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Discovering Pampanga: Six Homegrown Kapangpangan Restaurants You Must Try!

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“Food is our common ground. A universal experience.” -James Beard

Pampanga is known to be the gastronomic and culinary capital of the Philippines. With an array of delectable homegrown restaurants and authentic Kapampangan dishes that is rivaled nowhere else in the country, you are guaranteed an incredible and epic food journey when you have the chance to visit. However, not all of their epicurean offers are the same; some are more authentic than the others and some dishes would be more delectable when they are prepared by the innovators themselves. So, if you have a weekend planned in Pampanga—whether to visit the Sandbox in Porac, Pampanga Alviera, here are some of the best homegrown restaurants with dishes you can sink your teeth into:

1.) Binulo Restaurant- Clarkfield

This restaurant got its moniker from the Aeta method of cooking food in fresh bamboo. Known as one of the only restaurants to prepare food this way, Binulo is popularly known for serving diners only the best and authentic Campangpangan cuisine. To complement their array of local dishes, US grilled steaks are also on the menu. If you have a hankering for good home-cooked food, Binulo is the best place to go. Finish your meal with their excellent dessert of Suman and Mango ice cream which doubles as an ideal snack on a hot summer day.

2.) Historic Camalig Restaurant

If you have a penchant for trying a lot of Capangpangan dishes at once, then head on over to Historic Camalig Restaurant. Established on a century old ancestral grain depot restored in 1980, Camalig is now a restaurant that serves the famous Kapangpangan Pizza. The ambiance and good food would all be worth the long trip. For those who love to indulge themselves, the restaurant offers a Kapangpangan buffet as well.

3.) Angeles Fried Chicken

Known to be the Philippines’ counterpart and rendition to United States’ friend chicken joint, AFC or Angeles Fried Chicken is the restaurant for fried chicken lovers. Known to be one of the most popular restaurants in the city, their chicken has been perfected to be succulent and juicy at the same time. The recipe has remained largely unchanged and has been passed down from generation to generation.

4.) Everybody’s Cafe

No trip to Pampanga is ever complete without stopping over and having a meal at Everybody’s cafe. As the name itself suggests, the restaurant is just about for anyone and has some of the most exotic things in their menu. Unlike your typical cafeteria, you can find things such as betute (stuffed frogs) and camaru (crickets) on the menu which is perfect for those who are looking for a bit of a culinary dining adventure. Known to be one of the longest running restaurants in the city, this cafeteria has a lot of local dishes visitors should sample—from the Damulag (cured carabao meat) to the crispy duck adobo.

5.) Rainforest Kichene

If you are looking for a restaurant with a bit of an ambiance, head over to Rainforest Kichene in San Fernando. Owned by Chef Vince Garcia, the restaurant presents a subtle charm of forest-inspired ambiance that makes it not only inviting to eat but hang out as well. Largely inspired by a healthy and green eating lifestyle, some of the items on the menu are perfect for fitness buffs and sports enthusiasts looking to eat healthier.

6.) Susie’s Cuisine

Of course, a trip to the culinary capital deserves a souvenir and a treat which you can bring back home to share with your friends and family. If you are on the search for delectable kakanins and different Kapangpangan dishes which you can later feast on or give to family and friends, then visit Susie’s Cuisine. Although the restaurant is popularly known for its pancit lug lug, it has become the go-to place for people looking for something to bring home to their families.

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Four Reminders and Tips to Enjoy a Day at Sandbox

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Alviera has an attraction which is aptly termed as an adventure park called the “Sandbox”. Located in Pampanga, Porac, this park promises to offer something for everyone—children and adults alike. The Sandbox is considered as a popular destination particularly during the summer season where patrons would arrive by droves and to keep things fresh and interesting, there has been a vastly increasing number of fun activities added to it regularly. Indeed, the Sandbox caters to a wide array of individuals as travel junkies, adventure enthusiasts, kids and kids at heart would all find something enjoyable to do while there. However, keep in mind that to fully appreciate and enjoy your experience, you need to take a few precautions as well and know a few reminders. After all, safety should be a priority in order to have a fun time in this park.

So, if you are planning on visiting the Sandbox, here are a few reminders you should be aware of:

1.) Constantly hydrate

The Philippines is considered as a tropical country. As a consequence, we would be experiencing humid weather conditions. However, in the summer, the heat can be incredibly unbearable—especially at particular times of the day. While living in this country has made us learn to adapt and enjoy the summer even through the scorching heat, it does not mean we should be any less cautious when enjoying a day out in the sand. The Sandbox is an area located smack right in the middle of flatlands. This means the place is without trees or plants that could possibly absorb heat. Considering this, it can get hot pretty fast. Furthermore, you can only enjoy the place when the sun is up as it would hardly be feasible for any of their themed adventures to be open at night or when it rains. The activities in the park are mostly done out in the open air and under the scorching sun. So, with this in mind constantly hydrate, apply sunblock and wear cool and breathable clothes.

2.) Choose your adventure

There is a separate fee of seventy-five pesos for the entrance while the array of activities you can do inside would have their own fee. The Aerial Walk would cost P150 per head, P100 for the Giant Swing as well as the Free Fall, P50 for the Rappel Walk and Wall Climbing. Roller Coaster Zipline, Mini Gold and ATV would set you back P2,500 for each activity. So, before you set foot in Alviera, it is best if you already have an idea of what you want to do. So, en route to the place, begin planning the adventure you want to experience. If you are on a budget, it might not be possible to check out all rides so choose wisely.

3.) Safety first

The Sandbox is known for taking safety very seriously, but that does not mean you should not take any safety precaitions of your own. Before riding any of the rides or taking part in any of the adventures offered, know the safety guidelines first. If you are unsure of anything, ask the staff for assistance and if you need any clarification, ask them as well. Lastly, remember to wear closed shoes as it is not only advisable, but necessary. Remember, you are going to be roughing it and you are not likely to be playing pretty so keep your feet adequately protected.

4.) Prepare for a long drive or commute

The Sandbox is located in Pampanga which is not exactly a short drive away from Metro Manila. Although you can commute to the place, there is hardly any passing jeepney or other public utility vehicles in the area. People who are taking their own private cars should prepare for a long drive so it is best if they got adequate sleep the night beforehand.

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Five Family Friendly Activities You Can Do in Pampanga

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“Traveling in the company of those we love is home in motion.” -Leigh Hunt

The weekend is usually reserved for families to bond, relax and spend some time together. Typically, most Filipino families would flock to the malls, major commercial and entertainment establishments with their families on these days. However, it can get rather dull and predictable if you and your family are doing this week after week. After all, Manila might have a myriad of malls, but if your typical weekend is consistently spent watching movies and eating at restaurants, it can get pretty boring fast. If this is the case, then a change or scenery should be in order. So, if you are seeking a fresh new way to spend your weekends with your family, plan a day trip to Pampanga where the food is not only divine, but the activities are diverse and numerous. Pampanga is only an hour or two away from Manila, so it would not be too difficult to plan. Furthermore, with a long list of restaurants, heritage places and historical landmarks, the province has a multitude of options for adventure. Here are some of the best activities you can try with your family on a weekend in Pampanga:

1.) Have a grand adventure in Sandbox

If you and your family have a penchant for outdoor activities, you are going to love the Sandbox in Alviera. Located in Porac, this adventure park has a lot of thrilling and exciting activities you and your famiy can try. For those who wish to test their balancing skills, you can try the Aerial Walk Challenge, or you can ride the Philippine’s Giant Swing, or simulate flying with the roller coaster Zipline. Be sure to be there early as there is a capacity limit for the rides. No need to worry about an age limit as most of the rides are suitable for kids aged 7 years and above.

2.) Explore Dinosaurs Island

If you have little tots with an interest of Mesozoic Era, then they are going to enjoy Pampanga’s Dinosaurs Island. Fans of the hit movie Jurassic Park will similarly find fun in this theme park as well. Life-sized animatronic dinosaurs are abound the tyheme park while you walk along the forest trail. Furthermore, a trip to the park can be an educational experience as well as a guided tour is offered where you can observe giant fossils and even watch a dancing dino show.

3.) Reach new heights in the Pampanga Eye

If you want to see the province from a unique vantage point then climb aboard Pampanga’s Eye , the country’s known tallest ferris wheel. Found in the Sky Ranch of pampanga, you and three of your family members can fit into one of its air-conditioned gondolas where you can observe the perimeter of the province from a bird’s eye view. However, if heights are not your thing, you can try the amusement park’s other rides such as the Loop Roller Coaster and the Double Decker Carousel.

4.) Relax at Puning Hot Springs

Being able to relax from a long week at work is anyone’s idea of what a good weekend should be like. If you and your family think along the same lines, then you might want to visit Puning Hot Springs. However, you would need a 4X4 vehicle that can brave the rugged landscape around Mt. Pinatubo just to get there. The little effort required to reach this place is not all for naught however as there are various activities you can enjoy. You can take a dip in the natural pools of the volcano, have a unique and pampering spa experience by being covered in sand from the neck down as well as enjoy the natural sights.

5.) Go food tripping in Angeles City

Pampanga is known as the central hub for gastronomic treats, epicurean dishes and delightful meals. It would be no question that some people would consider Kapangpangan people as the connoisseurs of tasty food as the province itself is known for some of the most delicious Filipino food. Never leave Pampanga without at least sampling some of what their homegrown restaurants has to offer. From tasting their siganture dish, sisig at Aling Lucing’s Sisig to having a refreshing dessert at Kabigting’s Halo-halo, your foot options are virtually limitless.

 

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Let’s Go to Pampanga!

With only a few weeks left before students go back to school and rain to start pouring down heavily (hello, rainy season), let’s go and explore Pampanga. Pampanga is a province in the Central Luzon and bordered by Tarlac, Nueva Ecija, Bulacan, and Zambales. Its capital is San Fernando, and Angeles City is considered to be its highly urbanized first-class city.

So before everything goes back to “normal” and storms come to our country, here are a few places you may visit in Pampanga:

Sandbox at Alviera

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Sandbox at Alviera, Porac, Pampanga maximizes the place’s sand-richness by being an outdoor adventure go-to. Experience Giant Swing, Philippines’ tallest swing, Aerial Walk Challenge, Avatar One, country’s first-ever roller coaster zip line, Outdoor Archery, and much more in Sandbox. This adventure place is a joint venture development of AyalaLand and LenioLand.

Sky Ranch Pampanga

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If you want some adrenaline rush, go and visit Sky Ranch, which is just around SM Pampanga, and try their 22 rides. Some of the must-try attractions are Bungee Jump, Drop Tower, Loop Roller Coaster,  Space Shuttle, and Super Vikings. There are also child-friendly attractions for the kids who may be too afraid to try those breath-taking rides or maybe they are not yet allowed to ride those. You can also see a giant Ferris wheel known as the Pampanga Eye, only for PHP 150 per ticket!

San Guillermo Church and Betis Church

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San Guillermo Church is a well-known tourist destination way before the catastrophic Mount Pinatubo eruption in 1991 as this Church is one of the oldest in the country. Also dubbed as “half sunken church,” this Baroque-styled Church at Bacolor Pampanga was built by Augustinian friars in 1546. Because of its beauty, this has been the primary location set of “May Bukas Pa,” an ABS-CBN primetime teleserye.

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On the other hand, Betis Church or St. James the Apostle Parish Church is another Baroque-styled Church but in Guagua, Pampanga. This astonishing “Sistine Chapel of the Philippines” is one of the National Cultural Treasures in the Philippines. Betis Church was constructed in 1607 as a dedication to St. James. It was built with concrete materials only 1770 after a few fire broke out within the Church.

Pamintuan Mansion

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The National Historical Commission of the Philippines (NHCP) and Angeles City local government led the inauguration of Pamintuan Mansion as the Museum of Philippine Social History last August 25. 2015. This 125-year-old mansion in Miranda Street, Barangay Sto. Rosario hosts different exhibits, collections, and artworks that showcase the daily lives of Filipinos. There is also a music room where you can listen to various songs as old as the one recorded in 1896. Pamintuan Mansion also became Gen.Emilio Aguinaldo’s headquarters when the seat of the government was moved from Cavite to Pampanga during the battle against the United States.

Pinatubo Museum

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This educational museum was pioneered by the Center for Kapampangan Studies of Holy Angel University to commemorate the 25th anniversary of the Mt. Pinatubo eruption. You can see a mural timeline dating the history of Mt. Pinatubo years and years ago until its disastrous eruption on June 15, 2991. Pinatubo Museum is open to the public Mondays to Fridays.

Nayong Pilipino Clark

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One of the classic destinations for tours and field trips, visiting Nayong Pilipino will give you a quick cultural and historical tour of our country. This 45-acre amusement theme park homes miniature versions of different iconic Philippine wonders. So if you don’t have the luxury of time and an enormous amount of money to visit all the marvels of our country, you can still see them in Nayong Pilipino Clark. You can also see an exhibit of Malakas and Maganda, an old Philippine legend on how the human race started, mini versions of different Filipino tribes’ villages, and replicas of some of Filipino heroes’ houses.

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Five Fun Facts about Hot Air Balloons

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Between the months January and February, a convergence of different aviators from all over the world would happen in the Philippines to witness the hot air balloon festival in Pampanga. In fact, it has been regarded as one of the Philippines’ biggest and most popular tourist events. As the biggest aviation sports event in the Philippines, this affair would usually last around three to four days at the Omni Aviation Complex in Clark Freeport Zone of Angeles City, Pampanga. Apart from the hot air balloon fiesta, the festival features events such as micro light and rocketry demonstrations, skydiving, as well as small plane fly-bys and fly-ins, so every individual has something to enjoy. Undoubtedly, though, the hot air balloon remains to be the heart of this entire affair.

So, when you are planning to visit this once-in-a-year occasion or are just curious about hot air balloons, it would bode you well to know some little-known yet fun facts about this up and coming favorite aviation sports event.

1.) The first hot air balloon passengers were farm animals

The maiden flight of the very first hot air balloon in 1783 was set to fly over the French court in Versailles in the presence of Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette. In a similar fashion to having monkeys in space, a selection of animals was chosen to test the effects of the flight. As a result, a sheep, duck, and rooster were hosted in its very first flight. It was thought that the sheep would show the effects of altitude on a land dweller, while ducks and roosters which are already capable of flight would act as controls in the experiment. The balloon rose to 1500 feet in the air and lasted eight minutes.

2.) The first pilots were almost condemned criminals

Louis XVI disliked the idea of being responsible for any potential fatalities when it came to choosing a pilot for the hot air balloon’s first flight. As a result, he wanted an expendable, so he selected a condemned criminal to fly the balloon. However, he was eventually convinced that the idea was not exactly very feasible. Instead, Jean-Francois Pilatre De Rozier and an aristocrat were chosen to fly the balloon for twenty minutes.

3.) There used to be a balloon duel

In the 1800s, the French believed in settling their differences in a rather peculiar way. When two Frenchmen were entangled in a love triangle with a celebrated opera dancer, they took their dispute to the skies above Paris for a duel. Both men aimed at each other’s balloons and after a while, shots were fired. One balloon was punctured resulting in its crash to the buildings below and the death of its occupants. The other balloon and its occupants were unharmed.

4.) An offering of champagne after flights was used to appease farmers

Though hot air balloons were becoming increasingly popular with the French aristocracy, the local farmers were not so receptive and were rather resentful when the balloons landed on their farmlands. The French aristocrats propagated the belief that farmers were scared of the balloons as they have a resemblance to dragons considering that smoke was used to power them. However, it was a lot more seemly that the farmers disliked having the hot air balloons destroying their crops. To appease them, champagne was used as a peace offering and a tradition was born.

5.) There is a glass-bottomed balloon

Christian Brown wanted to add a different edge to hot air balloon flights; he wanted people to be able to experience the skies above as well as survey the world below and so, the glass-bottomed hot air balloon was born in 2010. Imagine flying over land and seeing everything right beneath you. For some, it would be an exhilarating and thrilling experience, but some individuals might prefer to stay rooted in the ground as it is not for the faint of heart and people with acrophobia.

 

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Planning a Safe and Fun ATV Ride

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As summer looms over us so are the endless possibilities of summer outdoor activities. These can range anywhere from outdoor beach sports to indoor sports activities. However, for some automobile enthusiasts and outdoor adventurers, this is the perfect time to venture into all-terrain vehicle riding or ATV riding for brevity. In fact, the Philippines has been making waves for hosting areas where riding ATV’s may be possible. This is a fun activity you can do outdoors during your leisure time and is not only limited to adults as everyone and anyone can do it, with enough safety precautions of course.
So, for those of you who are novices or even the experts in ATV riding and whether you are planning this as a Saturday afternoon hangout activity, or a weekday run in the seemingly endless and trail-less dirt terrains, planning ahead for your trip can it make it so much more fun and safe in particular.

GET YOURSELF AND YOUR RIDE IN GOOD WORKING ORDER

Remember that you are essentially operating a machine (your mini four wheeler is still a machine after all) and like most machines, it would break down from time to time and would constantly need to be checked and maintained. This is a precaution, have your ATVs checked before riding them into terrains as you will never know if you might be driving one with a malfunctioning break. It is still better to be safe than sorry after all. Additionally, have a good look at your physical condition, being sickly and injured would make you unfit to ride an ATV, especially for those long and rough excursions.
Before heading out, make sure your quad is adequately prepared by checking all the fluid levels and condition. This includes oil, brake fluid and engine coolant on liquid cooled machines–pretty much like how you should check your cars before driving off with them. Peruse the tires and make sure they are not showing any signs of wear and also that you have the proper air pressure. Check your brakes, clutch and throttle cables, if they are adjusted and lubricated as necessary and that the battery and all lights are working if equipped. If you are not in good shape (physically or mentally) or your quad is not in good and working order, then you might as well forgo it as your trip may be precarious for your welfare and your health.

TAKE NECESSARY ITEMS FOR REPAIRS AND EMERGENCIES

Admittedly, you would get yourself and your ride ready. But apart from that, you would need to have a list of essential items you should take with you including an emergency kit. This list will serve as your reference for you to plan your great ride. What your emergency kit should contain are the items listed down below:

*Water
*First Aid Kit
*Flashlight
*Tow strap
*Tool Kit
*Tire repair kit with pump
*Map
*GPS
*Spare cash and credit cards

BE PREPARED FOR ANY SORT OF REPARATIONS

Having a toolkit is extremely necessary and it does not even have to be very big. The kit that comes with your four-wheeler is usually found under the seat or behind a body panel on some older models has most of the tools you will need. If your ATV does not come supplied with one, then it is best you furnish yourself with one.

HAVE A PLAN AND SHARE IT

Long ATV rides are fun, but you should keep in mind to try and plan your stops beforehand especially if you are not familiar with the area you will be riding in. For unfamiliar places, try reviewing maps and pick places to stop in order for you to rest. Pick places with scenic views so that you can enjoy while you rest. Additionally, it is a good idea to let someone know where you are going and when you are expected to return so that if something untoward may happen, someone is at least apprised of your activities. If you are going to be late, contact those who you have notified about your whereabouts and update them what your new time of arrival will be.

Lastly, it is better to ride in a group or at least with someone else as there are some things beyond our control while you are out on the trail so riding with a group or with others may help should anything awry happen.

 

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Culinary gems from Old Pampanga

Chef Gene Gonzalez will demonstrate how to cook traditional Pampanga cuisine on Feb. 6, 9 a.m.-1 p.m., at The Maya Kitchen Culinary Center.

Recipes include Adobo del Diablo (Kapampangan adobo) with a deep bronze color produced by constant simmering and deglazing of the pan with stock when a crust is formed; Menudo Sulipeña (oxtail stew), slow-simmered dish of oxtail, ham and chorizo Bilbao with brandy; Pato Al Caparas (duck with capers), braised duck with ham and liver; Pasta Juan, chewy coconut bars; and Princess Cake, layers of butter cake iced with buttercream.

Gonzalez owns and runs Café Ysabel at 455 P. Guevarra St., San Juan. Together with his chef son Gino, they run Buenisimo by Café Ysabel at Scout Tuazon cor. Scout Lozano, Diliman, QC.

For inquiries, visit www.themayakitchen.com or e-mail contactus@themayakitchen.com. The Maya Kitchen Culinary Center is at 8/F, Liberty Bldg., 835 A. Arnaiz Ave., Makati, tel. 8921185, 8925011 loc. 108, 0929-6796102.

Winter food show

Sixteen homegrown social enterprises take the spotlight in Food Philippines’ third participation in Winter Fancy Food Show (WFFS) on Jan. 17-19 at Moscone Convention Center, San Francisco, US.

“What food the Philippines will be bringing to WFFS are products that do not only stand out given their high food export quality, but those that advocate social, cultural and environmental stands,” says Rosvi C. Gaetos, executive director of Center for International Trade Expositions and Missions, the export promotions arm of the Department of Trade and Industry.

“It is already recognized that specialty food items from the Philippines are of premium quality—natural, healthy and functional.”

Participating companies include Brandexports Philippines Inc. with Peace and Equity Foundation, Eighth Wonder Inc., Fruits of Life, JUD Products Philippines Inc., Mama Sita’s (Marigold Manufacturing Corp) and Philfresh Corp.

The Philippine pavilion will be at the South Hall of Moscone Convention Center.