Known as the fertile central plains, the rice basket of the Philippines, Central Luzon produces most of the country’s dining staple: rice. And because of this abundance of rice and vegetables, the cuisine is simply superb—from the Kapangpangan biringhe and sisig to Bulacan sweets!
Central Luzon is also one of the earliest areas converted into Christianity by the Spanish 50 years after conquistador Hernando Magallanes first stepped on Philippine soil. Not without a fight though. Pampanga, whose original lair extended almost the entire Region 3, was once part of the Kingdom of Tondo, dating back to a bygone era when Rajas ruled. These provinces further gave birth to noble heroes who fought for freedom against oppressors—all three major world super powers in the span of 500 years. You’ll find medieval churches here that stand not only as architectural masterpieces, but witnesses to a dramatic history. There is the Baler Church, a 17th century building that served as the last Spanish bastion in the Philippines. And then there is the Barasoain Church in Bulacan. An earthquake baroque structure honed from adobe and lime, it saw the signing of the Fist Philippine Republic and the first democratic constitution in Asia.
Culture here is number one and there are incredible fiestas that reflect each town’s distinct culture, from the Giant Lantern Parade in San Fernando, Pampanga, to the Fertility Rites in Obando, Bulacan. For stunning nature, the province of Aurora has a stunning 328-kilometer coastline where beach and surf rule. In San Jose, Tarlac, right before the Monastario de Tarlac, experience whitewater kayaking in Bulsa river! Mt. Pinatubo, which straddles Pampanga, Zambales, and Tarlac is quite a sight, especially when you get to the neon-blue caldera lake via Sta. Juliana, Capas, Tarlac.
Whatever you’re looking for, whether it’s a one-day food trip or several days of adventure, head for Central Luzon. It’s closer than you think.