A calesa tour of San Fernando, Pampanga’s historical attractions

San Fernando, Pampanga was founded in 1754, carved out of neighboring towns Mexico and Bacolor during the reign of King Fernando III of Castile and Leon. Since then, the city has been both a witness and setting for many of the region’s significant historical events.

In a recent trip to the city sponsored by its tourism office, I was able to get a peek into San Fernando’s past together with fellow bloggers through – of all things – a calesa ride!

San Fernando, Pampanga Calesa Tour

San Fernando Pampanga Calesa Tour

There’s something about the feeling the balmy morning hangin amihan on my skin and hearing the clip-clop of hooves against the pavement as we circled around San Fernando’s Heritage District in an old-timey horse-drawn carriage. The calesa drivers are friendly and have been trained by the city’s tourism office to serve as tour guides.

San Fernando, Pampanga Calesa Tour

Our tour started at the Heroes Hall, which showcases the statues of eight local and national heroes, including those of Ninoy Aquino, Dr. Jose Rizal, Don Tiburcio Hilario, Chief Justice Jose Abad Santos and of Nicolasa Dayrit-Panlilio who, in March 1899, led a group of Kapampangan women to prevent a violent altercation between Generals Antonio Luna and Tomas Mascardo. (Yey for girl power!)

San Fernando, Pampanga Calesa Tour

The hall, which used to be the municipal office, now functions as a government office and conference hall.

The park in front of the hall is decorated with life-size lanterns depicting people celebrating a Kapampangan holiday. The pieces were provided by the award-winning RolRen’s Lanterns which also supplies the parols used during the Metro Manila Filmfest and in the Philippine International Convention Center (PICC).

San Fernando, Pampanga Calesa Tour

In the Heritage District, we passed by the houses of some of Pampanga’s notable historical denizens such as the Lazatin Residence, the Tabacalera House, the Hizon-Singian House and more. I would have loved to spend more time gossiping about the descendants of the historical figures who lived there but, alas, our time was limited.

San Fernando, Pampanga Calesa Tour

San Fernando, Pampanga Calesa Tour

San Fernando, Pampanga Calesa Tour

San Fernando, Pampanga Calesa Tour

San Fernando, Pampanga Calesa Tour

San Fernando, Pampanga Calesa Tour

San Fernando, Pampanga Calesa Tour

We also passed by the San Fernando Metropolitan Cathedral, a stone church founded by the Augustinians in the late 18th century. It was burned, along with its convent, by the Philippine Revolutionary Army on the order of General Antonio Luna in 1899 buy was restored by Kapampangan architect Fernando Hizon Ocampo in 1948.

San Fernando, Pampanga Calesa Tour

Other historically notable structures we passed by include the City Hall Building built in 1917, the Pampanga Capitol Building which is currently the seat of the provincial government and the Presidio or the Pampanga Provincial Jail which was originally designed in 1907 as the Court of First Instance.

San Fernando, Pampanga Calesa Tour

San Fernando, Pampanga Calesa Tour

San Fernando Pampnga Calesa Tour

The final stop of our calesa tour is the ruins of the San Fernando Train Station. Opened in 1892 as part of the Bagbag-Mabalacat stretch of the Manila-Dagupan Railway System, it marked the start of the region’s economic growth due to massive growth in the Pampanga’s sugar industry.

San Fernando Pampanga Calesa Tour

San Fernando Pampanga Calesa Tour

San Fernando, Pampanga Calesa Tour

In mid-1892, national hero Dr. Jose Rizal made a stopover in San Fernando to recruit members for the La Liga Filipina. Ironically, the train station was designed by Engineer Charles Henry Kipping who ended up marrying Jose Rizal’s childhood love, Leonor Rivera. His visit is commemorated by a statue of the national hero seated on a bench seemingly awaiting his friends or the Kapampangan woman he was rumored to be courting at the time, Rosario Joven.

San Fernando, Pampanga Calesa Tour

In 1941, the Japanese Army bombed an ammunition train said to be parked in front of the station, causing significant fire damage to some portions of the building, which are still evident from the black stains on the structure’s walls.

San Fernando Calesa Tour

In 1942, train station served as the last stop of the Bataan Death March, wherein thousands of tired, hungry and ill Filipino and American POWs, after walking 102 kilometers from Bataan, were stuffed like sardines into box carts and transported to Capas, Tarlac. The horrendous event is commemorated by a diorama of life-size statues depicting soldiers consoling fellow prisoners and gearing up for more hardships that they are to face.

San Fernando, Pampanga Calesa Tour

San Fernando Pampanga Calesa Tour

San Fernando Pampanga Calesa Tour

The calesa tour is a memorable way to take a step into the past, revisit some of the events and areas of interest in the city’s history and appreciate how far we’ve come since then.

For inquiries on the calesa tour, call the San Fernando City Tourism Office at +63 045 9615684 or email ctipo.csfp@gmail.com.

  • Disclosure: Together with other bloggers, I participated in a tour and food crawl sponsored by the city government of San Fernando, Pampanga. The experiences provided and food served were not paid for by the attendees including myself.
  • Vikings’ Katherine Winnick makes first special appearance in Asia at HISCON 2018

    History Channel’s mega-convention – HISCON – is back for its third year.  From August 10 to 11, 2018, fans of the channel can head off to the World Trade Center in Manila to take part in Manila’s biggest entertainment convention with over 300 exhibits and experiences on history and popular culture, as well as talks, workshops and more.

    Headlining the celebrities who will make an appearance during the event is actress Katherine Winnick played the fierce shieldmaiden Lagertha in History’s Emmy-winning series Vikings, alongside international celebrity Giorgio Tsoukalos who stars in History’s iconic series Ancient Aliens.  Other notable appearances include local celebrities Xian Lim and Diego Loyzaga (Celebrity Car Wars), Jamie Dempsey (Ride N’Seek), Simon Yin (Hidden Cities Extreme and History Hustle) and popular Singaporean social media influencer Yeoh Mong Chinwho stars in Lifetime Asia’s latest digital-first original series Who Runs the World.

    HISCON guests can also drop by the SKY booth to experience a Rockin’ 50s Diner.  They can belt out their favorite classic rock n’ roll tunes on the Rock-a-oke, test their 50s and 60s trivia game through a Pop Quiz and take a selfie with a Marilyn Monroe lookalike.

    HISTORY CON 2018 tickets are available in three different categories with exclusive privileges for the HISTORY MAKER VIP pass at PHP 10,000, limited to 100 tickets for sale only. Other ticketing categories include the HISTORY MAKER pass at PHP 2,500 for a three-day admission and GENERAL ADMISSION pass at PHP 350 for a one-day access to the mega entertainment convention. Tickets are available for sale exclusively on SM Tickets.

    Disclosure: I work for SKY and part of my job is promoting its products and services, especially the content it provides to its subscribers. I consider being able to share my love for TV shows and movies and the experience of watching and talking about them with like-minded people some of the biggest perks of my job.