Where to Go in the Awesome Tarlac Neighborhood

Tarlac offers an awesome neighborhood in Northern Luzon. Pangasinenses, Ilocanos, Kapampangans, Bulakenyos, and even Tagalogs flock to the province to enjoy a time for adventures and leisure.

If you’re looking to explore the neighborhood in Tarlac, here are some of the best spots that you need to visit.

Capas National Shrine

If you want to learn about the stories of the war, then Capas National Shrine is the best place to visit in Tarlac. This was built to commemorate those who lost their lives in the Bataan Death March. It’s an even more meaningful place as the site used to be a concentration camp, even reminding us today about the repercussions of war.

Isdaan Village

Looking for an awesome place with great food? Then, Isdaan Village is the place to go. It’s a floating restaurant that offers a variety of Filipino and other Asian cuisine. Dining in at Isdaan is also an experience with singing cooks and overlooking picturesque views. The place is perfect eating with your family or a large group.

Aquino Ancestral House

If you want to appreciate the democracy of the Philippines more, then you should head on over to Aquino Ancestral House. This is the house where the late Senator Benigno “Ninoy” Aquino lived before he entered into local and national politics.

Kart City Tarlac

Do you enjoy the adrenaline rush? You should check out Kart City Tarlac! The place is perfect for kids at heart with their F1 carts available for driving! If you’re bringing your children, you won’t need to worry as there’s a designated place specially designed for them.

Mount Pinatubo

As the province borders Mount Pinatubo, this means more adventure for you! You can enjoy a nice ride by 4×4 trucks going uphill and a hike by foot going to the summit. What’s even more wonderful is meeting friendly Aeta locals along the way.

Tarlac has indeed an awesome neighborhood that makes for a perfect getaway spot in Luzon. More than visiting from time to time, the great thing is that you can also easily secure a home in the province!

If you want to purchase a home  in Tarlac, there are affordable houses that BellaVita offers. Settling a home in the province means that you’re one skip away to these amazing destinations – which is a great benefit for you.

For more information about the location of their homes and their pricing, visit BellaVita website or Facebook page.

Header photo by JC Galidon on Unsplash

Pinoy Bloggers take on The New Normal

It has been more than three months since the pandemic has essentially turned our worlds upside down.

As we waited for quarantines to be lifted and restrictions to be loosened, many of us found ourselves willing time to hurry up so things can get back to normal.

But we can’t really go back to the way things used to be, right? Not when the threat of COVID-19 or any future communicable health risk still looms.

Hence, the emergence of The New Normal. While businesses re-open and people are more frequently moving about, the following principles still apply:

  • Increased importance of personal hygiene
  • Practice of physical distancing
  • Focus of all activities in the home
  • Transition of most interactions to digital

To help ease the way towards The New Normal, several Filipino bloggers have taken it upon themselves to broach topics relevant to the transition. They create content to guide, inspire or entertain as we all grapple with the changes to our way of life.

Keepin’ Fit and Healthy

Bloggers Take On The New Normal

If the pandemic has taught us anything, it is the value of one’s health. We have seen how this viral infections has wreaked havoc, not only on one’s physical well-being, but also on one’s finances and social interactions. Also, keeping fit has become challenging for many with exercising outside the home and in the gym no longer among the options available. It is no wonder, then, that bloggers have chosen to dwell on how to maintain one’s health and fitness during this time.

Ces Dimalanta of Manila Millennial, for instance, guides her readers on how to conduct a COVID-19 self assessment using FightCOVID.app.

Prevention is better than cure so it’s good that we continue monitoring ourselves if we develop symptoms, but at the moment, there’s just so much strain on medical workers and doing a self-check is the least that we can do to help. – Manila Millennial

Dale Palisoc of The Little Binger, on the other hand, shares a list of free apps and websites on home workouts that can help his bingers to keep on track with their health goals.

We spent every single day at home because we are restricted and it is not safe… But you know what it is not healthy to stay stagnant. We still have to keep on moving. The big question, however, is how to do it? Especially now that gyms are closed and it is terrifying to jog outside… – The Little Binger

Home is the place to be… stuck in?

Bloggers Take On The New Normal

The home emerged as the safest place to be in, but, as most of us discovered, it is not always the most comfortable or the most entertaining. People who are used to going out and having a social life now find themselves isolated. Families who used to just see each other at dinnertime or on weekends now spend the whole day in each other’s company. The problem that arose from these scenarios is how to while away the time while “stuck” at home? These bloggers may have just the answer.

Nicole San Miguel of Living Beyond Style, Wendyflor Palomo of Wendyflor.com and Mikhaela Adarve of Youthsoloartsy.com, all give their own takes on how one can make the most of the time at home resulting from the quarantine.

Community quarantine may be a disorientating experience, especially for those of us who are used to spending most of our time outside the house. But, it’s also essential to look on the bright side, while channeling our energy into some productive activities. – Living Beyond Style

Beyond my motherhood duties to my two sons, I have come to appreciate the time I have: to do things I have always wanted to do but never got to, because I have always put them aside. – Wendyflor.com

Don’t forget to smile and be positive regardless of what situation you are in. One creative hobby helps us a lot to be more productive and manage our mental health to lessen the stress level. Despite the current situation, it always good to remember you got the passion to do things right and be the right person to deliver results to continue your undeniably creative hobby. – Youthsoloartsy

How can we get our hands on those food!

Bloggers Take On The New Normal

Anybody who knows me also knows that the enjoyment of good food is central to my happiness. When the community quarantine was implemented, my foodie friends and I worried about our favorite restos, and rightfully so. The restaurant industry was among the most badly hit by the pandemic and the resulting lockdown with the reduced clientele, lack of manpower and rising overhead costs putting a huge strain on their finances.

Those who were able to pivot their operations to be viable by making their food available for pickup or delivery stand a chance at surviving in The New Normal.

Plus, for those who are not used to cooking their own food, having tasty and easily accessible food options will make the quarantine restrictions seem not as harsh.

Since the start of the quarantine, I have featured noteworthy dishes from these establishments which can now be enjoyed at home. If you have time, do check out my posts on Fresh Takes on Filipino Food for Araw ng Kalayaan and Extraordinary Sushi for International Sushi Day.

So, what’s next?

Bloggers Take On The New Normal

Through all the difficulties we faced due to the pandemic, we are buoyed by the hope that someday it will end. When that day comes, we need to be prepared on what do do.

Ivan Jose of Ivan + Khris’ Travels gives advice to would-be travelers on how to travel safely and hassle-free.

Practice social distancing as much as you can. When exploring city centers and parks, take cycling tours instead of walking tours or bus tours. Cycling presents the least risk of coming into close contact with other tourists. Plus, cycling is great for your health at any time! – Ivan + Khris’ Travels

GV Caplas of Wandering Good Vibes presents a 30-day challenge to her readers to divert them from their worries and anxieties.

#30DayNewNormalChallenge aims to help citizens face this New Normal phenomenon. This will allow us to just live day-by-day unaware that we have adapted positively with this universal change. – Wandering Good Vibes

Karla Obispo of Travel with Karla, on the other hand, provides a playbook on how to be a decent person in the time of COVD-19 which I think still applies into The New Normal.

There are many ways on how to be a good citizen in the time of COVID-19. I hope you choose to be one. – Travel with Karla

Navigating the way into a new set of circumstances, norms and environments as a result of COVID-19 may seem daunting, but be assured, your blogger friends are with you ready to share what we can to guide, inspire or entertain you into The New Normal.

Many thanks to my fellow bloggers for contributing to this post!

Photo Credits:
Header photo by Sarah Killian on Unsplash
Health and Fitness photo by Cathy Pham on Unsplash
Home Life photo by Tanaphong Toochinda on Unsplash
Food photo by Victor He on Unsplash
Beyond photo by Dan Meyers on Unsplash

Hotel Sogo innovates New Normal hotel features

Experts say it will take longer before the world completely heals from the effect of COVID19. As the country prepares to ease up after the almost three months of Enhance Community Quarantine, Hotel Sogo steps up for their version of the hotel industry’s ‘new normal’.

Hotel Sogo is doing various ways to ensure the safety and security of its guests and employees against the spread of Covid19 virus, once they go back to regular operations. Top on its list will be the use of ultraviolet (UV) lights in disinfecting around its facilities and intensified the process from checking-in to ordering of food to make sure their facilities as So Clean. The ultraviolet (UV) lights are highly effective at disinfection, as its rays are capable of killing bacteria, germs, and viruses.

To prepare its employees in servicing its guests, Hotel Sogo makes sure to protect their employees from the virus by giving them vitamins to boost their immunity and provided personalized PPEs. Hotel Sogo employees have their medical check-ups and Covid19 testing to make sure that their personnel is free from the virus to make sure that the employees and not just the facilities are So Good and ready for their regular operations.

Guests need not worry during their stay Hotel Sogo ensures that operations and preparations are So Safe, as mandatory temperature checks, passage through disinfecting tent, and use of disinfecting foot tray are in place. The availability of hand sanitizers in common areas, are strictly observed, as well as social distancing from the receiving process to elevator use going to their rooms. Facilities are also redesigned and modified to protect the guests and employees, like placing the glass panel divider on top of the front desk.

All of this information can be found in Hotel Sogo’s ‘new normal’ video playbook. The video is shared with relevant government agencies like the Department of Health (DOH), Overseas Workers Welfare Administration (OWWA), and the Department of Tourism (DOT), in the hope that the video could serve as a benchmark of other similar establishments prior to their reopening.

Watch Hotel Sogo’s ‘new normal’ playbook video to know more.

Video and details provided by Hotel Sogo in a recent press release.

New TLC series TRAVEL FOR LOVE premieres on Valentine’s Day

TRAVEL FOR LOVE is a new unscripted series that reinvents the genre of travel shows, with the added element of new relationships in foreign lands. In this series, 5 micro influencers set off on a trip of a lifetime to experience all the magic of new adventures, and the anticipation of meeting potential romantic interests, for the first time.

Travel for Love is a social experiment presenting all the thrills of travel, with a refreshing take on the beginnings of new relationships. This ten-part series takes place in 5 different cities in Asia –Kuching, Yogyakarta, Dalat, Kuala Lumpur and Bohol. Throughout the series, the influencers will experience amazing local flavors, discover stunning destinations and delve into the unique cultures of their host cities, all whilst challenging their comfort zones, by going on three blind dates. After meeting 3 romantic hopefuls, each influencer will need to choose just 1 person, to go on a second date with. Will sparks fly, or will things smoulder and perhaps ignite new,intangible connections?

Premieres Friday, 14 February 2020 at 9.25pm TLC (SKYcable ch 243 HD | 62 SD in Metro Manila).

Ep 1: Mariska Date 1

Fiercely different, Mariska, Tony, Tahanee, Honey and Samantha journey to 5 different cities seeking adventure and love. In the rainforest of Sarawak, musician Mariska from Jakarta meets first date Kevin.

Ep 2: Honey & Samantha Date 1

In KL, Filipina Samantha goes to new heights with first date Alvin. While Penangite Honey meets first date Shane in Bohol exploring romance underwater before taking the plunge into a bizarre situation.

Ep 3: Tahanee & Tony Date 1

New Yorker Tony’s first date Queenie in Dalat involves dancing and it’s an awkward start right out of his comfort zone. Malaysian Tahanee wonders if worldly first date Levi in Jogja is too much for her.

Ep 4: Mariska & Honey Date 2

Mariska meets second date, Dan in Sarawak and is forced to confront her biggest fear; worms. Meanwhile, in Bohol, Honey surprises herself by letting second date Philippe in on a dark secret from her past.

Ep 5: Samantha & Tahanee Date 2

Tahanee meets charming second date Daymasand shares intimate memories of her late mother. In KL Samantha is impressed by handsome second date Dharrshen but things take an unexpected turn.

Ep 6: Mariska Date 3 & Tony Date 2

City slicker Sean, treats Mariska to a trip of a lifetime in Kuching! Tony’s second date Jessie from Dalat loves flowers and sunsets, so she is sure to get his mother’s approval, but can she get his?

Ep 7: Honey & Tahanee Date 3

Thetwo Malaysians, meet their final date. Honey, feeling vulnerable, wears her heart on her sleeve with Marco in Bohol, whilst Tahanee goes on an adventurous date at Gua Pindul in Yogyakarta with Pajay.

Ep 8: Samantha & Tony Date 3

Flirtatious sparks fly when Tony meets Lyn in Dalat. But can they overcome the language barrier? Samantha’s thirddate Ilai in KL has left her wondering if he is the real deal.


It is the ultimate dilemma for Mariska, Tony, Tahanee, Honey and Samantha. Who will they choose for a second date? They reminisce about their journeys and theirdates as they try to make the right choice.


Mariska, Tony, Tahanee, Honey and Samantha meet their chosen second dates. Will they pursue romance or just stay friends? Mariska’s original song Aeroplane debuts in the final moments of this episode.

Show details and images provided by TLC.

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.

Sightseeing at the Mukilteo Lighthouse Park, Snohomish County, WA

Did you know that aside from guiding mariners by night or during storms, lighthouses also serve as daymarks – landmarks that are visible from the sea during daylight hours.  To serve as a day mark, the light tower should be brightly painted, and feature distinctive colors and patterns.

One such light tower in the Mukilteo Lighthouse which the fam explored during our trip to the Pacific Northwest.  Designed by renowned  architect Carl W. Leick, this Victorian-style lighthouse, which stands 38 feet high (one of the shortest in the United States), has been operating since March 1, 1906.  By 2001, the US Coast Guard has transferred the Mukilteo Light Station property to the City of Mukilteo, although it still maintains the light and the foghorn as working aids to navigation.

Mukilteo Lighthouse, WA

When it was originally built, the lighthouse was equipped with an oil lamp and a rotating lens; the oil lamp had to be refilled and the rotating lens had to be rewound every three hours.

Mukilteo Lighthouse, WA

Currently, its light is made possible by a fourth order Fresnel lens built in Paris, France in 1852 and brought to Mukilteo when the lighthouse was converted to electricity in 1927.  With a flash pattern of two seconds on / three seconds off which is unique to Mukilteo, the lighthouse is now fully automated and on 24/7.

Mukilteo Lighthouse, WA

Atop the light tower is a breathtaking view of the Possession Sound, named by George Vancouver in 1792 when he claimed possession of the land of “New Georgia” for Great Britain.  Possession Sound connects the main Puget Sound basin to the south with Saratoga Passage and Port Susan to the north.

Mukilteo Lighthouse, WA

Mukilteo Lighthouse, WA

Mukilteo Lighthouse, WA

Mukilteo Lighthouse, WA

Beside the lighthouse is a structure known as the Assistant Keeper’s House which was also designed by Architect Leick as part of the light station.  Today, it serves as a venue for historical exhibits and as a gift shop for visitors.

Mukilteo Lighthouse, WA

Mukilteo Lighthouse, WA

Mukilteo Lighthouse, WA

Mukilteo Lighthouse, WA

Encompassing the light station compound, the sandy beach and shoreline walkway is the Mukilteo Lighthouse Park.  This has one of the most easily accessible shorelines in the Snohomish County, especially among those needing ADA access.  It also displays sculptures by Tulalip tribal carvers and artworks by Joe Grobin and James Madison.

The fam spent a long while here just enjoying the view, skipping rocks along the beach and cooling off with some ice cream at the nearby Diamond Knot outlet.

Mukilteo Lighthouse, WA

Mukilteo Lighthouse, WA

Mukilteo Lighthouse, WA

Diamond Knot, Mukilteo

The Mukilteo Lighthouse Park is a thirty to forty-minute car ride from Seattle.  It is located at 609 Front St, Mukilteo, WA 98275, open 4am to 10pm from May 1 to September 30, and 6am to 10pm from October 1 to April 30.  For inquiries or more information, call (425) 263.8180 or visit its website.

Check out the attractions the fam and I visited during our US trip:


An immersive coffee experience at Starbucks Reserve Roastery, Seattle

Seattle, WA is the birthplace of Starbucks. My love affair with this coffee brand is well-known among my nears-and-dears (and well-documented on this blog, too!)

Well, on my second visit to the Evergreen State, this time with my family in tow, I made sure to drop by the mecca for coffee lovers right here in Seattle: the Starbucks Reserve Roastery.

Located just nine blocks from Starbucks’ original store near the Pike Place Market, it is one of the largest Starbucks outlets in the world, occupying 15,000 square feet of space, all dedicated to the company’s pursuit of coffee innovations.

Starbucks Reserve Roastery, Seattle

Starbucks Reserve Roastery, Seattle

Here, visitors can look forward to a unique and immersive combination of coffee experiences, such as witnessing the on-site brewing of rare Starbucks Reserve coffees, tasting an ever-evolving beverage menu, watching, tasting and learning eight distinct coffee preparation methods, perusing an expansive library of coffee-related tomes, and chatting with a staff of Certified Starbucks Coffee Masters who simply love talking about their craft.

The experience starts in the Main Bar where you can order your cup of choice or allow the Coffee Masters to recommend a perfect handcrafted drink for you, made with the store’s freshly roasted, rare coffee beans.

Here, the kids and I enjoyed 12oz glasses of Cold Brew Malt, a treat from my bro. This drink is a thick malted milkshake made with Starbucks’ cold brew coffee spindle-blended with Mora’s vanilla ice cream and chocolate bitters.

Bro-in-law, on the other hand, a Matcha Teavana Tea Latte, one of the store’s non-coffee drinks.

Starbucks Reserve Roastery, Seattle

Starbucks Reserve Roastery, Seattle

Starbucks Reserve Roastery, Seattle

Starbucks Reserve Roastery, Seattle

Starbucks Reserve Roastery, Seattle

Next, at the Scooping Bar, a Coffee Master can advise you on which Starbucks Reserve coffee best suits your taste and you can take home a freshly scooped bag.

Starbucks Reserve Roastery, Seattle

At the Handpicked at the Roastery, your inner Starbucks fan can truly come out and play. With a plethora of carefully curated merchandise from Starbucks’ artisan partners, from coffee-brewing equipment from all over the world, coffeeware ranging from quaint-kitschy to posh and wearables that proudly announce your love for coffee, you can take a piece of Starbucks home with you.

Starbucks Reserve Roastery, Seattle

Starbucks Reserve Roastery, Seattle

Starbucks Reserve Roastery, Seattle

At the Mixology Bar, get a shot or two of signature cocktails and spirit-free drinks inspired by Starbucks Reserve coffee and Teavana teas. I’ll probably return here – sans the little one – for a more spirited coffee experience.

Starbucks Reserve Roastery, Seattle

Starbucks partnered with Rocco Princi to bring a taste of the Spirito di Milano to its customers. At Princi, you can treat yourself to artisan breads, freshly baked pastries and pizzas, as well as delectable desserts which are best enjoyed with your cup of Starbucks Reserve coffee.

Starbucks Reserve Roastery, Seattle

Want to get lost in your own coffee story? Head on to the Experience Bar where you can go on themed coffee tasting flights, guided tours by Starbucks’ Coffee Masters where exploratory brew methods and immersive storytelling will only deepen your love for your favorite brews.

Starbucks Reserve Roastery, Seattle

Starbucks Reserve Roastery, Seattle

For a bookworm like me, the Coffee Library is a destination in itself. Climb up the steps so you can pore over 200-plus books dedicated to coffee. It also offers a great view of the entire roasting operation.

Starbucks Reserve Roastery, Seattle

Starbucks Reserve Roastery, Seattle

A trip to the Starbucks Reserve Roastery is always a worthwhile activity for coffee lovers who find themselves in Seattle. I plan to return before my trip ends to have a more leisurely journey across the bars and stations.

This Starbucks Reserve Roastery is located at 1124 Pike Street, Seattle, WA, 98101, open daily from 7am to 11pm. For more details, call (206)624-0173 or visit www.starbucksreserve.com.

Starbucks Reserve Roastery & Tasting Room Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Check out my previous posts on Starbucks:

Check out the other restos I’ve tried in the Washington state area:

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.
  • San Fernando, Pampanga keeps the tradition of handcrafting Christmas lanterns alive

    San Fernando, the provincial capitol of Pampanga, is a bustling city that houses the provincial presence of some of the country’s largest retail outlets, financial firms, restaurant chains, manufacturing companies and more. The city also plans to further expand the modernization of its infrastructure and services.

    Despite its drive towards modernization, the city also stays true to its roots as the home of Christmas Lanterns, as manifested by its support to its handcrafted parol industry. San Fernando Pampanga’s parol makers are known for their grandiose creations: colorful and ornately patterned lanterns which light up and blink in cheery rhythms. Largely because of this, San Fernando, Pampanga has been hailed by CNN as “Asia’s Christmas capital.”

    The Kapampangan tradition of handcrafting lanterns can be dated back to the 16th century when the Augustinian friars started the practice of holding processions honoring the town’s patron saints leading to the cathedral. This practice coincides with the Misa de Gallo, or dawn masses held for nine days leading to Christmas. The processions would later evolve and become locally known as Lubenas.

    During these processions, the candles held by the devout would sometimes get blown out by the hanging amihan (cool northeast wind). The enterprising Kapampangans took to covering their candles to protect the flames from the breeze, thus making them lanterns. And since Kapampangans are also characterized by their appreciation for beauty, joy, grandiosity and pomp, the lanterns grew in size and complexity of design as the years went by. They evolved from being made of simple bamboo and other indigenous materials to incorporating dancing lights as well as the use of colored plastics and fiberglass in the design.

    This interesting origin story of the parol was retold by Rolando Quiambao, the lantern maker/designer behind RolRen’s Lanterns and General Merchandise. The parols of this home-grown business have enjoyed not only national, but also worldwide acclaim. If you chanced upon the bombastic parols used during the Metro Manila Filmfest or those gracing the Philippine International Convention Center (PICC), chances are, these were supplied by RolRen’s.

    RonRel’s also produces lanterns for Saipan, Korea, Guam, Taiwan, Palau and more. While its products geared towards the international market retain the Kapampangan parol at their core, the execution of these lanterns reflect the culture of the country they are going to. Palau-bound lanterns, for instance, depict the nipa huts and boats used in local culture.

    Recently, RolRen’s supplied San Fernando’s Heroes Hall with colorful life-size depictions of the Paskong Kapampangan (Christmas in Pampanga).

    RonRel’s has also incorporated innovations in parol into its parol design. Its designers worked with computer programmers to facilitate choreographed blinking of the parol’s various lights via rotors, for example. Previously, these lights were manipulated using on/off switches.

    Mr. Quiambao shares other interesting snippets of trivia as well. Did you know that what sets the Kapampangan parol apart from other Christmas lanterns are its component parts which are steeped in tradition? These are:

    • The middle portion called the tambol (base drum) so named because its round shape resembles that of the drum
    • The star-shaped portion after the tambol is the pito-siko, named after the way the star’s corners resemble bent elbows
    • Surrounding the star is the palimbon from the Kapampangan word for procession that circles the town on the way to the cathedral
    • The outer layer is called the ponteta, from the Kapampangan word punta, which refers to it being the final component of the parol.

    The artisans of RolRen’s don’t have a monopoly of Kapampangan parol-enthusiasm either.

    With the approach of the holiday season, amateur lantern makers from various barangays in the city are gearing up for this year’s Giant Lantern Festival. Already on its 110th year, the festival displays the artistry and passion the Kapampangans have for their parols as representatives from participating barangays contruct lanterns up to 20 feet tall to compete with those from other barangays.

    Barangay San Jose, in particular, is represented by the Ambrosio family, the only team that has a female lantern-maker, Mary Anne Torres. (The lantern makers of the other contest entries this year are all male.)

    This year’s entry from San Jose will reach up to 19.8 feet and will requires 10,000 lightbulbs.

    Barangay San Jose’s last win in the Giant Lantern Festival was in 1991. Their winning piece was later displayed during the 1992 Barcelona Olympics.

    The Giant Lantern Festival Competition will be held at the Robinsons Starmills on December 15, 6pm at the Robinsons Starmills. Participating barangays include Calulut, Del Carmen, Del Pilar, San Jose, San Juan, San Nicolas, San Pedro, Sindalan, Sta. Lucia, Sto. Nino and Telabastagan.

    Want to take part in this fun and light-filled event as well as check out the local delights that San Fernando, Pampanga has to offer? Check out these packages centered around the competition night from tour operators accredited by the city government:

    M.A.G. Travel & Tours

    • Tour Highlights: Giant Lantern Grand Competition Night, visit and learn how to make giant lanterns, Kapampangan cookery and food crawl, learning indigenous ways of preparing and cooking meals, a visit to the Sunken Church of San Guillermo Parish, a visit to the San Fernando Train Station
    • Rate (with overnight stay ay Imerex Hotel): Php5,650 (single)/Php4,280 (twin)
    • Contact Details: +63 2 3598699; +63 045 4995139; +63 917 6311459; +63 920 1172333; and +63 923 4258888

    Don’t Skip Manila

    • Tour Highlights: Early Buffet Dinner of heirloom Kapampangan recipes; lantern-making workshop and factory tour; Giant Lantern Festival Show
    • Rate: Php2,000 pax
    • Contact Details: dontskipmanila@gmail.com


    • Tour Highlights: Early Buffet Dinner of heirloom Kapampangan recipes; lantern-making workshop and factory tour; Giant Lantern Festival Show
    • Rates: Php3,000 (discounts will apply for multi-person booking, students and children age 12 and below)
    • Contact Details: +63 917 7146737 (Osep Reyes)
  • LQM Travel
    • Package Inclusions: round trip transportation (pick up from Clark or Angeles); entrance to Clark Museum and VIP Seat at the Giant Lantern Exhibition; Lunch and Dinner; Souvenir T-Shirt and Licensed Tour Guide
      Rate: Php3,000 (discounts will apply for multi-person booking)
      Contact Details: +63 045 3311036; +63 045 3311356; +63 906 0660521; or +63 919 8744984
  • Disclosure: Together with other bloggers, I participated in a tout and food crawl sponsored by the city government of San Fernando, Pampanga. The experiences and food served were not paid for by the attendees including myself.