Look to the past to know a city better. This is very true, aye? =)
I was very fortunate and thankful to be part of the Angeles City Tourism’s Total Tourist Experience last July. This tour trashed and debunked my preconceived notions about the city. It made me realized it was poor judgement on my part not to have thought of visiting Angeles before. The city was one of those places I know of but never really thought of visiting, because I thought the city wasn’t interesting enough and offers little. But now I know I was wrong.
I urge you,if you are planning a great Luzon adventure, or following a food trip trail in Luzon, do not miss Angeles City. If you know nothing about this city except those things you’ve Googled, it’s all the more reason why you should come. Angeles City surprises, in good, good ways.
The Founding of Angeles City and Its People
The founding of the City of Angeles in Pampanga is an interesting story. And it goes like this…
Don Angel Pantaleon de Miranda after having lost the local election in San Fernando opted to leave town, together with his family and a few followers. Some of the wealthiest families of San Fernando left with him. What made Don Angel leave San Fernando for good and staked a new settlement? No one knows for sure, but by doing so Don Angel’s family founded which is today one of the most, if not the most, vibrant and progressive city in Central Luzon – Angeles City. When the founders settled in their new place, they called it”kuliat” because of the abundance of kuliat vines in the area.
Now you may conclude that Angeles City got its name from its founder Don Angel, partly right, but officially the city got its name from the city’s patron saint – Los Santos Angeles Custodios or Holy Guardian Angels.
What is equally interesting is that today, the founders families are still unequivocally tied to the city that they started, supporting heritage conservation projects as well as easy to call upon should there be something that needs to be done for the good of Angeles. I can’t think of another place in the Philippines which can claim that up to this day they can trace living family members of the founders who continues to care about the city they’ve raised from ground up. Angeles City’s founding and history is I think one more reason why the city is interesting.
The tourism officers beam up with pride when they shared the story of the founding of Angeles City, their dear founders’ family, the city rising on its knees after the devastation of Mt Pinatubo’s eruption in 1991, and of the heights the city has reached today. Their sharings were not scripted, not forced, the stories flow gently, often times marked with excitement and exclamation when they point out a place of interest. You can really feel how proud they are for being an Angeleno, its a delight to watch them and hear them talk about the city they love. This is what not to miss when you are exploring a new place, you’ve got to immerse with the locals, engage them, hear what they have to say, know their stories and own experiences of their place, ultimately it is to your benefit. It enriches you with a deeper understanding and appreciation of the place you’ve just explored, and frankly, it widens your horizon in many ways.
Let’s Start the Heritage Walking Tour in Angeles
I highly recommend that when you visit Angeles City in Pampanga and especially if it’s your first time, you’ve got to go on a heritage walking tour. It’s easy to visit the main historical and cultural sites as they are close to each other.
You can have a DIY or do-it-yourself heritage and cultural tour by following the recommended places on this post. Or you can also contact Ms Cha Guinto from Angeles Tourism Office (ACTO), she and her team can help you craft a complete tour itinerary and coordinate with various points of interests so you can have a total tourist experience. Please see this post for contact details of ACTO.
If you’ve chosen DIY, here are my suggestions:
First make your way to the old Culiat town center or poblacion, this is also known as the Santo Rosario Historic District.
The recommended first stop is the Santo Rosario Church or Holy Rosary Parish. This church is known as “Pisambang Maragul” among locals. This is a centuries old church steeped in history – the front yard of the church was used as an execution ground for suspected Filipino revolutionaries againts the Spanish colonials, then it also became a US Army military hospital. Today this church is a very important religious center in Angeles.
*I have yet to go inside, it was closed when we were there. Di bale, it’s another reason why I should make my way to Angeles again.
Make your way to the Holy Angel University’s Center for Kapampangan Studies. It’s beside the church, very convenient eh? 🙂
There is this huge open space leading to the doors of the Center, and it is lined by towering trees, different from each other but shares a common ground. At this point I learned something really, really cool from Kim Tinio of Museo Ning Angeles. Do you know that many towns and cities in Pampanga are named after trees and plants? Like culiat tree for the old town name of Angeles, dau tree for the town of Dau, balakat Tree inspired the name of Mabalacat City, bulaon tree for Bulaon town, betis tree for town of Betis, and more.
These trees ‘welcomes’ you to the center dedicated in preserving the cultural, historical, and heritage of Pampanga province. Before you even step on the Center, you start learning about the province. Cool!
The Center for Kapampangan Studies will introduce you to the province’s past, its rich history, artifacts, unique productsby Kapampangan craftsmen and artisans. They also have an audio visual room, which, if you time your visit right you might be lucky to watch and hear the most famous Kapampangan Song Atin Cu Pung Singsing, “sung” by prominent sons and daughters of Pampanga. It’s a picture collage of Kapampangan founders, heroes, celebrities, politicians, businessnessmen etc, manipulated digitally that the individuals appear to be singing the song complete with timely mouth openings, brow twitching, and eyes blinking. It’s really cool. =) By the way, if there is a song one can associate with Pampanga Province, it is Atin Cu Pung Singsing.
This gilded retablo is proudly made by Kapampangans, details painstakingly made by hand. The Santos or icons of the saints represents the towns of Pampanga.
Ever heard of Manansala? The famous Vicente Manansala? He was a Kapampangan and one of the most famous artists the Philippines has ever produced. He was also honored as a National Artist for Visual Arts of the country. Head to the “The Vicente Manansala Collection “ section to view some of his works and things he used.
The Founders House. This is a short walk from Holy Angel University, ask the locals along the way to point out the Founders House or the Bale Matua” which means old house. It is amazing to note that this 19th century ‘bahay na bato’ house still stands today.
The Pamintuan Mansion. This is again a short walk from the Founders House, it’s located at the corner of Miranda and Sto. Entierro Streets. A block away from Museo Ning Angeles. This mansion of the Pamintuan family is now converted into the Museum of Philippine Social History.
History tidbit – During the Filipino American War, the then president Emilio Aguinaldo moved the seat of government from Kawit in Cavite to the Pamintuan Mansion in Angeles Pampanga. This mansion served as a temporary ‘Malacanang’ at the turn of the 19th century.
When the main door opened for us, a collective ‘wow’ went through the group as the eyes trailed from the wooden staircase to the grandiose arch in the living room. The mansion impresses with its beautiful intricate details on the windows, doors, arches, ceilings, nooks and crannies. It really does!
Imagine living in this kind of house! It must have been an interesting privileged life. 🙂
More pictures, details and stories on this separate post >> The Pamintuan Mansion of Angeles City (and the bangus tidbit hehe).
Museo Ning Angeles. This important landmark in Angeles City is just across the Santo Rosario Parish, Although we had this as our first stop during our Angeles Total Tourist Experience tour, I am putting this as the end of tour. Why? The reason later. =)
The Museum’ curator is Kim Tinio, a thoroughly engaging history buff. If you can get Kim as your tour guide in exploring the Historical sites trail, you’ll be in for a treat. Kim is a treasure trove of stories about Angeles and Pampanga, both historical facts and the funny trivia.
Museo Ning Angeles used to be the City Hall but has been converted into the museum it is today. This establishment has been conferred with the honor and title of ‘Important Cultural Property of the Philippines’ by the National Museum.
What sets this museum apart from all other museums in the country is its Culinarium. The Culinarium is a special section of the museum where visitors not only has a chance to view old kitchen and cooking implements and set-up, but it is where one can ACTIVELY participate in cooking local food favorites – exotic dishes to us but definitely cherish local fare. Prepare, cook, eat dishes like Betute (frog) and Adobong Camaru (crickets).
*Make sure to contact Museo ning Angeles before your group visit to arrange a cooking demo of Pampanga’s exotic dishes.
Okay, so why I’ve put Museo ning Angeles as Penfires’ recommended last stop for your Angeles City Heritage Walking Tour itinerary? It’s because I feel the best way to end a day of meanigful historical and cultural immersion and learning is by partaking local favorites.
The Museum has a cafe at the ground floor, please, please order a cup of steaming hot tsokolate aguada. It’s not your ordinary hot chocolate, it’s a class of its own. You’ve just got to try it. Yes, I’ll repeat it, again – don’t miss Cafe Museo’s tsokolate aguada. The recipe is the same recipe that made ex-President Manuel Quezon exclaimed that it’s the best tasting tsokolate he’s ever tasted. It’s history on a cup and it taste like chocolate heaven. Taste it, drink it, savor it!
Kapampangan food experience – tsokolate aguada with putu babi
For details on opening/closing, entrance fee, schedule etc please read more here: Museo Ning Angeles and The Culinarium plus what is ‘tsokalete aguada’.
Additional site: Bale Balayan Museum of the Poor
There is this special place in Angeles for troubled kids and kids from disadvantage families. It lies far from the poblacion center so I can’t possibly suggest you add this as part of the walking heritage tour. But if you have the time, hop on your vehicle or ride a tricycle and visit the Bale Balayan Museum of the Poor. Under the tutelage of Bale Balayan’s director/curator/artist Peter De Vera, these kids learn not only lifelong good values, but they are also able to honed their musical talent by mastering indigenous musical instruments. I hope you’ll have a chance of seeing them perform when you visit the museum.
I’ll be writing more about Bale Balayan Museum of the Poor on a separate post, and you can find it on this link once it’s published.
The Angeles City Walking Tour Experience
You can’t have a total tourist experience if all you do is explore Angeles City’s gastronomic belt and entertainment center. Though I really recommend you do both too. But if it’s your first time in the city, go on a walking tour at the old town center. The Angelenos have preserved their heritage and culture well, and the places mentioned above are walking distance to each other.
Get going! Visit Angeles!