ANGELES, PAMPANGA - A Trip to the City of Angels
VOL. 1 NO. 1 DECEMBER 2018
BY: FERNANNE JUDE GULAPA | PHOTOS BY: BUTCH GIOVANNI CAPOY
Rich in history, the City of Angeles has evolved through the years, from the bloodshed of World War II to the natural disasters brought about by the eruption of Mount Pinatubo in 1991. Now, the city has evolved as one of the business and tourism hubs of Central Luzon. It has the perfect mix of fun, food and history. With just a little over an hour of travel from Manila, it's the perfect easy day trip for your weekend.
Without hesitation, the Kabayan team and I packed our bags and headed north to Angeles, Pampanga.
We began our Angeles City trip with a stopover at El Kabayo Riding Stables just a couple of minutes from Mabalacat Exit taking NLEX. We wanted something different than the usual beach or resort trip and decided to give horseback riding a go.
Upon reaching El Kabayo, we were greeted by a small old-western town. These are what seemed to be a general store, saloon, post office, and the sheriff's office forming the façade of El Kabayo. You'll be surprised though, as the stables are right behind them! Such a clever way I must say in keeping the horses' inn.
By the time the clock hit 9 a.m., the concierge was ready to take in customers. There was one Korean family, and there was our group. Horseback riding costs varies from P275 (15 minutes), P450 (30 minutes), to P800 (1 hour). Horse-drawn carriages that can accommodate three to four people are also available, rented out with rates ranging from P600 for 15 minutes to P1,750 for an hour.
We chose a quick 15-minute ride around the picnic grounds. Each of us was accompanied by a trained horseman. Compared to the horseback riding experience I had in Baguio, where there were about 200 horses going around in one area, here we had the place to ourselves. There were no horse or other animal droppings at the horse's route. We were surrounded by tall trees and the peaceful view of the picnic grounds. I found the experience very relaxing and enjoyable. The horseman guiding us even asked if I wanted to make the horse go faster, but I was already pleased with our pace.
For a more memorable and exhilarating experience, you can also call in days before you visit and have a trail ride prepared for you and your group. The trails cost about P1,500 to P3,000 (inclusive of snacks and drinks), which would last for about two to three hours giving you a nice view of the lahar-covered Sacobia River
El Kabayo has about two dozen horses in the facility. There are Thoroughbreds best known for horse racing and Quarter horses used round up of cattle. These horses are very easy to control which would be perfect for beginners. There are native horses too and all of them are trained and the safety of beginners are assured.
The person behind El Kabayo is the horse enthusiast Gabby La O who is often referred to as Sheriff Gabby.
Sheriff Gabby's fondness with horses began at a very young age. He was always a huge fan of cowboy and old western-themed movies like The Magnificent Seven (1960); Shane (1953); The Good, The Bad and the Ugly (1966). He also grew up being around horses as they roamed freely in their farm in Camiguin.
His passion with horses goes as far promoting horses to boost tourism in Pampanga. Just last November, El Kabayo had successfully hosted the 10th Annual Clark Horse Festival at the El Kabayo State Fair Grounds and Competition Arena in the Clark Freeport Zone in Angeles City.
AMANTE RIBS AND STEAKS
Right within El Kabayo is Amante Ribs and Steaks, a restaurant that matches the theme of El Kabayo. It offers a gastronomical buffet for the price of P449 during weekdays and P499 on weekends. The resto's signature and most ordered dishes include baby back ribs, roast beef and grilled tuna, but It also serves varying dishes and salads too.
Amante ribs and steaks also offers breakfast buffets every weekend for only P220, where some Filipino favorites are offered like pork tapa, tocino, longganisa,and sausages. There's also an area for cereals and omelette. For drinks, coffee or juice is available.
HOLY ROSARY PARISH CHURCH
At the heart of Culiat town stands one of the oldest churches in Angeles City. Also known as Pisamban Maragul which in Kapampangan means huge church. It has become one of the city's famous landmarks.
Pisamban Maragul was founded in 1877 by the pioneering families of Angeles City led by Don Mariano Henson. The backyard of the church had witnessed bloodshed during the Spanish era when it was used as an execution ground. Come World War II, the church then served as a military hospital for the U.S. Army.
Since then, the church had become the religious center of the town, as it should be, where devotees flock especially during the Holy Week and the month of October to celebrate their triad of religious festivals.
For the whole year, you can enjoy the different snacks offered right across the church in the town plaza. Their puto bungbong costs P35 and is topped with margarine, niyog, condensed milk, and cheese. There are bibingka and other street food in the area, is a special hot chocolate called "Tsokolateng Batirul."
PAMINTUAN MANSION AT MUSEO NG KASAYSAYANG PANLIPUNAN NG PILIPINAS
Right next to the town plaza is the Pamintuan Culiat Mansion. Those with a thirst for history will most certainly be charmed by the museum found inside the mansion called Museo ng Kasaysayang Panlipunan ng Pilipinas.
This museum is dedicated to social history or the study of everyday life over time, from their homes to furniture even the little things like utensils they used for meals. Upon entry, you'll see a stairway headed to the second floor of the mansion. We took the stairs to the first floor and met the museum guide Aaron Rivera who is also a part of the National Historical Commission of the Philippines (NHCP)
Aaron started our tour introducing us to the history of the mansion. It was a wedding gift to Don Florentino Pamintuan from his parents, Mariano Pamintuan and Valentino Torres, in 1890.
A couple of years later, it became the headquarters of the famous General Antonio Luna in April of 1899. After a month, it briefly became the seat of government after the first President of the republic, General Emilio Aguinaldo, moved from Kawit, Cavite to Pampanga and celebrated the first anniversary of Philippine independence on June 12, 1899.
It was also used as the town's municipal hall and then as a regional office by the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP) for about 16 years. Now, the National Historical Commission of the Philippines (NHCP) has the ownership of the mansion where it stands as a museum. With only about 60% left from the original home, it is still given the care it deserves. For those who would to visit the museum, it is open from Tuesday to Sunday, from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m.
Pampanga is known to be the home of delicious food and the answer to gastronomical cravings - the Culinary Capital of the Philippines. For the last leg of our journey, we visited some of the best restaurant Angeles has to offer.
MILA'S TOKWA'T BABOY
Considered as an institution and a pride for the residents of Angeles City, celebrities and politicians alike continue to visit this place to have a taste of the city's famous dishes. Photographs and newspaper clippings of these visits are all posted in one area of the carinderia.
The pair behind the famous Mila's Sisig is none other than Milagros Gomez and her husband Ruben Gomez. They whipped up their own take on sisig, a famous Kapampangan dish. They boil the pork meat instead of grilling, then they deep-fry the pork until it roasted. It is then chopped, seasoned, and served on a sizzling plate.
For the price of P220, it is definitely awesome. You get bites of crispy and chewy bits of meat, topped with onions and their special soy sauce. I couldn't get enough of it! Another bestseller, and also my favorite, is their tokwa't baboy.
This signature dish is what actually attracted customers to their outlet in the first place. The tokwa is fried to get a crispy exterior but still velvety soft on the inside. There are slices of celery stalks that gave the dish an interesting kick. The chopped pig ears give the dish more texture. All these ingredients are combined with soy sauce.
For your side dish you can try the fresh paco salad (fresh ferns) with tomatoes and itlog na pula. It has a special sweet lazatin vinegar dressing that gives tanginess to the dish. Other dishes you must sample are their chicharron bulaklak (P200), tocino barbecue (P200), dinuguan, and grilled fish.
Mila's tokwa't baboy can definitely handle a busy day. there are many tables and chairs available in the fully air-conditioned main dining area. However, on weekends, expect a full house as this place is usually buzzing with customers all ready to enjoy a great meal.
Another famous restaurant in Pampanga is Everybody's Café. Also an old-timer in the restaurant industry, it goes back post World War II in the 1940s with the original branch found along MacArthur Highway in San Fernando. This café is indeed "everybody's café" as it has served Filipinos, Japanese, and Americans in this restaurant and was then considered a "neutral ground."
Started by Benito and Carmen Santos, their original and only dishes at the time were the pancit luglug (Pampanga's own version of palabok), and mami (egg noodles with shredded meat and broth). Both are now part of their bestsellers list. We visited their Angeles branch at Nepomart and tried the pancit luglug. I like how the crunchy chicharron complemented the soft rice noodles.
As the restaurant grew, it incorporated other Kapampangan dishes like the betute (fried frogs stuffed with meat) which is a bit more for the adventurous but definitely worth the try! it did taste like chicken, as they say, but with tougher meat. The customer's adventurous palate may also try the exotic kamaru or fried crickets if it's in season. Bon appetit! [K]