One of the best provinces in the Philippines that offer the tastiest and most sumptuous foods, is probably Pampanga. So the invite from Philtranco to check out what they have on the itinerary for media and bloggers on a food tour is a no-brainer go-to invite.
I, together with Cristelle Torres of GirlandBoyThing.com, went early to meet and go to the Philtranco Pasay station for the morning meet-up. There we met the other bloggers, media people, the PR team and the Philtranco, Jam Transit and FastCat team as well.
At about 6:00 or 6:15am, we headed our way to the north. The Philtranco team was a great host, they even tagged along the Adobo Queen herself, Ms. Nancy Reyes Lumen, who made the Pampanga Food Tour even more informative and entertaining.
Betis Church, Guagua, Pampanga
First stop of the tour is at the Betis Church. Betis Church is located at Guagua, Pampanga, known for its Baroque-inspired architecture that one of the only 26 churches in the country to be declared by the National Museum and the NCAA as National Cultural Treasure.
Standing tall for 357 years strong now, the Betis Church has produced more than 53 priests and 1 bishop of its existence.
Many dub it as the “Sistine Chapel” of Pampanga as the ceilings were beautified via hand-painting. It took 3 years painting the ceiling of Betis Church by famous artist Anac
Baculud, a relative of Juan Crisostomo Soto, by the name of Isidoro C. Soto, who was mentored by Dr. Sijuco.
JB Betis Woordcraft
Second stop showed me Kapangpangan’s craftsmanship on wood as we visited the JB Betis Woodcraft.
JB Betis Woordcraft, owned by Jose BItuin, is considered as the leader of hand-carved and solid wood furniture in the province.
It has produced many masterfully crafter pieces which include furnitures ordered by luxury hotels, famous people, nobilities and celebrities both here and abroad.
It is not hard to see with the quality of materials, artistry and detailed craftsmanship, why the JB Betis products get so much attention.
No wonder that it was included in one of the businesses toured at by the 2017 ASEAN delegates in the country.
San Guillermo Church
Next stop was another church, buried by mud, ash during the 1991 Mt. Pinatubo eruption. The lahar-stricken area put the originally 12 meter high San Guillermo Church to half.
Today, continual renovation has been done to the church.
Tamales Queen, Aling Laring
The fourth stop of the Philtranco Pampanga Food Tour, is the province’s very own delicacy, the tamales. Aling Laring, known as the Tamales Queen, is one of probably the oldest Tamales producers in the Pampanga. She started her original tamales back in 1972.
Tamales was just to tickle our taste buds as we headed next to 25 Seeds, a relatively new restaurant in Pampanga, owned by Chef Sau Del Rosario.
25 Seeds is located on a 1920’s mansion converted to a 2-storey-restaurant. The menu goes along pretty well with old Filipino mansion feel, showcasing Filipino food but with much zest and flavor.
While waiting for the special dishes that 25 Seeds was preparing for us, a noticeable set of fashion collections made by a Kapampangan designer was in front for all of us to see. And gladly, some of the media and bloggers gave in to the notion to strut it on the floor for everyone to see.
To be honest, each dish that I tasted proved to be a delight to my taste buds. Never a dull moment for my palette – absolutely fantastic.
25 Seeds showcased some of their signature dishes:
- Pako Salad
- Tinape Babi
- Bulanglang na Babi
- Crispy Pork Macadamia Kare-Kare Rice and Market Vegetables
- Chicken Galantina Rice, Achara and Buttered Vegetables
- Tibok-tibok with Mais
Chef Sau was very kind enough to demonstrate his very own version of Tamales. He even discussed some trivia’s about this delicacy. Though tamales is originally from Mexico (or Spain perhaps), to Kapampangans, it is also called “bobotu” (to vote), because back in the days when only men were allowed to vote, the women were at home cooking tamales for the election day. Thus, in their own sense, it is a way or tradition that they make tamales to vote.
After a great lunch, we went next to another mansion, the Pamintuan Mansion or now known as the Museum of Philippine Social History.
It is a house built in 1880s as present for the son of Don Mariano Pamintuan and Valentina Torres. It became part of national history after Emilio Aguinaldo celebrated the first anniversary of independence on this house in 1899 and served as a branch of Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas.
Aside from antique stuff and historical notes, the house itself shows the elegance on the intricate details on each part of the house. Truly, a thing of art and beauty.
Center for Kapampangan Studies
Close to the Pamintuan Mansion is another place of the rich cultural value of the Pampanga – the Center for Kapampangan Studies.
Little did I know that the CKS is inside the Holy Angel University, the biggest university in the province, which happens to be owned, partly, by a good friend, Dr. Peter Nepomuceno.
That’s why the Center for Kapampangan Studies (CKS) tour was not just a historic and cultural tour, but more of a tour on the business history of a friend’s family, the Nepomuceno.
CKS focuses on the rich history of Pampanga and some the province’s pride. It hosts a library and museum, all for the preservation of factual Kapampangan history, culture and heritage.
One intriguing thing about the CKS is their application that translates any letter or word to an indigenous writing system native to Kapampangan’s the “Kulitan.”
Aling Lusing’s Sisig
After hours getting to know the history and culture of Pampanga, the Philtranco Pampanga Food Tour’s next stop was Aling Lusing, another food pride of the province.
Aling Lusing’s Sisig is a homegrown restaurant. Due to her sisig, Aling Lusing has been featured by many known media personalities including international chef and TV host Anthony Bourdain. Bourdain even said he’d include sisig in the menu of his own restaurant in New York.
Some of the dishes I tried were bulalo, ensalada, burong kanin with vegetables.
To top the Philtranco Pampanga Food Tour, a popular dessert in the province was just fitting to cap the tour, the Kabigting’s Halo-Halo.
The now popular halo-halo (as there are already in select malls in Metro Manila), started in a small store in Palaraya, Arayat.
Kabigting’s Halo-halo is known for having only 3 ingredients: Beans, Corn and Pastillas made of Carabao’s Milk. The unique combination of the three brings the sweet, rich, melting flavour once eaten.
Being a day in Pampanga may be too short to many, especially if you want to go into much detail on every sight.
It is just nice to have Philtranco, the first bus operator in the Philippines and in Asia, havng regular trips to Pampanga.
Today Philtranco has a growing fleet of 250 buses that range from deluxe, premium deluxe , to executive seater. Philtranco has routes to and from many parts of the whole country.
And with their partnership with Jam Liner and FastCat, touring the Phililppines via bus is becoming more convenient than before.
Next time you want to go to the Culinary Center of the Philippines – Pampanga, you should consider riding via Philtranco.