport’s arrival area. Fare is only P50/pax. It can take you as far as the Balibago Terminal in Angeles City.
If you haven’t booked any hotel or accommodation yet, no need to worry because at the main gate (near Jollibee and Chowking where most of the passengers disembark), it is swarmed with hotels and pension houses from the most expensive to the affordable and cheap ones.

Meticulously planning a trip is a bit stressful due to several noteworthy details to consider such as the place to stay. There were several search results when I googled the internet but it was Juanita's Guesthouse that caught my attention because of the positive reviews. It is suitably located in Angeles City and a walking distance from SM Clark. Also the accommodation is very near the terminal and restaurants are lining up the streets. 

The staffs are really very accommodating and friendly too. They practically know everything from what to ride when you go to a certain place to the location of the must-try eating places. And also they were very kind enough to let us check in early instead of the usual noontime check in time (we arrived there past 6am). We paid P1050/night Standard room (air-conditioned room) with a comfortable bed, TV, fridge. I personally appreciate the bidet inside the toilet.



The guesthouse also have a café of the same name which is just beside the place where they offer all day breakfast and value meals. On weekends, they have BBQ nights where you can sample the chicken tails and pork ears.

On our first day, I was really itching to sample all the food listed on my itinerary, Aling Lucing’s Sisig, Betute Tugak (Stuffed Frogs), Adobong Camaru (Crickets), Nathaniel’s Buko Pandan Salad, Betty’s Tibok-tibok among everything else.
As there are famous food in Pampanga, there are also restaurants that are widely known because of their authentic Kapampangan dishes. One good example is Everybody’s Café which is in front of Nepo Mall. Going there, you need to ride the jeepney marked with C. Point – Holy - SM Clark sign. Fare is only P8.00. We tried their adobong camaru (crickets) and surprisingly it was flavorful except for the fact that once chewed it tends to give you an unfamiliar sharp zing perhaps due to the antennae or legs of the crickets. The Betute Tugak sadly was not available.

                                                                           adobong camaru (crickets)

However, we were able to taste the Stuffed Frogs (Betute Tugak) while dining at the food court in SM Clark. Good thing the said frog dish (P65/pc) is available at Kusina Manyaman which offers a wide variety of authentic Kapampangan food from exotic to more common dishes. The stuffed frog (stuffed with ground beef) tasted more like a dry fried chicken.

                                                               Betute Tugak (Stuffed Frogs)
Also we sampled their Binukadkad na Tilapia with Buro (fermented rice) since Hito is no longer available. No surprise there for the Tilapia but it's a different story for the Buro - it was sour, has a distinctive stench which is not appetizing and it has the most unforgettable after taste ever. 

                                                            Binukadkad na Tilapia with Buro

The following day was a promise of sampling the most inventive dishes and this include Aling Lucing’s Sisig which gained its popularity in the 70’s (1974). It was pioneered by Lucita Cunanan, the sisig inventor earning her the title, the Queen of Sisig. The place has been obsessively patronized by local and foreign tourists alike. In fact they bragged that Anthony Bourdain, Atong Ang, Jessica Soho and even presidentiable Rody Duterte visited the place and ate the celebrated sisig. My verdict, it was the best sisig I’ve ever tasted. Truly Aling Lucing live up to its name. Other than the sisig, you definitely have to try the relyenong bangus (Boneless bangus stuffed with ground meat and veggies).



                                                                                                        Sisig
                                                                                         Relyenong Bangus

Unfortunately there was only little time to try the other Kapampangan dishes. However, the sweet-tooth in me tells me to satisfy my sweet food cravings by trying out Nathaniel's Buko Pandan Salad and Tibok-tibok.

The Buko Pandan salad appeared to be more like an ice cream but when I asked the staff if it was an ice cream he said No, it was a salad. It was so smooth and creamy where every spoonful is absolute happiness. The ¼ size costs P220 which is good for 3-4 persons.


Betty’s tibok-tibok on the other hand is definitely not to miss when in Pampanga, it’s reminiscent of a Maja Blanca dessert.  This pudding which is creamier and milkier because of the carabao’s milk derived its name literally from “heartbeat” because while cooking, bubbles appear and looks like it’s pulsating, like a beat of the heart hence the name.

                                                     Tibok-tibok (Carabao Milk Pudding)

Other must tries in Pampanga are:

Purple Pad Thai:

                                                                     4-pc Thai Glazed Fried Chicken

                                                                                       Bagoong Rice

Coffee Overdose:

                                                                      Nutty Mochadamia

Robertos Coffee and Tea:


                                                              Salt N Pepper Seared Salmon

                                                                             Baby Back Ribs

                                                                    Ice Tea Fuze Strawberry

                                                                         Ice Tea Fuze Kiwi

Nathaniel's:

                                                                            Buko Pandan Drink

                                                                                   Roast Beef

La Nilad:

                                                              Red Velvet Cake with Wild Berries Tea

Apart from the food trip, there are a lot of activities that can be done in Pampanga. You can visit Zoocobia, Dinosaurs Island, Sandbox and Mt. Pinatubo. We were only able to visit Dinosaurs Island which houses life-sized Dinosaurs that moves and even makes a sound. It’s a theme park that adults and kids alike should visit because it’s educational and fun if you are interested in the Jurassic Era. Entrance Fee is P350 Regular Fee. Students (up to College): Private – P300 and Public P250. They are open daily, Monday to Sunday from 9:00am to 5:00pm.



The reason why we were not able to visit some of Pampanga’s tourist attractions is because we went on a side trip going to Subic. Around 7am, we went to Dau Terminal from Balibago riding a tricycle which is P100 one way good for two persons. You can either ride the Philtranco or the Victory Liner buses though I would highly recommend the Victory Liner among the 2 buses (cleaner and more disciplined drivers). Fare from Dau Terminal to Subic is P140. You need to disembark at Harbor Point Mall (Ayala Mall) and then look for a taxi. We actually haggled for the entire trip going to Zoobic Safari and Ocean Adventure and paid P1800 for the duration of the trip which includes dropping you off back to the Harbor Point where you can also ride a bus going back to Dau.



Zoobic Safari Day Tour Entrance Rate was P545 – Adults, P445 – Kids 4 ft and below, Free – Kids 3 ft and below

Inclusions:

• 11 attractions (Zoobic Park, Rodent World, Serpentarium, Forbidden/Zoobic Cave, Tiger Safari Ride, Close Encounter, Savannah, Animal MuZOOeum, Aetas' Trail, Hip-Hop-Bay-a-Wak, Croco Loco) for approximately 2 1/2 hours

• Zoo Guide

Tip: It is best to leave Zoobic Safari at 12:30pm after taking your lunch because the show in Ocean Adventure starts at 1:15pm in the afternoon. And then after all the shows, head back to Harbor Point not later than 6pm because Victory Liner's last trip is around 6pm.


Ocean Adventure Rates:
Admission Prices
Admission is inclusive of all Feature Shows and Aquarium Exhibits.
Adult – Php 650
Senior Citizen – Php 520
Children 12 years old and below – Php 520
Children under 30-inches – Free

Feature Shows:
Dolphin Tales
Sea Lion Marine Patrol
Wild World
The Velasco Family
Park Hours: 9 am to 6 pm
Open Every Day (rain or shine)
Phone: (047) 252-9000