NLEX Lakbay Norte 8: Day 1 in Pampanga
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So how do we define an exciting, fulfilling and eye-opening adventure? Is it by tasting the region’s staple dish? Meeting fellow wanderers? Trying out new activities? Or perhaps all three combined?
Whatever your reason is, I consider the recent NLEX Lakbay Norte a yearly adventure that I enjoy most – alongside with other bloggers.
This familiarization trip called Lakbay Norte is hosted by the North Philippines Visitors Bureau together with Victory Liner where they gather travel writers to experience the beauty of the North. Now on its 8th installment, the media tour aims to promote various destinations in the Northern Philippines including heritage, culinary, adventure, and leisure destinations.
Just like in the previous years, our meet-up was at the Victory Liner station in Cubao. With so much excitement, I arrived early at the bus station and immediately headed to our designated bus.
Honestly, meeting old friends and new faces is what excites me every time I join familiarization trips. I may have already visited the places listed in our itinerary but I’m more thrilled to create more experiences with writers who have the same passion for traveling.
Stopover at SCTEX Traffic Control Center
Our first stop was at SCTEX Traffic Control Center. The operations manager showed us how traffic, safety, and violations are being monitored in the expressway. We also saw some of their state-of-the-art equipment and met the equally competent people who monitor the traffic operations 24/7.
Coffee Break at PTT-SCTEx Station
The SCTEX Traffic Control center visit was followed by a quick stop at PTT-SCTEx Station. Located just a few kilometers away from the Clark northbound exit of SCTEx, this is currently billed as the biggest PTT station in the Philippines. The station has eight-pump gasoline station, a five-star public toilet called Restroom 20, a convenience store, and the PTT’s signature coffee shop, the Café Amazon.
The operations manager gave us a short tour of the entire outlet including their impressive Restroom 20 which is by far the cleanest restroom I’ve seen among all the gasoline stations in the Philippines. To add, it’s even cleaner and more spacious compared to the restrooms of high-end restaurants in the country – and I think it could be better if other gasoline stations and tourism establishments will also follow the initiatives of PTT. At Restroom 20, guests are not required to pay but a donation of PHP 20 will help the charitable institutions being supported by PTT.
We also sampled the offerings from their Cafe Amazon, which is a chain of Thai cafes that are primarily found inside PTT gas stations. It is now available outside PTT Gas stations and you can now find this Coffee chain in five countries within Southeast Asia. Apart from my favorite Hot Black Coffee, everyone agreed that this cafe have some of the best-tasting cakes outside of the city – name it – from their New York Cheesecake, Revel Bar, Little Carrot Cake, and Chocolate Paradise Cake which I think fueled us for the rest of the day.
Pamintuan Mansion in Angeles City, Pampanga
After the quick coffee break, we proceeded to Pamintuan Mansion Heritage House located a few steps away from Sto. Rosario Church in the Heritage district of Angeles City. This 125-year-old Pamintuan Mansion is one of the local museums and signature landmarks in Pampanga that showcases local heritage, history, and culture. It was built sometime in the 1880s by a successful haciendero named Don Florentino Torres Pamintuan. Apart from its well-preserved interior, the museum also highlights various artifacts from various ethnic groups in the Philippines.
To know more about the Angeles City Heritage Park, you may reach Angeles City Tourism Officer Ms. Joy Cruz at +63 916 613 6703.
Also see: Angeles City Heritage Tour
Farm Immersion at Tibby’s Farm
It was noontime when we arrived at our next stop which was at Tibby’s Farm. The heat was bearable at the moment, thanks to the cool northeast wind which made our tour more comfortable.
Promoting sustainable farming and farm-to-table dining, this farm is also a nice place to stay for a weekend staycation or maybe let’s call it “Farmcation”.
Atty. Angelo Valencia, fondly known as Kuya Pultak welcomed us at the farm and before we had our educational tour, we sampled some of their freshly cooked sumptuous dishes in which the ingredients are all proudly locally grown with sustainability in mind.
During our visit, we were given the opportunity to harvest daikon radish and fed the wild boars with the radish leaves. The owner also gave us a short lecture about Aquaponics farming and introduced us to their wild boar pet named “Spam”.
More than the tasty food, farming experience, and meeting Spam, the best part of the tour would be the tête-à-tête with the owner. I’ve met a lot of entrepreneur and business owner in some of my trips but this guy is an inspiring one! An accomplished lawyer by profession who chose sustainable farming as his advocacy.
When you get a chance to visit the farm, look for him and don’t forget to order their special ensaymada.
Entrance Fee: FREE (Except when there’s a private event, make sure to contact them first)
Address: Concubierta Street corner Dizon Street, Sunset Valley Homes, Angeles City, Pampanga
Hours: 8:00 AM – 5:00 PM (Daily)
Contact Person: Atty. Angelo Valencia / +63917 568 1303 / +63 917 888 8387 / [email protected]
Fun Under the Sun at Aqua Planet
After our hefty lunch and farm immersion, it was followed by an afternoon of exciting water adventures at Aqua Planet; a 10-hectare water theme park and currently one of the biggest and most-modern water parks in Asia today. Located at the Freeport Zone in Pampanga, it is equipped with 38 world-class water thrill facilities and exciting rides including a tornado, wave river, and flow rider to name a few. This resort also features food outlets, entertainment booths, and souvenir shops.
If you’re the adrenaline-seeking type of traveler, try out the massive Aqua Loop and get ready for an exhilarating 100-meter free-fall jump. Now that a heart-stopping one, but this ride’s not for me though. Hopefully, next time.
Apart from checking out some of the facilities, the water theme park also let us sample their famous Angus Burgers.
Weekend rates at 1180php for adults and 980php for kids (4ft. and below). Weekday rates at 950php for adults and 750php for kids (4ft and below). To learn more, like and follow Aqua Planet on Facebook and Instagram (@aquaplanetph), visit www.aquaplanet.ph, and/or contact 045-499-8277.
Also see: Aqua Planet Travel Guide
Dinner in the Dark at Zoocobia
Boarded in a Safari-inspired Jeepneys, we finally arrived at Zoocobia just in time for the sundown. After a quick tour, we sat down and watched their Night Owl Show. The show features an Animal Parade, Horses on Parade, Aeta’s Tribal Show, Neon Show, Fire Dance, and performances from LED Dancers.
But for the main part, the show that was truly entertaining and most memorable was the Dinner in the Dark. To be honest, I have no idea what it was until we were asked to group ourselves into five and line up. While completely blindfolded, we were escorted to our own seat.
I had no idea if the room is completely dark because we were all blindfolded as we listen to the introduction from the theme park manager. Minutes after, they started serving the food. Well, of course, it was hard to eat without seeing your food. It was a unique experience and I truly recommend it.
Glamping at El Kabayo Clark Stables Picnic Grounds
Our final activity was at the El Kabayo Clark Stables Picnic Grounds where we had a bonfire and an evening cocktail. At this place, they’ve got everything for you.
After a myriad of activities from horse riding lessons, we went ahead and get ourselves some cheese, nuts, cold cuts, chocolates, and wine which was definitely a great way to cap off the day. Few meters from the bonfire are tents perfectly placed in the picnic grounds. The camping area is also equipped with portalets and an open-air shower area.
Well you don’t need to worry if you’re not an outdoor person, each tent is equipped with a nice pillow, a mattress, blanket, towel, and toiletries.
After finishing the wine and wiping out the cheese in the wine table, we decided to call it a night.
For inquiries, you may contact Ms. Rina Lao at +63 917 834 4055.
The next morning, we had the Jolliest breakfast at Jollibee Friendship Highway in Clark. No better way to welcome a perfect day ahead. Agree?
Watch our Lakbay Norte 8 Day 1 Youtube Video
About Lakbay Norte
Lakbay Norte is a yearly media Familiarization Tour organized by North Philippines Bureau (NPVB) and NLEX Corporation in partnership with Victory Liner, Genesis Transport, Greater Clark Visitors Bureau (GCVB), Subic Bay HATS Visitors Board (SBHATSVB), Aurora Vistors Bureau (AVB), Department of Tourism Region 3, Jollibee Foods Corp, PTT Station, PTT Lubricants, and Amazon Cafe.