Food Philippines Travel

A day in Pampanga: Hot Air Balloons, Bacolor Church and food trips

 

There is something about hot air balloons that fascinate me. It’s the idea of traveling high above, standing on a giant basket, with only the hot air propelling the balloon across the sky, giving you a bird’s eye view. I’m scared of heights, mind you, but flying in a hot air balloon is definitely on my list. So on a weekend of everything that flies, we went on a roadtrip to Pampanga.

20th Philippine International Hot Air Balloon Fiesta

We hardly slept the night before just to be at the venue early in anticipation for the queue. I went with fellow bloggers, Potpot of Travel Trilogy, Marge of Coffeehan and Cai of Travelosyo. It was Valentine’s Day and a weekend, so for sure it will be a hit among couples, families and friends alike.

When we got there, the queue was already at the parking lot, a kilometer or two from the entrance. The lines were disorganized and the cold breeze wasn’t helping. We were doubting if we were ever going to make it inside before sunrise. But luck was on our side and we were able to secure a spot right by the fence before the field.

They were already inflating the balloons up and within a few minutes, the program started. The faint lines of Arayat’s peak was visible in the horizon. As the national anthem was playing, skydivers slowly came down from the sky bringing with them the Philippine Flag. After another exhibition, the participants of the 20th Philippine International Hot Air Balloon Fiesta rose from the ground one by one. As the hot air filled them up, it was slowly unraveled what the balloons really looked like. Like little kids, we were amazed at the balloons that didn’t look like traditional hot air balloons. There was a little devil, a clown, a castle, a green funny looking creature, a baby dinosaur coming out of its egg, crocodile, straw man, a boy and a girl. One by one they floated high up in the air and floated where the wind took them. We watched them for a while until they have become little dots on the horizon.

VIEW THE HOT AIR BALLOON PHOTOS BY CLICKING ON THE LEFT AND RIGHT SIDE OF THE PICTURE ABOVE. 🙂

Lunch at Mila’s Tokwa’t Baboy

Starving, we walked to the nearby mall to see where we can eat. When it was clear that every restaurant was full, we decided to go to try something popular in the province. And that’s how we ended up at Mila’s Tokwa’t Baboy.

It started as a sari-sari store that turned into an eatery in 1986. Their signature dish is of course Tokwa’t Baboy, the recipe of which came from a relative of Milagros Gomez, whom the restaurant was named after.

Based on our quick internet search, Mila’s famous dishes are Sizzling Sisig (Php 200), Chicharong Bulaklak (Php 200) and Paco Salad (Php 150). We ordered all that plus a serving of rice for each person. I’ve read that their version of sisig is made by first boiling the pork meat then deep-fried until roasted. Their version is surely different from others I have tasted. The meat is crunchy and dry, which I liked better than the ones now served in the metro. I liked the Paco Salad which was made of ferns, tomatoes, onions, salted egg, and vinaigrette. It was fresh and worth it for its price.

milas pampanga sisig paco salad chicharong bulaklak

The food was good but the service was disappointing. They were clearly understaffed that day as there were too many tables that took a long time before it was cleaned up, ours included. We practically had to beg a few times just for a staff to take our order. Based from the influx of people coming in, it is quite famous. They even have a wall showing the famous personalities who have dined in Mila’s. Aside from the service needing improvement, I also was surprised to see the cleanliness and condition of the dining area. Layers of dust have accumulated in the fake plants they have in the corner as well as the old signage and other areas around the dining area.

The food was good but the service was disappointing. They were clearly understaffed that day as there were too many tables that took a long time before it was cleaned up, ours included. We practically had to beg a few times just for a staff to take our order. Based on the influx of people coming in, it is quite famous. They even have a wall showing the famous personalities who have dined in Mila’s. Aside from the service needing improvement, I also was surprised to see the cleanliness and condition of the dining area. Layers of dust have accumulated in the fake plants they have in the corner as well as the old signage and other areas around the dining area.

Mila’s Tokwa’t Baboy

San Andres st., San Angelo Subd., Brgy. Sto. Domingo, Angeles City Pampanga

Opening Hours: 07:00 AM to 10:00 PM

Siesta at Bacolor Church

After lunch, we stopped by an old church along the way. Bacolor Church or San Guillermo Parish Church was named after the town’s Patron Saint. It was originally constructed by the Augustinian Friars in 1576 but was later destroyed due to an earthquake on 1645. On September 1995, lahar flow from the slopes of Mt. Pinatubo which erupted in 1991 buried the church at half its height. Inside, the ceiling beams are now made of wood and around the church, one can see evidences of the lahar overflow. There is also a museum inside the church that documents its history.

bacolor church pampanga

The Original Razon’s Halo-Halo

After a brief nap in the parking lot, we were now ready for our merienda. So we head on to Razon’s for their famous halo-halo. We also tried their puto.

Halo-halo is a shaved ice dessert popular in the Philippines. It is especially popular during the summer months. The origins of this dessert is quite unclear, with some saying that it’s patterned after kakigori, the Japanese shaved ice dessert. It is usually layered with a hodgepodge of ingredients, consisting of a variety of beans, jello, sweetened plantain and jackfruit, strips of young coconut, sugar palm fruit, and purple yam jam. Other variations could have less or more ingredients added in. It is then topped with shaved or crushed ice and evaporated milk. On top is leche flan, pinipig (rice crispies) and/or a scoop of ice cream. Throughout Asia, one could find a variation of this dessert.

luz original razons halohalo

What makes Razon’s halo-halo different from others is that it only contains a few ingredients. Sweetened bananas, macapuno, smooth shaved ice, creamy milk and leche flan. Such is the anatomy of a Razon’s Halo-halo. As they say, its beauty lies in its simplicity.

Luz The Original Razon’s Halo-Halo

Guagua, Pampanga


Have you been to Pampanga? How was your experience?

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15 Comments

  • Reply
    Kat
    June 23, 2016 at 12:32 pm

    I’ve read about this recent hot air balloon festival before. I wish I could’ve attended! The cost of riding one is steep but I understand that some were given free passes. 🙂

  • Reply
    Dominic Barrios
    May 4, 2016 at 2:25 pm

    I had the opportunity to try out the hot air balloon before around 2009 I think and that was with my fellow photographers in Imagine Nation. We had to go early around 3am to line up and wait for the event. And after that, we went trekking to Pinatubo. We rode a buggy going through those lahar ashes too, which I would say, one of my eekiest experiences back then. When it was time to go home, our faces, cameras and hair were all covered with ash. I remember, wanting to really just go home and take a bath and hibernate after that tiring trip.

    But yeah, one of the most memorable experiences too was watching those hot air balloons. That was also the time when my co photographer proposed to her girlfriend, now wife.

  • Reply
    Sonnie
    May 4, 2016 at 8:54 am

    I have not been to hot air balloon fest yet bec. I hate falling in line, to me it’s man hour lost (like being stuck in traffic) I should bring my family there at least once. And yes, I love Razon’s Halo-halo, it’s widely available in different malls.

  • Reply
    Marge Gavan
    May 2, 2016 at 8:54 pm

    Wala tayong tulog nyan ah pero kung makagala tayo sa Pampanga wagas hahaha… Seriously, I had fun and I hope we would have more road trips like this. The hot air balloons looked cute! Lalo na si devil devil hahahaha…

  • Reply
    Berlin
    May 2, 2016 at 3:25 pm

    Always wanted to witness the hot air balloon festival with my boys. Surely they will enjoy all the colors and of course, eveything that flies. Pampanga as well is a favorite place because of the churches and food.

  • Reply
    Nina Sogue
    May 2, 2016 at 2:36 pm

    The last time I was in Pampanga was more than 2 years ago! I super love their food and churches. My hubby is from Pampanga so he showed me around. I wish we can visit it soon with our son 🙂

  • Reply
    Klaudia
    May 2, 2016 at 7:40 am

    I am missing the hot balloons 🙁 but never mind , the beautiful Bacolor church is at least as fascinating ! I am a bit amused , do you use the term SIESTA in the Philipines ? I live in Spain , that’s why I am asking . We take our Siestas every early afternoon because it’s too hot at this time of the day for being active ( they know how to justify & explain 😉 ) Really enjoyed your post , fancy ice cream now !

  • Reply
    Joanna
    May 2, 2016 at 12:58 am

    The balloons are so funny! I bet it was an amazing experience! You article actually reminds me of last year, when I went to see the balloon fiesta in Bristol, UK. The day before I went there were stunning balloons, in different shapes and colors but when I went it rained and it was very windy. That is why the cool balloons were cancelled and only some of the normal ones went through. It was still nice, but not like on a sunny day. Maybe this year 🙂

  • Reply
    Arrianne Guzman
    May 1, 2016 at 8:41 pm

    I always wanted to go to Hot Air Balloon festival! 🙁 🙁 🙁 Haaayz. Many recommend a food trip in Pampanga! This post is one evidence why Pampanga is a foodie destination, too. I love Razon’s halo-halo!

  • Reply
    alison
    May 1, 2016 at 5:28 pm

    I love Halo-Halo or at least I would if I were there. It looks incredble and something that I know I would try if I was closer. These adventures that you went on were amazing even if you got shortchanged on service when you ate. The church was beautiful!

    • Reply
      Darlene
      May 1, 2016 at 8:37 pm

      Thanks Alison! And yes, I highly recommend that you try halo-halo. Even Anthony Bourdain is a fan 🙂

  • Reply
    R U S S
    May 1, 2016 at 1:13 pm

    I frequent Pampanga because one of the projects I’m handling is located there. I would love to try the food at Mila’s Tokwa’t Baboy. Pampanga is known as a province with great food. You should try the Aling Lucing’s Sisig next time. It’s popular in Pampanga and is said to have one of the best sisigs in PH.

    • Reply
      Darlene
      May 1, 2016 at 8:36 pm

      Yeahhh I’ve always heard of Aling Lucing’s. I really should try that soon! 🙂

  • Reply
    ROBERT LEE
    April 30, 2016 at 9:04 pm

    You don’t have photos of the balloons, but I could just imagine how they look. There is a reason why companies showcasing its beautiful displays feature balloons among others – they are colorful. Now, one thing I noticed with the photos you posted were the food. Service may be bad, but as long as the food is good, I suppose it should be acceptable. Although I personally would never return because there are simply too many other places where good food is served.

    • Reply
      Darlene
      May 1, 2016 at 8:35 pm

      Hi Sir Robert, the photo above is a gallery hehe. You can click on the right side of the photo to see the others. As one who works in the food industry, I do understand their dilemma. But I also know, that as much as food quality, service plays a big part in the whole dining experience. 🙂

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