First of all, Merry Christmas to all Friends of Our Awesome Planet !
At 1am last Sunday, I was driving Ivan Mandy and Spanky to their house in Oroqueta. We just finished our first and ultimate tour showcasing the Best of Pampanga. All of us were physically tired of the 17-hour Pampanga journey but our spirits were still high. We knew that we just executed the first and Ultimate Kapampangan Show-Off. It was the confluence of events, friends who enjoyed the same interest in travel and 4 bloggers clicking at the right moment that made this Pampanga experience a memorable one.
We would always say it is not a tour but an experience to remember. We wanted to create an experience with people who entered as strangers/ foreigners and who exited as friends because of the memories that we shared. We will share with you the entire tour and our contacts. We would encourage other people to create their own tours or explore Pampanga on their own. Our vision is to elevate the level of tours delivered in the country showcasing the Filipino hospitality and creativity; and the great food we have in our country.
Allow me to share with you the Ultimate Kapampangan Show-off Experience…. (Please let us know what you think about it. And maybe you would want to join us next time.)
Last December, I met Ivan Henares and he was kind enough to tour me around Pampanga which culminated in the Giant Lantern Festival of San Fernando, Pampanga! Ever since then, I got fascinated with these giant lanterns that are 18th feet in diameter. I vowed to visit these lanterns when they are being constructed to appreciate them better.
Saturday December 15, 2007 | 7:30 am – 12:00 mn| Tour cost P4,500 (all in plus surprises)
The Tour Summary
“Well, not quite Manila but still close…. Journey to the Northern heartland as we immerse ourselves in things Kapampangan! From Baroque to Betute, its fun-filled day as we poke around and get intimate with the very best of Pampanga’s cultural offerings. We’ll gawk at the jewel-box of church in Betis while wading through the half-buried town of Bacolor. We’ll stuff ourselves silly with the best Kapampangan fare by one of the country’s best known Pampango chefs! To it cap-off, we’ll have front-row view of the most dazzling display of Kapmpangan artistry- the Parul Festival of San Fernando! A tour screming with Pampango pride!”
The Tour Experience
* Betis Church* Town of Bacolor*Claude Tayag’s Bale Dutung Restaurant* Pampanga Specilaty Shops* Ligligan Parul Festival in San Fernando
To reserve for this tour, please pay P4,500 before December 10, 2007. Email me [email protected] on payment arrangement.
Finally, we have taken the first bold step to launch our first awesome tour. We plan to redefine the way tours are done in Manila and elevate them to world class standards. It is a bold statement I know, but the Filipinos can do it and we can show the world the beauty of the Philippines. Our vision is to provide hassle-free worry-free all-in-cost tours to all the awesome places in the Philippines starting with Pampanga. We are hoping that we create unique experiences that each participant of our tours will never forget.
We also intend to post all free information if you want to do the tour on your own. We will be launching OnePhilippines.com (soon!) to be the one stop shop for all travel information for Filipinos who would like to travel. We are looking for sponsors, investors, or contributors for this project if you are interested.
Intentionally, we did not put all the details of the tour because we want to provide a lot of surprise element into it. I personally have been to Pampanga more than 10 times and I’ve learned how to organize an awesome tour. Spanky, Ivan M, Ivan H and me have been brainstorming about how we can create an experience people will never forget. We are going back to Pampanga this Sunday to do more research, to do a travel time study, and to brainstorm further on how we can make this worth more than P 4,500J
I am personally excited and we target to have 20 people and we have confirmed bookings of more than 10 already. Thanks for having faith in us and let’s have fun on Dec. 15!
P.S. Here is a sneak peak on what you would see in the tour…
My love affair with Claude Tayag’s Bale Dutung (House of Wood in Kapampangan) started last March when 22 foodies decided to bravely go where none of us have gone before. I was speechless. I was not able to complete my blog post on Claude Tayag’s Bale Dutung last March 20, 2007 because of the overwhelming emotions that I don’t know where to start.
Six (6) months after that experience, my brother, Lorenz and wife, Carmina, who got married just last October, requested me to organize a Pampanga Tour with Claude Tayag’s Bale Dutung as the highlight of the trip. How could I refuse?
We were lucky to get a booking at Claude’s on the last minute because you would need advanced reservations. He usually only accept one booking per month and you need to be at least 10 because Claude and wife, Mary Anne will be your personal hosts for the 4-hour lazy weekend lunch.
People often ask me on the direction of the place. You would have to drive all the way to Pampanga via North Expressway, exit San Fernando Pampanga, find your way to the Ayala Alabang of Angeles City– which is Villa Gloria Subdivision and find your way to Claude Tayag’s house. From the outside, Bale Dutung looks an ordinary corner lot that spans a few blocks.
As you enter, it looks like an old place full of antiques where in fact, it was built only in 1998 – 80% of which came from junk of old churches, bowling alleys, and old wood furniture. Claude and Maryann emerged from their personal room on the second floor and greets you with a smile, “Welcome to Bale Dutung!”
We are starting to organize high-end Pampanga Tours for December. We will have a dry run with my Brother’s friends this coming Saturday, November 3. I’m extending this invite to OAP readers who would like to join on Saturday. I know it is a short notice. In any case, if you are not doing anything on Saturday, come join us. The group is a mix group and I don’t know most of the people joining so it would be a good bonding session.
The Package Tour would costs P3,500/ head which includes the transportation and meal for the entire trip. This would include Kapampangan breakfast at Everybody’s Cafe and a Pampanga Heritage Tour by Ivan About Town! Ivan is a Director in the Heritage Conservation Society of the Philippines and is very proud of his Pampanga Heritage. There will be the tour of Betis Church, Bacolor Church and other heritage stop in San Fernando Pampanga.
The highlight of the Tour would be Lunch at Claude Tayag which is priced at P1,800/ head (included in the package tour). Claude Tayag’s Bale Dutung is one of the Top 10 Awesome Restaurants of the Philippines! It is certainly one of the Best Kapampangan restaurant in the country today. Lunch @ Claude’s could be as long as 3-4 hours and based on our last food trip, you won’t have any space for dinner. So after Claude’s, we plan to go back to Manila after buying pasalubong.
Meeting place on Saturday is 6.30am in Starbucks 6750 and we will be back at around 6.30pm.
Please text me and confirm if you plan to join us on Saturday. Anton @ +63928 xxx xxxx.
More than just serving gourmet food and the right ambiance, these restaurants take the overall dining experience to a higher level Sunday Inquirer Magazine (September 16, 2007)
What makes restaurants awesome? One would say as long as it serves great food. However, “great food” is subjective and it varies with each person's experience and background. To be considered awesome, restaurants have to take the food and overall dining experience to a higher level. Food that leaves an indelible mark in your taste buds, experience that imprints lasting memories in your mind, and ambiance that carves a special place in one's heart for you to share it with every person that you meet.
Each restaurant is carefully chosen to be prestigiously included in this list. Each one serves gourmet food with the freshest ingredients. It combines nature elements, artifacts or a sense of history in its overall ambiance. Simply, these restaurants have a story to tell which spreads out via word-of-mouth. I can proudly say that you can only find these restaurants ONLY in the Philippines.
KUBLI SPRINGS @ KINABUHAYAN CAFé, DOLORES, QUEZON
The road to Kubli Springs is literally a road less traveled where you'll be glad you decided not to drive your sedan car. Flashlights, candles, mobile phones, and the moon are the only source of light. Occasionally, they would put up Christmas lights connected to portable battery source to make the place special. You will find yourself in the middle of the forest, with boulders as your neighbor. The spring water flows through your feet as you look up and appreciate a clear black sky with twinkling dots. You sit on rocks and make shift benches as you smell the steak grilled on the spot. Ah, this is the perfect time to play the acoustic guitar and sing with the barkada without shame and the fear of disturbing anybody.
For P500/ person, you get fresh salad with flowers, grilled steak, Jay's special rice and fruit platter. The meal ends with friendly Lambanog and special roast of Barako coffee. Water is served from a bamboo "faucet" with mineral water coming from the mountains. Drinking and taking a bath from fresh mineral water is one unique experience. Your dining experience is a mixed emotion of satisfaction, fear, and happiness. Somehow, you wished the night will never end.
Kinabuhayan Cafe Bed and Breakfast Tel (042) 565 6828 Jay +63 917 368 0054 Winston +63 917 327 1106
You'll get excited every time you enter the entrance doors of Antonio's. It is like entering a magical portal to a world where any of the food you choose is something worth raving about. The service feels like you are in a six-star hotel where you don't have to worry about anything. Even going to the restroom is a chance to appreciate nature and its beauty. The positive energy in the place encourages conversation and it bears witness to thousands of memorable life stories.
You don't mind waiting for your food because you know that it is being prepared to perfection. The real flavor of the meat and ingredients stands out without any of the sauce overpowering its taste. Any of the wine selections seems to match with the food that you order. My favorite in Antonio's includes the Salad with Foie Gras, the steaks or sea bass dish, and the soufflé dessert to end the night. I envisioned our silver marriage anniversary to be held in Antonio's because of the food, service and its garden.
It still continues to be a secret place in the Tiaong area because Ugu never advertises the place. There are no road signs that points you to it and even their neighbors never realized that such place exist. One of the amazing things about Ugu's Pottery Garden Restaurant is that the entire place is a labor of love of the entire family. They designed everything from the huts, layout of the garden, the pottery designs, and its food concept.
Ugu is known for his dishes namely, Kulawo and Lato. Kulawo is charcoal grilled banana heart with a smokey flavor taste and it taste like Tuna while Lato is seaweed in vinegar. Both are traditional Filipino dishes that you seldom find in Metro Manila. It is home cooked Filipino food artistically presented and served in Ugu Bigyan's signature pottery. I do hope it remains to be a secret.
Isla Naburot resort is like wine – the older it is the more exotic it becomes. Electricity is supplied by solar panels that can only support the incandescent bulbs in the room. Your mobile phone will be lucky to survive after one day because there are no charging stations nearby. All you have to do is swim in the clean beach, play sunka, and spend quality time with the family.
The main attraction is doing nothing and eating gourmet Filipino dishes prepared the traditional way. Fresh seafoods are patiently grilled in a way that their natural juices are kept intact inside the meat. You enjoy each meal with home made sinamak vinegar. Fruits are abundant specially the famous Guimaras mangoes. The taste of the food is enhanced by the fresh air environment and by the love of the people cooking it. It is a foodie heaven and I can’t wait to go back this summer.
Isla Naburot Mobile #: Ana +63920-9275372
LA COCINA de TITA MONING’S, MANILA
As you enter the gates of this old mansion, you can't help but be transported back to the Old Rich ambiance in the Malacanang area. You are welcomed with drinks and pica pica in the patio before starting with the mini-tour of the mansion. You'll be fascinated with the antiques and the old-fashioned design of the living room, bedroom and especially, the bathroom. The dining area is small enough for a big group to easily dominate with their presence and laughter.
It is a treat to enjoy Spanish food cooked from recipes handed down from generations. You will leave La Cocina raving about its paella and its bread pudding. The former could rival the paella’s in Manila’s Spanish restaurants. The latter tastes like milk bread leche flan that melts in your mouth. The service is slow but sure. What is important is that they serve you with a smile and put every effort to make the experience memorable. I never forgot our La Cocina experience ever since January 2005.