Pampanga continues to be one of my most favorite destinations especially with the love of my closest relatives there. I enjoyed the peaceful and simple urban lifestyle I lived through in those unforgettable summers and short surprise visits in my youth. As years went on, I realized that I had overlooked the true face of Pampanga. In my current capabilities, it was time to journey to one of the most intriguing places I’m desperately want to venture at. That place is none other than the immense and glorious Clark!
DAY 1 – Reign of the Queen of Angels!
It was a Friday afternoon, just immediately after our shifts, we thought best to travel to Pampanga. I have booked the entire weekend with my very close companion.
First thing is important! It’s how to get there? The best and most common means is by bus from Cubao. Normally, I take the Dau busses at the Five Star bus terminal but for some reason, all the Dau busses are now ordinary buses. Of course, that meant cheaper and it would take us down the Dau Terminal but air-conditioned busses are very ideal for us. The only air-conditioned bus that will take us to our destination was the Angeles bus so we went for that bus instead for comfortability. I guess a fee of almost ₱200 was not a bad choice. After all, it was a 2-hour travel.
The first official bus stop was at the terminal beside Marquee mall. A conveniently placed location right after the 2 long hour travel. The mall offers some stores and establishments not usually found in Manila! It’s wide and free to roam around for those interested!
To get to our reservation, we rode a tricycle going to McArthur Highway (to the previous Total gas station). In Pampanga, tricycle rides cost more than expected and may charge more for tourists. One ride going to the said location should not cost more than ₱100 though. Haggling with them may save the damage of overpaying. The driver brought us along McArthur Highway just across Bayanihan Park (previously Astro Park). It holds simple history and significance in Pampanga and it’s accessible most of the day.
Parallel to the park, just a few distances away, laid infamous walking street. Formally named as Fields Avenue, this path may seem dry by the day but it’s bold and wild by night, and it’s popular for the hookup culture. I’m not sure how to explain further but it’s a whole street filled with night bars and the women, mostly exotic looking, were peeled down in provocative outfits and lined up to attract their customers. It’s the reality of this area and some may find this unbearable.
Well, we didn’t come here for this, of course! I didn’t pertain this as our adventure and the reason for being here is because our booking was at the further stretch of this street called Hotel EuroAsia. It’s not exactly along fields avenue but along 21st street that’s adjoined right after it. Fields avenue is completely unavoidable if passed through other detours. I thank Google Maps for that and probably all of my travels.
There were plenty of hotels located along this street because of the number of foreigners visiting and we’re lucky to make a nice pick. We made our booking online through Traveloka and got a valuable discount. Despite a lengthy walk getting there, the staff was welcoming and there were many amenities to make sure we were well stayed. The main feature of this is the outdoor bar which is also the location of the pool. We secured our belongings here before moving to our next stop at night!
We made it out to McArthur Highway again, and from there we took a jeepney ride to get to our dinner spot. Unlike tricycles, jeepney rides here costs the same as in Manila – ₱7 per person! There was a handful of places to dine along and nearby this area, including Angeles Fried Chicken (AFC), Coffee Arena, and etc. There are so many places here to name and anyone with the luxury of time and accessibility could easily access some of the best ones, most specially Aling Lucing Sisig. For us, weary of our shifts and travel, we chose 19 Copung Copung Grill due to its location and popularity online.
The grill catered us a wide variety of dishes including some exotic ones as well us cozying us with kubos. It gave a very traditional feel that’s perfectly Filipino! We were welcomed greatly with their nice staff as well. As a health conscious person, fish and chips was my choice of dinner while my friend chose beef steak. Looking at the names of the exotic dishes, it seemed I wasn’t prepared for exotic dishes anytime soon. The food here was perfectly done and amazing too. I’ll make sure to pass along here the next time I go to Pampanga.
The first night was finally settled and once again we returned to our hotel rooms to rest for the night.
DAY 2 – The monarchs of Clark!
The second day finally marks the Clark tour! I decided to look around SM Clark, located right across Bayanihan Park, after my last visit a few years back. The mall has surprisingly changed throughout the years! Back then, the mall was the basic SM but now it has changed inside and out. Major brands branched out in the mall such as H&M, Forever 21, and even an IMAX theater. The interior became similar to its sister malls, SM Megamall and SM Makati, with a whole fancier look. The parking was also expanded for all vehicle owners and tourists. SM Clark has become the main feature for tourists at Clark.
One restaurant I have missed in Pampanga was Xtremely Xpresso. Luckily, they have opened their restaurant in SM Clark. The establishment offers a wide variety of dishes from main entrees, pasta, breakfast, and even pizzas. There was a lot to choose from in their menu! Though it sounds like a pricey pick and not for common tourists, I really wanted to dine here again after a long time. Nonetheless, I definitely enjoyed their breakfast meals. The price was quite expensive but they made up for it from the taste and the content. Caramel macchiato was a good pick too! Coffee is most likely a recommendation here for people curious of other coffee places.
After having breakfast, we’ve gone once again to Bayanihan Park but this time at the jeepney terminal at its very end. I’m so hyped to finally begin my long journey to Clark! This was the first time that I’ll travel around Clark without a personal vehicle. Back then I used to tag along with my aunt when they do some grocery shopping and when doing company businesses. Now I only have two options: the first one was to rent a driver to tour around all day with a jeep, and the second one was to get around by pitching rides. Since I’m up for something wacky, I chose to pitch for rides despite having no knowledge whatsoever. We had to ask people around on how to get from place to place. It’s such a blessing that people here are nice to talk to as well.
Our first itinerary at Clark was Nayong Pilipino. No jeepney rides are available to get there at the moment so the jeepney ride brought us down at the intersection of Claro M Recto Highway and Centennial Road. We trod through the very long Centennial Road while it was raining. Truly a wild experience!
The entrance to Nayong Pilipino was only ₱100 which isn’t bad. It was basically a park with replicas of historical structures around the Philippines. Dr. Jose Rizal’s house, Barasoain Church, and the Ifugao Village are some featured there. Cultural shows or dances can also be watched during their available times. There are plenty of souvenir shops and some canteen for all the guests. On weekdays, I bet young students travel here for field trips as how the place look like. There are very few people who go here so there were no disturbances during our visit. That made walking around very peaceful and gave clear and wide shots for photography.
We felt it was not necessary to wait for the cultural shows and there was still a lot in our itinerary so we left Nayong Pilipino once we got around it. We, once again, walked through Centennial Road but this time, since we are walking through the right lane, we passed by the K-9 Cemetery. Nothing much it to be witnessed here other than the cute tombstones of dogs. A respect for dogs who died while attending military service during the American settlement in Clark way back in the 50’s.
Moving on, we’re back again in Claro M Recto Highway and nearby our area were some duty-free stores. Parkson Duty Free and Puregold Duty Free lied along this road. We checked both out but did more or our shopping in Puregold Duty Free. It was worth it considering the discount it had compared to the groceries in Manila. Both shops offered their own uniqueness and it depends on who’s doing the shopping. Perhaps there are more groceries sold in Puregold whereas ornaments and other special merchandises are offered in Parkson. Either way, shop till you drop since the price is right!
It was a bit of a trouble as it took longer than usual to wait for the next jeepney ride. The jeepney that we have to ride on was always full and it took us a while before we get to ride one. Yet, still, we found a proper one! We were actually headed to probably the most interesting stop throughout the trip which is El Kabayo!
We were so lucky to make it here at 4 pm which was an hour left before they close. A horse ride costs ₱350 per person and this ride took us around their park for an hour. This is most likely the peak event in the whole trip and a sure recommendation for everyone else willing to go on a trip to Clark. The staff was accommodating from the beginning and they even gave my buddy the strong horse that he demanded. I was given an importunate horse which was honestly adorable in some way. It was also joyous to see the horses there in good shape.
We were given our guides once we set off with the horses but the guides will actually give you the chance to control the horse as it walks. I was honestly frightened that the horse would run off with me once I held the ropes by myself. My horse starts to pick up the pace while it trails! After all, he was an importunate horse to begin with. The guides assured though that the horses know the path so my horse might just be teasing me. (Very funny… 😂) The guides are also nice enough to do us the favor of taking photographs of us riding the horses using our phones.
There was a part of the trail that leads to some really small backwoods and my silly horse would grab leaves from the branches using its mouth. Doing it while it farts. I’m sure it’s just teasing me again but I’m not complaining. The horse was a real comedy! After that, we had our last photos again and I would say that they’re pretty damn good with the angles! Truly it was a great experience.
So after a really long trip we, of course, needed to fill up our fuel tanks! During the whole trip, we didn’t even stop for lunch! We went to another jeepney stop and asked for the ride going to Binulo Restaurant. Luckily it didn’t took long to find one and it led us straight to Binulo and right in time for dinner. We were starving to death!
Binulo Restaurant is actually a popular dining spot for tourists. They offered Kapampangan dishes the delectable way! Much like in 19 Copung Copung, they also have a selection of exotic dishes but I was still too afraid to try. Regardless, we had no regrets with our orders! It was a pleasurable meal that didn’t argue with the cost. While the Asado tickled our taste buds, the Tidtad stood out! The Tidtad is a Pampanga-styled dinuguan that’s a highly recommended dish.
It was the last on the itinerary on that day but there was actually more to do at Clark. We let this be the last of the day and we’ll go back to do more soon. We finally rode the last and final jeep ride of that day that led straight to where we once started off – just beside Bayanihan Park. Seems that the itineraries turned out great with how the rides conveniently went from place to place. We settled another night at the hotel after that long journey!
DAY 3 – Last day finale
After that long day, the hotel became our very best friend. Since it had to be the last day, the only plan was to enjoy the pool! But before that, it’s breakfast time!! It seems the dinner we had was never enough that we needed to grab breakfast already. The problem was, there were no available places to buy food nearby because it was still an early Sunday. We learned that the nearest area open is along that street called Angels Bake & Coffeeshop and honestly, that wasn’t a problem as long as we have to feet. We’ve walked probably miles already on this trip and this one meant a piece of cake. While Angels Bake & Coffeeshop seemed to be uninteresting on the outside, they really proved me wrong. A wide variety of German breakfast dishes were served here and with a good expense. I was really happy for what they offered! When they say ‘sausage’ they literally meant SAUSAGE. Unlike in some places where you expect a real sausage but gives you a cute little hotdog. It was another wonderful meal to have. I’m too pleasured for all the food I ate here specially when we dined at the hotel’s dining area by the pool.
Of course, the pool. I have to mention the pool! I didn’t book a hotel with a pool for nothing! Better to clear off your fatigue here with the pool beds. That’s how we spend the last hours of our booking as we prepared for the check out time. A nice conclusion to a wonderful trip to my most beloved Pampanga.
We passed, one last time, through “the walking street,” since it’s quiet by the day, and onto our final jeepney ride through McArthur Highway before going down at Dau. The buses here can take us back to Cubao Manila where we started our trip. I already remembered the night we arrived here in Pampanga enthusiastically. It all comes to a deep close and a longer rest once we retired back to our homes.