With its growing array of choices ranging from authentic and exotic Kapampangan dishes to international cuisine, from the original family recipes to food hybrids with unexpected twists, from your childhood kakanin to the more modern cakes and other sweets, Pampanga has strongly maintained its reputation as the Culinary Capital of the Philippines.
With so many options to choose from, oftentimes I get confused on where to bring friends who wished to go on a foodventure in my home province. But for first timers who only have a day to experience these gastronomic finds, you may want to try this itinerary which I did together with my friends and former colleagues in Manila Water.
Since we only had a full day and we want to explore as much destinations as we can, we left Quezon City at 6:30 AM as scheduled. The City of San Fernando, Pampanga’s capital city is only an hour away from Metro Manila via the North Luzon Expressway. It is advisable to have your own vehicle if you wish to cover everything. But for those who’d wish to do it the local way and experience commuting, I will also be posting commuting tips.
Via private vehicle.
From Manila, take the North Luzon Expressway (NLEX) either via Balintawak or Mindanao Avenue Exit. Prepare Php 157 for the toll fee.
Via public transportation
From Pasay, Cubao, Caloocan or Manila, take a bus going to Bataan or Zambales or Guagua/San Fernando and alight at Robinsons Starmills Pampanga or at Dolores intersection. Usual bus lines with this route include Victory Liner, Bataan Transit, Genesis and Saulog. Please see below fare matrix.
From there, take a jeepney going to downtown San Fernando. Fare is Php 7.
Generally, a town or city in Pampanga may be explored by jeepney, tricycle or pedicab/rickshaw which locals call three-wheeler. But in the City of San Fernando, you’ll still find few kalesas roaming around the downtown area, which is patronize not just by tourists but even locals for their daily transportation needs.
Good morning – Magandang umaga – Mayap a abac
Good day – Magandang araw – Mayap a aldo
Good afternoon – Magandang hapon – Mayap a gatpanapun
Good evening – Magandang gabi – Mayap a bengi
How much? – Magkano? – Tsa magkanu?
How to go to…? – Paano pumuntang…? – Makananu munta…?
Thank you very much– Maraming salamat – Dakal sa salamat
Delicious – Msarap – Manyaman
Beautiful – Maganda – Malagu
Handsome – Gwapo – Masanting
I like you – Gusto kita – Buri daka
I love you – Mahal kita – Kaluguran daka
Oh, and let me share one of my favorite Kapampangan phrases using just the four letters:
“Keka ku, kaku ka” which means “Sa’yo ako, akin ka” 🙂
It won’t be a problem if you decide to start your Pampanga food trip early. Everybody’s Café opens at 7:00 AM daily which is known for its Kapampangan lutong bahay and its exotic dishes which we tried for breakfast. It may be intimidating to try these at first but once you get to taste it, you’ll love it! We tried tidtad which is Pampanga’s version of dinuguan. Compared to the usual blood dish, the sauce is thinner in consistency, has blood chunks and used pork intestines. We also had betute or fried farm frog stuffed with pork that tastes like longganisa. And of course, the star of the show, adobung kamaru or crickets which I haven’t tried even if I’m from Pampanga. We all loved the three dishes! Try also the house specialty morcon priced at Php 450.
Everybody’s Café is located along MacArthur Highway, Barangay Del Pilar, City of San Fernando and open every day from 7:00 AM to 9:00 PM. It’s easy to locate it because of the restaurant’s signage. It also has a branch in Nepo Quad, Angeles City.
How to get there: From downtown San Fernando, take a three-wheeler/pedicab and ask the driver to bring you to Everybody’s Café.
SAN FERNANDO HERITAGE DISTRICT
On our way to our next destination, we passed by the San Fernando Heritage District where a number of century-old house are still surviving the test of time. These are owned by the then prominent families of the city. Visits to some of these houses are possible but must be advised in advance.
How to get there: From Everybody’s Café, take a three-wheeler or jeepney with the signboard “Palengke”. You may alight at the San Fernando Cathedral and walk through the heritage district.
SAN FERNANDO RAILWAY STATION
After a satisfying breakfast, we headed to the San Fernando Railway Station located in Barangay Sto. Nino. The train station is part of the Ferrocarril de Manila-Dagupan, the first railway system in the Philippines built in 1892, spanning 195 kilometers from Tutuban in Manila to Dagupan in Pangasinan. This National Historical Institute (NHI) site is one of the five stations which can be found in the province of Pampanga, and probably the only one that was preserved.
On the 27th of June 1892, Dr. Jose Rizal disembarked at this station to meet the new members of La Liga Filipina from Pampanga. After 50 years, in 1942, this place became the final stop of the 102-kilometer death march of Filipino and American prisoners of war from Bataan, before being transferred to their last destination, Camp O’Donnell in Capas, Tarlac.
How to get there: From downtown San Fernando, you may take a tricycle, three-wheeler or kalesa to bring you to the old train station. Fare varies but based on experience, it ranges from Php 30 to Php 50. You may also want to visit the Provincial Capitol of Pampanga. From the San Fernando Train Station, you can just walk back to the main road, just across the road is the fenced Provincial Capitol.
SAN GUILLERMO PARISH CHURCH
Our next destination is in the town of Bacolor, a former provincial capital located next to San Fernando. This town is one of the most affected areas of the Mt. Pinatubo eruption in 1991 that was almost wiped out of the map of Pampanga. Residential areas were buried under lahar. And even the town’s parish church, the San Guillermo Parish Church, was not spared. To date, the church is still being used, some areas were restored and a parish museum has been built. This was also the location of the famous television series “May Bukas Pa” with the famous character Santino.
How to get there: Not sure if there are other options, but what I usually do is, from downtown San Fernando, take a jeepney going to Angeles, or San Agustin, or Dolores Junction. Alight at the intersection and near the flyover and McDonald’s take a jeepney with a signboard Betis. Tell the driver that you are going to Bacolor Church.
If you are in SM Pampanga, (take note that there are two SM Malls in San Fernando, SM Pampanga which is the one near NLEX and SM Downtown San Fernando) go to the public transport terminal and look for the jeepneys that will pass by the church.
JAMES THE APOSTLE CHURCH OR BETIS CHURCH
St. James the Apostle Church or more popularly known as the Betis Church is tagged as the Sistine Chapel of the Philippines because of the breathtaking paintings in the walls and ceiling of the church plus its grandiose altar which will surely leave you in awe. Interestingly, Betis Church is also one of the few churches in the country with wood flooring. I’ve visited this church quite a few times already but the admiration I have whenever I see the church interior has never weakened.
How to get there: From Bacolor Church, walk towards the public market and hop on a jeepney going to Betis Church
MILA’S TOKWA’T BABOY AND SISIG
It’s almost lunch time so we headed to Angeles City to taste the famous sisig for lunch which is believed to have originated in the city. There are two restaurants famous for the “original” version of this dish that is also a favorite pulutan. I’ve tried and loved both versions but we went to Mila’s Tokwa’t Baboy that time. For appetizer, we ordered their pako salad, a mixture of fresh young ferns, onion, tomato topped with slices of salted eggs. It is the usual ingredients but it is their vinaigrette dressing that I appreciate, perfect for the salad. For the main dishes, we had an order of tokwa’t baboy (loved the sauce!), and two orders of sizzling sisig which is to die for! And for the dessert, we had an order of their very rich in flavor leche flan. Mila’s also offers other Kapampangan dishes and grilled food.
Mila’s Tokwa’t Baboy and Sisig is located at San Andres Street, Sto. Domingo, Angeles City and operates daily from 7:00 AM to 7:00 PM.
How to get there: From Betis Church, take a jeepney bound to SM Pampanga and alight at Dolores Intersection. Take a jeepney there going to Angeles City where Mila’s is located. Unfortunately, is not located along the main road, so you have to take a tricycle to go there.
CENTER FOR KAPAMPANGAN STUDIES
After a sumptuous meal, we headed to the Center for Kapampangan Studies housed at the Holy Angel University. It was my first time in the said museum, and so far it is one of the best in the province that showcases the history, culture and heritage of Pampanga and its people.
Some of the features of the museum are their wall of ordinary Kapampangan people with a trivia or a short story about them, features of prominent Kapampangans in the history of Philippines as well as the modern day Philippines, the poets of Pampanga and its ancient form of writing, Kuliatan.
The center is open from 8:00 AM to 8:00 PM during weekdays and 8:00 AM to 5:00 PM on Saturdays. Admission is Php 50.
How to get there: From Mila’s, take a tricycle and ask the driver to bring you to Diegg’s Bakery. From there take a green or blue jeepney and alight at Holy Rosary Parish. Walk towards your left where Holy Angel University is located. Or if the tricycle driver agreed, just ask him to take you directly to Holy Angel University.
HOLY ROSARY PARISH CHURCH
A few meters away from Holy Angel University is the Holy Rosary Parish Church which is a Romanesque two-bell tower church located in the heart of the busy city. This is the most prominent historical and religious structure of the city which never fails in catching any visitor’s attention.
How to get there: This church is just a few meters away and walkable from Holy Angel University
MUSEO NING ANGELES
Just in front of the Holy Rosary Parish is the former Municipal Hall of Angeles which was now converted to a museum, the Museo Ning Angeles. Unfortunately, we were not able to get inside. The Museum is open from Monday to Saturday, 8:00 AM to 5:00 PM with Php 50 admission fee.
How to get there: The museum is located in front of Holy Rosary Church
PAMINTUAN MANSION/MUSEUM OF SOCIAL SCIENCE AND HISTORY OF THE PHILIPPINES
A few blocks behind the museum is the Pamintuan Mansion where the 1st anniversary of the declaration of Philippine Independence was celebrated. It also served as the seat of the Philippine Republic and headquarters of General Antonio Luna. The museum is open daily from 8:00 AM to 4:00 PM.
How to get there: Pamintuan Mansion is just a few minutes away from Museo Ning Angeles. Just walk along Santo Entiero Street. The mansion is located in the corner of Santo Entiero and Miranda Streets.
Finally for our last stop, we went to Susie’s Cuisine for merienda. Susie’s is famous for their merienda items like pansit luglug, and empanada, and their kakanin like sapin-sapin. We were so excited to try tibuk-tibok, Pampanga’s version of maja de blanca that used ingredients like galapong, gatas ng kalabaw topped with latik. I also made them taste turrones de casoy, a delicacy from Sta. Rita whose wrapper is also eaten. Susie’s is also a good place to end the tour because you can also buy a variety of pasalubong for your loved ones. Aside from the usual sweets, you can also buy here taba ng talangka for pasalubong.
How to get there: From Pamintuan Mansion, take a jeepney and tell the driver to drop you off at Jenra Mall. Ask around where Susie’s is located which is just around 5 minute-walk from Jenra Mall.
NEPO MART COMPLEX
Pampanga is also known for its preserved meat such as tocino and longganisa. We’ve all tasted these meat products that we’ve bought in supermarkets. But in the Nepo Mart Complex near Susie’s, you’ll be able to buy these authentic, homemade kapampangan breakfast staples. My personal favorite is pindang damulag or tocino made from carabeef.
How to get there: The complex is located in front of Susie’s
Ala Crème’s cakes are famous in Pampanga which are also options if you want to bring home pasalubong. Don’t forget to try their ube-flavored cake and their sinful chocolate cake which is my personal favorite. Their branches are located in the City of San Fernando, Angeles City, and the town of Magalang.
The food choices in Angeles City or in Pampanga in general are practically endless. Other famous establishments include Camalig Restaurant, Downtown Café, Binulo Restaurant, Aling Lucing’s Sisig and Toll House which you may try on your visit to Pampanga.
WHAT TO BRING HOME
My personal pasalubong favorites:
- Turrones de Casoy of Sta. Rita
- Pastillas and Caramel of Magalang
- Chicharon of Guagua
- Panecillos de San Nicolas of Mexico
- Taba ng Talangka
- Tocino and Longganisa
WHO TO ASK FOR ASSISTANCE
Department of Tourism-Region III
Level 2, Robinsons Starmills, Jose Abad Santos Ave.,
San Jose, City of San Fernando, 2000 PAMPANGA
Tel.: (6345) 961 5612
TeleFax: (6345) 961 2617
DOT-G/F Marlim Mansions Hotel Bldg., MacArthur Hwy.,
Diamond Subd. Balibago, 2900 ANGELES CITY
TeleFax: (6345) 625-8525
Dr. Richard Daenos
(6345) 625 2286/195
Ms. ChIng Pangilinan
(6345) 961 5684
WHERE IN THE PHILIPPINES
By Eugene Alvin Villar (seav) – English Wikipedia, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=767366
We spent less than Php 500 each (group of six), which includes breakfast at Everybody’s Cafe, sherbet, lunch at Mila’s, light merienda at Susie’s, gasoline and toll fee. Other factors for increased cost includes pasalubong items and admission fees to Museo Ning Angeles and Pamintuan Mansion.
And always remember, eat moderately 🙂