Lakbay Norte 2010: Clark, Pampanga

January 31, 2010. It was in 1903 when the American invaders established “Fort Stotsenburg.” For almost a hundred years later, the fort, which was later renamed to “Clark Air Base” became a major stronghold of the American forces in the Far East. It was considered the largest American military installation on foreign soil.

With the expiration of the base agreement in 1991, the Philippines reclaimed the air base and the government sought to transform the facility into a freeport zone. Clark has been a known as a destination for duty free shopping and leisure estate activities from swimming to golfing. The tourism offices in the area, however, have been promoting more activities for visitors to Clark.

For those who want to get to know more about the air base’s history there are tours onboard airconditioned “Jeep ni Juan” jeepneys provided by Castro Travel Solutions (+63 45 6256608) that you may avail. They also have packages for an afternoon at volcanic hot springs, a trek to Mt. Pinatubo and an even aerial tour of the infamous volcano.

Another new activity for visitors to Clark is horseback riding at El Kabayo Riding Stables (+63 09178122106). You can ride the horses around the compound or you can request for a ride around Clark. If you’re up for it, you can even take the horse for a ride along the Sacobia River to see the lahar canyons created by the Mt. Pinatubo eruption.

Across the Sacobia River from Clark is a nature and conservation park called Paradise Ranch which features gardens and zoo animals. The park features one of the largest butterfly gardens in the country and a “million-dollar” view of the entire Clark Freeport Zone. The place is more suited for kids and educational field trips. Adults, on the other hand, can hold team building seminars, retreats, camping and weddings in the garden.

With the development and expansion of the Diosdado Macapagal International Airport, Clark is now poised to become one of the country’s major gateways. The master development plan of the freeport zone seeks to transform the former US air base into an airport city and as a globally competitive international service and logistics center in the Asia-Pacific Region. While that has not fully happened, Clark Airport does serve inbound and outbound flights to and from many local and international destinations. It has flights to and from Malaysia, Singapore, Thailand, Hong Kong, Macau, South Korea, and even the Middle East.

How to get to Clark? One can drive from Manila by car through the North Luzon Expressway (NLEX) and reach Clark in an hour and a half. Take the NLEX exit at Dau, Mabalacat, Pampanga and make a left turn towards Angeles City and a right turn towards Clark. Clark may also be reached via the Subic-Clark-Tarlac Expressway (SCTEX). From the NLEX, continue the drive leading to the SCTEX exit. One may use either the Clark North Interchange (Panday Pira access road near Nayong Pilipino) or the Clark South Interchange (near Yokohama and Clark Main Gate) to enter Clark.

One may also take public transportation to Clark. Take a Victory Liner bus bound for Dagupan and alight at the Dau common terminal. Walk a bit towards the highway where jeepneys or tricycles are available that can take you right up to the Clark gate. Philippine Rabbit also has trips to Angeles, Pampanga, via Dau. Partas and Philtranco also has bus trips to Clark.

Lakbay Norte 2010: Where to stay and eat in Clark and Angeles

January 30-31, 2010. Angeles City and Clark have many establishments that cater to local and foreign visitors, from restaurants that serve local and international cuisine to budget motels to world-class hotels and leisure resorts to shopping malls. During our stay in Clark for the Lakbay Norte 2010 caravan, we were booked at Holiday Inn. Holiday Inn Clark is the only accredited international deluxe hotel in Central Luzon.

Holiday Inn Clark occupies a building that used to be called Chambers Hall, where bachelor officers of the former American airbase and some generals were billeted while on assignment in Clark. In 1996, after renovations, it stood as one of the first landmarks in Clark right after the Mt. Pinatubo eruption. It has again just recently been renovated and refurbished in accord to the Holiday Inn chain’s global re-branding campaign. Like other international deluxe hotels, it features modern amenities and furnishings in all of its rooms and villas. Broadband internet access is also available in the rooms. It has three restaurants (Mequeni, Rodizio Rooftop Grill, Copa’s Bar) a swimming pool, a recreation and game area, function halls, a spa and fitness area, and since it is located within the Mimosa Leisure Estate, it also has a 36-hole championship golf course.

If you choose to stay in Angeles City right outside Clark, you may stay at the Oasis Hotel, which has been in operation for more than four decades, and is one of the leading business hotels in Angeles City. Unlike the Holiday Inn, Oasis occupies a sprawling complex of 124 rooms in apartment-like single-floor structures. On our last day in the Lakbay Norte caravan, we had lunch at Oasis Hotel’s Maranao Grill, where we were served with roast lamb and roast beef, together with pasta, baked mussels and roast duck in taco shells. Every Friday, Maranao Grill has an RST Buffet where they serve roast beef, roast lamb, sushi, sahimi and tempura all day.

We arrived in Clark Saturday night, and we had dinner right after checking in at the hotel at Red Crab Seafood and Steaks which is just walking distance from Holiday Inn Clark. We had generous servings of local staple viands and, of course, red crab.

After dinner at Red Crab, we were taken to Camalig Restaurant in downtown Angeles City where we sampled Armando’s Pizza–different kinds of “Kapampangan Pizza,” pizza with all sorts of combinations of local toppings, from salted eggs, to fried crickets. It was a sumptuous after-dinner treat.

Holiday Inn Clark Mimosa Drive, Mimosa Leisure Estate, Clark Freeport Zone, Pampanga (02) 845 1888, (045) 599 8000 www.holiday-inn.com/clark Oasis Hotel Clarkville Compound, CLark Perimeter Road, Angeles City, Pampanga (045) 893 3301 to 04 www.oasishotel.com.ph

Ultimate Kapampangan Show-off Tour (IV)

December 15, 2007. That night, after picking up some barbecued grub from JunJun’s Restaurant along MacArthur Highway in San Fernando, we proceeded to the grounds of SM Pampanga, to its ampitheater to be exact, to witness the annual Ligligan Parul or giant lantern festival.

Ligligan Parul 2007 I was quite surprised to find out that the choreographed flickering of the giant lanterns’ lights are manually controlled by large rotating cylinder conductors with adhesive-tape patterns that dictate when and what color of lights would go on and off. That magnificent display of lights that flicker and dance with the music is manually controlled?? Wow! Add to that, of course, is the intricate design and the hundreds of light bulbs that went into the creation of the lanterns. (Our Awesome Planet has a blog entry on how he witnessed the creation of these lanterns, with nice photos to prove how awesome it really is). Now this lantern-making is a skillful craft Kapampangans and other Filipinos can be proud of. Ligligan Parul 2007 Eight barangays of San Fernando joined the competition in this year Ligligan Parul 2007. Brgy. Telabastagan won first place, Brgy. San Felipe won second, and Brgy. San Nicolas third.

Ultimate Kapampangan Show-off Tour (III)

December 15, 2007. I think this is probably the highlight of the entire tour. After visiting churches and ancestral houses, the tour masters Ivan Henares, Ivan Mandy, Anton Diaz and Spanky Enriquez took us to the Bale Dutung home of Claude and Maryann Tayag in Angeles, Pampanga for their famed exclusive lunch experience. Oh boy. Who would’ve thought a slow delightfully satisfying lunch for four hours is possible. It’s not the type of lunching where you devour your food because it’s just so good, rather, it’s the type where you just keep eating and eating at your own delightfully slow pace in such a cozy ambience and a cool environment. The crispy pritson was my favorite. Aside from that there was also pako salad, binulong na manok soup, pritong hito, kare-kareng dagat, sisig puso and pata mole. There were of course, the excellent sauces that come with everything. The taba ng talangka was my favorite. Our rice, on the other hand, came in cone shaped wrapped banana leaves.

IMG_7183.JPG Bale Dutung Pako Salad at Bale Dutung Pritson at Bale Dutung sauces at Bale Dutung Talong Boat at Bale Dutung
Bale Dutung Sisig Puso at Bale Dutung Pata Mole at Bale Dutung Smoked Tilapia at Bale Dutung Fried Hito at Bale Dutung Seafood Kare-Kare at Bale Dutung

In between servings, I had to leave my seat and walk around the house to make room for more servings, which was equally delightful, with the warm and peaceful ambience and all the wooden art pieces and other such furniture. I also found myself being engaged in conversations by Maryann and Claude, who were very hospitable, accomodating and generous hosts.

Also present for lunch with us was Pampanga Governor Ed Panlilio.

Ultimate Kapampangan Show-off Tour (II)

December 15, 2007. After visiting Bacolor Church, we proceeded to Guagua, Pampanga to visit Betis Church. It’s apparently one of the oldest churches in Pampanga, and it’s also certainly one of the most ornate. The church’s ceiling is painted with tableauxs of biblical scenes. Fortunately for everyone on the tour, we also witnessed the processional of some couple’s wedding. It must’ve been amusing for the foreigners with us.

Betis Church, Guagua, Pampanga IMG_7066.JPG Betis Church, Guagua, Pampanga Betis Church, Guagua, Pampanga IMG_7075.JPG Betis Church, Guagua, Pampanga

On the way to our next destination, we were treated to one of Pampanga’s best-kept secrets–buko sherbet from San Jose in San Fernando City. The stuff is only sold in gallons, so we had an entire barrel of shaved ice and salt, buried in which is a tin can with five gallons of cold buko sherbet. I must have had five servings of the stuff the entire day. Our next destination was an ancestral house in San Fernando City’s ‘heritage district‘ owned by the heirs of one of Pampanga’s old-rich families. It was a very pleasant visit. The Hizon family gladly welcomed us inside and toured us around their well-preserved and fully-functional home. I wish more heritage structures, particularly centuries-old houses, were like theirs–fully functional homes and not some museum filled with displays of antique items. I don’t think one could normally go inside the ancestral houses in the heritage district for visits. We were gladly welcomed in the Hizon home because one of our tour masters, Spanky, was a Hizon. Hehe.

IMG_7112.JPG IMG_7114.JPG IMG_7116.JPG IMG_7121.JPG IMG_7124.JPG San Fernando City, Pampanga

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Ultimate Kapampangan Show-off Tour (I)

December 15, 2007. Last December 15, Saturday, I joined the Ultimate Kapampangan Show-off tour of Anton Diaz, Ivan Henares, Ivan Mandy, and Spanky Enriquez. I only got home earlier (or morning) at almost three in the morning from another all-nighter frat party and my brod Ivan H., asked me to be at 6750 in Makati by seven in the morning a few hours after to meet with everyone else with the tour. With an hour of sleep, I was able to make it on time from QC. Anyway, we left Makati shortly after half past seven and arrived in Pampanga just before nine in the morning.

Bacolor Church, Pampanga

Our first stop was the town of Bacolor, Pampanga. The town, over much of the 90’s, was almost completely buried under more than a dozen meters of lahar from the Mount Pinatubo eruption of 1991. After having deserted the town for years, people have been coming back to rebuild their communities. The town church, or the upper half of what’s left, is now being restored and renovated. Inside the church, there is a small section that serves as a museum, with photographs of the parish and the town during its better days. In fact, things were so much better before, Bacolor served as the temporary capital of the Spanish colonial government during the short British occupation of the archipelago.

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