Lakbay Norte 7 Day 1: Exploring Malolos and San Rafael Bulacan

Uitangcoy-Santos House by Martin San Diego- NPVB
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Exploring Malolos and San Rafael Bulacan

I remember how, about eight years ago, during my early memorable attempts to travel and blogging, I was invited to the very first Lakbay Norte. The weeklong northern tour included Tuguegarao, La Union, and Alaminos, among others. Each day was jam-packed and fun-filled.

Lakbay Norte 7 Bus at Victory Liner Cubao Terminal
Lakbay Norte 7 Bus at Victory Liner Cubao Terminal

I have always wanted to join yearly, but I was always tied up with other engagements. This year, with more than enough determination, I am finally able to unclog my schedule and take part in North Philippines Visitors Bureau’s (NPVB) Lakbay Norte once again. So wear your seat belts right, and hold on tight, as I share with you our recent journey into the northern part of the archipelago.

Early morning departure

Sleeplessness was not an issue because we had to leave with the 4 AM Victory Liner bus in Cubao Terminal. We had some time to nap on the way, before our first stop for the day, which was at the North Luzon Expressway (NLEX) Office. The supervisor toured us in the Traffic Control Center, where the office monitored traffic.

NLEX Traffic Control Center photo by Martin San Diego- NPVB
NLEX Traffic Control Center photo by Martin San Diego- NPVB
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Lakbay Norte 7 Team at Jollibee NLEX by Martin San Diego- NPVB
Lakbay Norte 7 Team at Jollibee NLEX by Martin San Diego- NPVB
NLEX Lakbay Norte 7 Badge
NLEX Lakbay Norte 7 Badge
Lakbay Norte 7 Team by Martin San Diego - NPVB
Lakbay Norte 7 Team by Martin San Diego – NPVB

Our next stop was at the nearest Jollibee Store at Petron NLEX for a quick breakfast. Together with the happiest mascot on earth, I finally got the chance to meet new and not-so-old faces whom I’ll be traveling with for the next five days.

Swag pose with Jollibee
Swag pose with Jollibee
Me and Jollibee inside Lakbay Norte Bus
Me and Jollibee inside Lakbay Norte Bus
Lakbay Norte 7 team with Jollibee photo by Martin San Diego- NPVB
Lakbay Norte 7 team with Jollibee photo by Martin San Diego- NPVB

We left shortly afterwards and reached the City of Malolos in Bulacan at around 7:30 AM. To start our day right, we immediately headed to Barasoain Church and Museum.

Barasoain Church Exploring Malolos
Barasoain Church – Exploring Malolos
Stopover at Barasoain Church in Malolos
Stopover at Barasoain Church in Malolos

Barasoain Church is a historically significant building in Bulacan province. It was built in 1888 and has served as the location of the Malolos Congress, which had paved the way for the First Philippine Republic. Because of this, the province holds the celebration of Independence Day on June 12 yearly in the church grounds.

Inside Barasoain Museum
Inside Barasoain Museum – Exploring Malolos

Within the church, grounds is the Museo ng Republika ng 1899, oftentimes called Barasoain Museum by locals and tourists. The museum houses five galleries that showcases the Filipino’s fight for independence, like the Pagtindig ng Republika gallery, which tells the story of the drafting of the Malolos Constitution.

Uitangcoy-Santos House by Martin San Diego- NPVB
Uitangcoy-Santos House by Martin San Diego- NPVB

We had a short walking tour of the Parian district of Malolos afterwards. Just like in Cebu, Parians were the places that the Spanish designated for Chinese residents during the former’s colonization of the Philippines. There were old houses everywhere we went, which were highlighted by the sun directly above us.

Inside Uitangcoy-Santos House by Martin San Diego- NPVB
Inside Uitangcoy-Santos House by Martin San Diego- NPVB

The most notable house was the Uitangcoy-Santos House, an actual bahay na bato that was built in 1914. Aside from its striking exterior, its interior also contains the Museum of the Women of Malolos, which was dedicated to Alberta Uitangcoy-Santos, who had been an active advocate of women’s rights.

The house in F.T. Reyes Street was declared a national heritage house by the National Historical Commission of the Philippines.

Snacks and lunchtime

We had some light snacks after our historical walking tour of that quiet Parian district of Malolos. We sampled the famous Gorgorya, those bite-sized, seashell-shaped biscuits that have pork lard. They were crunchy and coated with sugar, but they are not too sweet.

Gorgoria Cookies
Gorgoria Cookies

After that sugary treat, we passed by Girlies Bakeshop to buy another famous local pastry—the inipit. Inipit literally translates to “pressed”, and that is exactly what this delicacy is. It is made of two slices of soft sponge cake pressed together (but not flattened!), with the custard filling serving as the glue.

Inipit
Inipit

Our adventure into the local bakeshops while trying out both crunchy and soft snacks left us craving for more, and it was high time for some lunch. We proceeded to Bistro Maloleño, where they had some tables exclusively for us!

Arroz ala Cubana ni Heneral Gregorio del Pilar
Arroz ala Cubana ni Heneral Gregorio del Pilar
Pochero ni Plaridel
Pochero ni Plaridel
Hamon Bulakenya
Hamon Bulakenya
Tinolang Manok ni Dr Jose Rizal
Tinolang Manok ni Dr Jose Rizal
Bistro Rice
Bistro Rice

This restaurant wins at both food and ambiance. Most parts of Malolos that we went to were well-preserved and exuded the beauty of history and the old times, but Bistro Maloleño was like traveling back in time. The tables, the windows, and everything was quaint, and to make our experience perfect, we were served with classic Bulacan cuisine. Yummy!

Pinaso Dessert
Pinaso Dessert

During our stay in the rustic restaurant, Mrs. Naty Ocampo-Castro demonstrated the art of making pastillas paper (aka pabalat), which are used to package pastillas de leche, another local delicacy. Ms. Rheeza Hernandez, on the other hand, also showed us the art of Puni of leaf weaving.

Mrs. Naty Ocampo-Castro and her Pabalat art
Mrs. Naty Ocampo-Castro and her Pabalat art
Puni Art
Puni Art

They were two very skillful craftswomen. Unfortunately, Ms. Rheeza told us that the art of leaf weaving is slowly dying. I hope its fate changes. We should not let this amazing art be forgotten.

Angat River adventure

After a milder, peaceful, walking tour in Malolos, we headed to San Rafael, where we had our loud, energetic, and awesome San Rafael River Adventure (official website)!

San Rafael River Adventure by Martin San Diego - NPVB
San Rafael River Adventure by Martin San Diego – NPVB

This place was beyond beautiful—it was located at a nice distance from the noisy roads, and most of all, it overlooked the Angat River. However, I could not stop to marvel at this nature’s beauty, because we were so fixated on watching our colleagues doing some kayaking, paddle boarding, and even jet-skiing. They also offer a ride at banana boating in addition to the ordinary boat, and wakeboarding as well.

Afternoon River Cruise and Snacks by Martin San Diego- NPVB
Afternoon River Cruise and Snacks by Martin San Diego- NPVB

We spent most of the afternoon partaking in those rather extreme watersports, but we also gave their afternoon cruise a try while having some local snacks.

Angat River Cruise by Martin San Diego- NPVB
Angat River Cruise by Martin San Diego- NPVB

After our adventure, we hit the road and headed to Aquino Center and Museum in Hacienda Luisita, San Miguel, Tarlac.

The museum is dedicated to the late Senator Benigno Aquino Jr. and his wife, late President Corazon Aquino. The galleries showcase photographs and other memorabilia of the couple and their contributions to Philippine history.

Aquino Museum in Tarlac by Martin San Diego - NPVB
Aquino Museum in Tarlac by Martin San Diego – NPVB

As the sun set in the horizon and it started to get dark, we knew that it was time for dinner—with a twist. We headed to Kart City to have a final dose of fun before we capped the evening with a meal. Our group was given a chance to kart, and drove around like crazy (within the speed limit, of course!). Nearby was their diner called Chaps Café, where we had our evening meal of BBQ, Pasta, Salad, among others.

Luisita Central Park Hotel
Luisita Central Park Hotel

Before leaving again for the second day of Lakbay Norte, we had some fresh air in Luisita Central Park (hotel info).

Day 1 of Lakbay Norte was made possible with NPVB, a non-stock profit organization under the Convention and Visitors Bureau (CVB), which aims to boost the tourism of northern Philippines. Many thanks to the other people who we have contacted to make our day full of activities and informative.

Contact information:

  • Bulacan Heritage Tour – Rheeza Hernandez – 0998-9934509
  • San Rafael River Adventure – Contact – 0977-803-5308
  • Kart City – Mr Pio Arugay – 0916-7256815
  • Luisita Central Park – Landline : +63 45 985 1912 / Smart : +63 939 630 9126

Also see: Lakbay Norte: 11 Things to Do and See in Ilocos Norte

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