Sunday, February 3, 2013

My Vios-venture: Bacolor, Guagua, and Abe's Farm in Magalang all inPampanga

The only setback with traveling alone is that you are bound to go back to share the experience with friends or family.

Last Sunday, I took the role of a tour guide to Pampanga bringing along 3 friends with me.  I chose destinations that has cultural significance and included one that I myself haven't been to.  I decided to take them to the half buried church of San Guillermo in Bacolor, the Sistine Chapel of the Philippines, Betis Church, and Abe's Farm in Magalang for dinner.

We left around 1PM and was at Balintawak Toll Gate 45 minutes later.   From NLEX, we took the San Fernando exit and turned right to the direction of Dolores in San Fernando.  After the flyover, we moved to the rightmost lane, and turned left at Lazatin Blvd. under the Lazatin flyover.  We drove past the Heroes Hall until we reached Capitol Blvd. and turned right.  We drove straight until we reached Bacolor Public Market and turned right.  You can see the bell tower as you approach the church.

The church in San Guillermo is a proof of the resiliency of the Filipinos.  The church remained in use since the Pinatubo eruption with the 2nd level windows as the entryways.  Right beside it is a museum that houses religious collections as well as old photographs documenting the church's history.   It has become more popular when a local telenovela entitled "My Bukas Pa" used the Church in many of their scenes.

After Bacolor, we went to the neighboring town of Guagua.  We went back to Public Market and continued south bound to Betis.  Betis Church is on the left side of the road.  Please take note, that they close the church in between masses and that they observe a strict dress code upon entry.  We were fortunate that the guard on duty allowed us to enter after explaining how far we've traveled just to see the church's interior.

From the outside, it looks like a very ordinary old church, but the treasure is hidden in its interiors.  The walls and ceiling were hand painted and is said to be the Sistine Chapel of the Philippines. But unlike the one in San Agustin in Intramuros, this was painted on wood.  The massive wood carved doors showcases the talent of the Betis carvers.

We would have stayed for the mass, but might not be allowed since we're in shorts and slippers.  Instead, we headed straight to Abe's Farm.  Abe's Farm is located in Magalang which is still another 30 miles from Guagua.  From Betis Church, we continued south bound until we reached the town of Guagua.  We then turned right, passing by San Roque Chapel and the Guagua water district.  We continued north bound until we reached Jose Abad Santos Ave. with Caltex and the Diosdado Macapagal Medical Center marking the corners.  We turned right again going back to the direction of San Fernando, in order to see the many stalls of Betis carvers along the highway.

From here, you have two options to get to Abe's farm.  Either to go back to NLEX via Angeles exit or go to Angeles via Macarthur Highway.  We took the last option.  We continued north bound until we reached Lazatin Blvd. and turned left until we reached Macarthur Highway.  We turned left again to the direction of Angeles city which is still 8 Kilometers away.  We drove to the direction of Mabalacat and turned right at Pandan Road until we see Marquee Mall and the Angeles exit.  Instead of taking the exit, we turned right taking the Magalang Road passing the town of Cutud, famous during Holy Week, wherein devotees are actually nailed on the cross.

Upon reaching the town of Magalang, we turned left at a dead end and right on the next corner where a sign of Abe's Farm is posted.  From here on, there would be signs leading you to the actual location.  There are unpaved portions on the last few hundreds of meters to the gate.  Its better that you drive carefully and slowly so as not to put stress on your shocks and wheels.

The gates were closed when we arrived.  It was a bit disappointing especially after driving for an hour and enduring the rough dusty road.  Fortunately, a car went out, and the guard said they were open.  Its best that you check their website for their operating hours just to be sure.

The place was really nice, and felt like an over-sized bahay kubo with bamboo floors, walls and ceiling.  It's also adorned with antiques and local arts and crafts.   It complemented the vast property at the foothills of Mt. Arayat.  A swimming pool is located on the lower level and Ifugao houses scattered in the property.  You can check out their website for the complete list of services and accommodations.

I thought the food was just ok, thinking that its the same menu as Abe's restaurant here in Manila, but having it with with that kind of surrounding made it special.  Take note of your food combination.  Somehow the thick chocolate drink and the Sampaloc we bought  roadside caused an upset stomach to one of my companion.  After dinner, we headed back to Manila arriving at 9PM.

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