Tarlac is one of those places that most people overlook even if most buses pass by it en route to and from big cities like Manila. This is why I think that our second day in NLEX Lakbay Norte 2018, a 5-day road trip to the northern tourist destinations in the Philippines, was a really great way of revealing to us this hidden beauty in the north.
Because we really had a long itinerary for the day, we started the morning by checking out from Luisita Central Park Hotel (hotel info). We traveled a bit north and arrived at our first destination for the day: Anao.
Anao is this really old-fashioned municipality that is known for growing Ylang Ylang, the extract of which is used in fragrances, most notably that of Chanel No. 5. The flower is also used in creating other products with scents, like lotions and soaps.
According to Anao Tourism Officer Joey Astrero, who was kind enough to guide us while they demonstrated the oil extraction of Ylang Ylang, the city has been in the perfume industry for more than 20 years.
After the short demonstration of how the extract is taken from the flower, we visited a small coffee shop called Kape Agape. It is a community-based café run by a group of friends who share the passion for coffee and serving.
We had a sort-of breakfast at the café. We had some French toast, Hana Penne and Beefy Penne, some tacos, a plate of Pancit Anao, and of course, coffee. As I took a bite in each of what they served, I thought it was amazing how a strong friendship can produce such wonderful things.
Churches in Tarlac
We drove away from quaint Anao and back to Tarlac City. On our way back to the capital city, we passed by the town of Gerona to visit Sta. Faustina Kowalska of Poland Church, or Sta. Faustina of the Divine Mercy Parish.
It is the first parish in Asia that was built to honor Sta. Faustina, who was known for being an Apostle of Divine Mercy. The parish was located just along the road, and its exterior was hard to miss.
We also visited St. Josemaria Escriva Parish nearby. This is also another “first”. This is the first church built in the Philippines that is dedicated to the saint, frequently called the Saint of the Ordinary. It was easy to marvel at the church, which was established in early 2003 because it had a short “drive-through” Blessed Sacrament at the back.
The next church we went to is the La Sagrada Familia Parish… but this is the one in Sulipa, Gerona, not the church by the renowned architect Antoni Gaudi in Barcelona! La Sagrada Familia Parish is another relatively new church, which was canonically inaugurated in 2017. It is known for its marble altar, which was kissed by Pope Francis himself during his visit to the country in 2015.
Lunch… and more food
We had our lunch at Tatuns Kambingan, a simple restaurant that served home-cooked dishes. We had their classics: kalderetang kambing, pinapaitan na kambing, and the spicy goat adobo. The last dish especially stood out. Adobo is known across Philippine provinces for its sweet-and-sour taste, but them adding the spicy factor makes it a more exciting dish.
We also had asadong dila ng baka, and a bowl of bulanglang, or pork sinigang sa bayabas. We also had some rather unique dishes, like the buro with mustasa, talong, and okra. For people from the more urbanized parts of the metro like me, sampling provincial delights was exciting. Buro is made of fermented rice, and it was sour and salty.
Adding to our already full tummies were dishes of fried hito, and ox tail kare-kare. We did not stop to have some dessert because we had a special part of the itinerary for some sweet treats… and more food.
Our first stop after lunchtime was Museo ng Probinsya ng Tarlac. I was impressed with how the local government supported their local artists by showcasing their works in the museum. But aside from getting our eyes full with art and aesthetic, we were served yet another batch of food in a cooking demo in the museum!
The locals showed us how Pickled Mangoes, Mango Vinegar, and Eggche Flan were made. What wowed me more was how they transformed water lilies into woven products, another showcase of talents.
Shortly after, we proceeded to Tarlac Provincial Capitol to meet with Governor Susan Yap. They also gave us a very short tour of the capitol.
Our next stop, according to our itinerary, was Betty’s Native Cakes. We were all looking forward for a nice, light afternoon snack to compensate for our lack of desserts earlier on, but boy oh boy were we surprised when they started serving large helpings of native cakes, pancit, and other classic kakanin like sapin-sapin, tibok-tibok, and duman.
The foodie in me was further awakened when we proceeded to the next place in our list: Bonnette’s BBQ Grill. It is the hottest barbecue place in town, not just because they are almost always grilling, but also because their food attracts a hungry crowd from kilometers away!
We had some of their Pork BBQ, which actually went well with their Pan de Bonete and homemade vinegar. Pan de Bonete looks and tastes almost the same as the average pandesal, and the thought of dipping it in vinegar sounds like a bad idea. But it was surprisingly really good, and I ate a lot even though I just had some snacks at Betty’s.
Of course, because I noticed that it was almost time for dinner, I left some space for it. We had this at Rustica Restaurant, where we met with the owner and the tourism officers of Department of Tourism (DOT) Region III.
Our last stop for the day was EDL Farm, which was also our official accommodation. Before ending our day, NPVB, DOT and Tarlac Convention & Visitors Bureau (CVB) hosted a fellowship night program for us Lakbay Norte Participants.
I would like to thank Ms. Karen Nina Lacsamana Carrera, the president of Tarlac CVB, for showing us the beauty of Tarlac. I would also like to thank the following people for making our Day 2 of Lakbay Norte fun and memorable:
Mr. Joey Asterero – Tourism Officer
Doc Ron – 0916-422-5789
Betty’s Native Cakes
Mr. Ramon Dulay – Phone: (045) 982 0465
EDL Farm Resort
Address: Capas Tarlac
Phone: 0917 709 6908