Kuraldal Festival and Wakeboarding in Pampanga

One of the things I like the most in my travels, particularly in the festive archipelago of my home country, the Philippines, is that each city is a world of its own. My recent trip to Sasmuan, Pampanga, is proof of this claim.

People of Sasmuan during Kuraldal Festival
People of Sasmuan during Kuraldal Festival

Sasmuan is a relatively small fourth class municipality with a rich history, jovial locals, and a celebration-the Kuraldal Festival of Santa Lucia, that binds them together. After we arrived in Pampanga and checked in and had dinner (thanks to LGU Sasmuan!) at Pradera Verde (hotel info), our journey into Sasmuan began…


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Apo Lucia devotees
Apo Lucia devotees

One thing worth mentioning about the history of Sasmuan is that it used to be named “Sexmoan”-this is based from the original name of the municipality, “Sesmoan”. The former, rather suggestive spelling of the town was given by Spanish colonizers. It was only in 1991, when the municipality filed in court to get its name changed from the eyebrow-raising Sexmoan to Sasmuan!

Locals celebrating the religious festival
Locals celebrating the religious festival

Aside from that oddball tidbit, what drew me towards the local festival, the Kuraldal Festival, is how it is celebrated by the municipality. Although it is a small place, there were perhaps thousands of people that gathered with us in the streets who all danced, sang, and praised as one huge community.

People are lining up to get closer to the image of the patron saint
People are lining up to get closer to the image of the patron saint

Kuraldal is a Spanish word that roughly translates to “to heal”. The festival, which honors St. Lucy (or Apo Lucia, as called by the locals), was celebrated with flowers and cheers, instead of the usual food and loud, pop music that we mostly have in the more urbanized parts of the Philippines. This event was so solemn in this way, and established some sort of connection with me, even though I was not a local.

St. Lucy or Apo Lucia
St. Lucy or Apo Lucia
Snacks after the festival
Snacks after the festival

We were told that the festive celebration and dancing allowed the saint to answer the people’s prayers faster. That evening, devotees danced and touched the images with their brightly clothed children and fragrant flowers, which dotted the streets like colorful paper lanterns in the night sky.

Early Morning boat ride to the bird sanctuary
Early Morning boat ride to the bird sanctuary

The following morning, we left our suites and proceeded to Lubao Bamboo Hub, where we gathered for our scheduled bird watching activity. For some reason, the time of the year when migratory birds flock towards Pampanga coincides with the Kuraldal Festival. This is one of those coincidences that makes me marvel at the beauty of nature and the forces beyond it more.

Bangkung Mapalad
btrBangkung Mapalad

It was just a little after sunrise when we started spotting some migratory birds that are endemic to the Philippines. The place where we positioned ourselves in, Bangkung Mapalad Critical Habitat & Ecotourism Area (FB Page), was indescribably beautiful.

Bangkung Mapalad Critical Habitat and Ecotourism Area
Bangkung Mapalad Critical Habitat and Ecotourism Area

The temperature of the early morning had a slight chill to it, and the sight of so many freely flying birds gave me some chills, too. I am no ornithologist, but when we were told that at least 31,000 birds of 80 different species go to that specific place in Pampanga at this time of the year, I just could not muster any other reaction but awe. It was simply, so to speak, a miracle.

Bangkung Mapalad Critical Habitat and Ecotourism Area
Bangkung Mapalad Critical Habitat and Ecotourism Area
Bangkung Mapalad Critical Habitat and Ecotourism Area
Bangkung Mapalad Critical Habitat and Ecotourism Area

After our bird watching, we headed back to Lubao Bamboo Hub for breakfast. This was perhaps the most scenic place I have ever laid eyes upon. Just imagine it by the name itself. It had the perfect location next to the river, and the bamboos all around the area contributes to the nice, tranquil, and close-to-nature atmosphere. There was so much green, berde, to look at.

After our light and healthy breakfast at the berdeng-berde bamboo hub, we had a short tour into another berde… the Pradera Verde, our very own accommodation! It is a beautiful place, and I thought it was really nice to have a tour of it since our stay since we checked in last night was very brief.

Pradera Verde Golf Course
Pradera Verde Golf Course

Pradera Verde is most known for being a Wake Park. The 315-hectare property is everyone’s one-stop recreational facility for wakeboarding and other watersports. We stayed at the suites that were located near the wakeboarding lake. Aside from the water sports activities, Pradera Verde also has a restaurant, a pool, and a two-storey view deck that overlooks the lake and the vastness of the very green, berdeng-berde property!

Macapagal Museum
Macapagal Museum
Inside Macapagal Museum
Inside Macapagal Museum
Macapagal Family Portrait
Macapagal Family Portrait

After the tour, we headed to Macapagal Museum and Library. The historical-interactive museum showcases snapshots and memorabilia of President Diosdado Macapagal, a former Philippine president who served from 1961-1965. One of the most notable displays in the museum was the replica of the nipa hut where the president was believed to be born in.

Betis Church
Betis Church

We also visited Betis Church, the common name for the St. James the Apostle Parish Church. It was established in 1607, but nobody would have guessed that because of its magnificently decorated and well-kept interior. The mostly blue and brown colors from the walls and ceilings are perhaps what catches everyone’s attention upon entry to the church, even for locals who go here regularly for masses.

Everybodys Cafe Sisig
Everybodys Cafe Sisig

Before ending our daytime tour and finally saying goodbye to Pampanga, we had our early lunch at Everybody’s Café, which had an interesting history as well.

Pako Salad
Pako Salad

The café was believed to be in operation since the end of World War II, and was known for their Pancit Luglug (Pampanga-style palabok) and Mami, which was said to attract Japanese and American soldiers alike! Their pancit luglug and mami continue to be the hottest selling dishes in the café, and their other dishes are definitely for everybody, as stated by the café’s name.

As we left Pampanga, I felt a deep sense of happiness witnessing such a beautiful place that abounds in eccentric stories and histories, but nevertheless attracts and keeps people from all walks of life unified. It’s the kind of beauty that is for everybody and worth cherishing.

How to go to Lubao, Pampanga from Manila

Bus lines like Genesis and Victory Liner in Cubao offer rides going to Olongapo or Balanga. Buses headed to these places will stop over at Lubao. If you are going to Pradera Verde, the journey would be much easier for you since it is located just along the road.

How to go to Sasmuan, Pampanga from Manila

Getting to Sasmuan requires riding the same Olongapo or Balanga-bound buses. Drop off at the Lubao stopover and commute either via jeepney or tricycle from there. Sasmuan is located just next to Lubao.

Also see: Smart and Ericsson Launch First Internet of Things Project in Pampanga, Philippines

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