Pampanga, most prominently known as The Culinary Capital of the Philippines, can outright satisfy your cravings for some of the best-tasting Filipino dishes. But there’s more to discover in this province, particularly from its thriving industries, improved facilities, and tourist destinations.
Located in Central Luzon and bordered by Manila Bay to the central-south, Pampanga is one of the closest provincial neighbors of Metro Manila. At the same time, Pampanga enjoys proximity to other Central Luzon provinces, such as Nueva Ecija and Tarlac. Portions of these provinces were once part of Pampanga’s ancient territorial area until it was reorganized in the 1570s.
One of the Richest Then and Now
During the Spanish rule, Pampanga was one of the wealthiest provinces in the Philippines as it had been a major source of Manila’s fishery and agricultural products. Fast-forward to 2017, Pampanga, again, made it to the list of top 10 richest Philippine provinces, based on the financial report of the Commission on Audit. The province was also recognized as a model in governance and financial stability, with no fifth and sixth-income class municipalities.
A Melting Pot of Cultures
Pampanga is likewise known for its cultural relics and colorful festivities, representing its rich history and native traditions. Co-existing with the cheerful locals are foreign travelers exploring Pampanga’s leisure destinations and expatriates seeking retirement homes. The diversity of population and culture in Pampanga can be traced back to 1903, when American troops established a military presence in the province.
MORE ABOUT PAMPANGA
Pampanga seems slated to become the next growth center of the country. Major infrastructure developments in and around the province have significantly contributed to its industry diversification and the residents’ standard of living.
Here are the economic sectors where Pampanga is doing well:
Retrieval and production of farming and fishing products have long been the foundation of Pampanga’s economy. Major crops in the province include rice, corn, sugarcane, mango, and cassava. With a new research and development facility for upland crop production in Magalang town, Pampanga is also on its way to embracing technology-based farming.
Tilapia farms are also abundant, making the province a top producer of farmed fishes in Central Luzon. The town of Macabebe, in particular, has the largest fishponds that also produce shrimps, crabs, and bangus (milkfish).
Tourism and Airline
Pampanga also shows diversity in its tourist destinations, attracting travelers of all ages. Nature-based activities are present in the province, particularly in the trekking area going to Haduan Falls and the biking area of Mount Arayat National Park. Other top sights in Pampanga include cultural and kid-friendly theme parks and nightlife establishments that cater to international tourists.
Clark Freeport and Special Economic Zone, which covers parts of Pampanga, also contribute to the province’s booming tourism and airline industries. The Clark International Airport spans portions of Angeles City and Mabalacat City, with a capacity of 12.2 million passengers per annum. It’s envisioned to become an “aerotropolis,” a highly urbanized area with infrastructure and economy centered around the airport.
The enhancement of infrastructure in Pampanga also gave rise to the real estate sector. While horizontal residential projects still dominate the province, increasing demand for vertical communities is looming as outsourcing investments increase.
Looking into the office market, the Clark ecozone is anticipating demand from business process outsourcing (BPO) firms, corporate tenants, and upmarket retailers. It houses the Clark Global City, a 177-hectare mixed-use business and commercial center, easily accessible by land, air, and sea.
The food industry of Pampanga remains thriving, proven by the strings of restaurants in main urban centers. Your trip to this province wouldn’t be complete without tasting classic Kapampangan dishes, such as lechon, menudo, caldereta, and sisig. Meat processing companies like Pampanga’s Best and Mekeni Food also contribute to the local food industry and security.
History claims that during the Spanish colonial period, Spaniards taught Kapampangan the basics of Spanish cooking. The natives were able to produce a unique blend that won over the hearts of many Filipinos today.
FUTURE DEVELOPMENTS IN PAMPANGA
All eyes are on Pampanga as it becomes urbanized and developed with modern transport infrastructure. Investors are already taking notice of the province, which will likely continue as it leans into sustainable development.
Creating a Megalopolis
Pampanga is foreseen to become the next economic corridor of the country as plans for turning the province into a 218,100-hectare megalopolis surfaced. At the heart of the master-planned community are the cities of San Fernando, Angeles, and Mabalacat, and the fast-growing towns of Lubao, Guagua, Santa Rita, Porac, Floridablanca, and Bacolor—dubbed as the Pampanga Golden Triangle. Besides making Pampanga the investment, business, and financial hub of Central Luzon, the mega project aims to turn the province into “Asia’s gateway to the Philippines.”
Investing in Railways
Supporting the megalopolis plan is the growing railway investments of Pampanga. One of these is the Manila-Clark train project that’s expected to be fully operational by 2024. The project has two phases: Malolos to Clark and Tutuban to Malolos segments. The project will cut travel time between Manila and Clark to about an hour, and around 30 to 35 minutes between Malolos and Clark. The Manila-Clark Railway is also poised to become the first airport-bound highspeed mass transport system in the Philippines.
Another train project in the pipeline is the P50-B Subic-Clark Railway Project (SCRP). It’s set to bring economic growth while streamlining the commuting experience. Plans include that SCRP’s future passenger service will be connected to Manila-Clark Railway.
PIT STOPS IN PAMPANGA
Life in Pampanga could be beyond ordinary. Although the province has a charming suburban feel with less dense areas, it also features premier facilities for convenient living.
Top-rated healthcare facilities are mostly located in the cities of Angeles and San Fernando; a few others are in Mabalacat City and Apalit Town.
- Angeles University Foundation Medical Center
- Holy Family Medical Center
- Angeles Medical Center Inc.
- GreenCity Medical Center
- Jose B. Lingad Memorial Regional Hospital
- The Medical City Clark
- Pampanga Premier Medical Center
Pampanga attracts families, especially those with young or university-aged children, because of the quality education available. Here are some of the most notable educational institutions in the area:
- Angeles University Foundation
- Center for Asian Culinary Studies
- New Era University-San Fernando
- Pampanga State Agricultural University
- Holy Angel University
- Westfields International School
- Don Bosco Academy
Various Shopping Destinations
Scattered throughout the province, shopping centers have changed the landscape of Pampanga. There are upscale ones with name-brand stores and retail complexes for budget shopping.
- SM City Pampanga
- SM City Clark
- Ayala MarQuee Mall
- Robinsons Place Angeles
- Walter Mart San Fernando
- Nepo Mart Complex
- Apu Market
Pampanga food trip is always a part of one’s itinerary when visiting the province. Meanwhile, locals enjoy easy access to these famous restaurants when cravings hit hard.
- Aling Lucing’s Sisig
- Everybody’s Cafe
- Café Fleur
- Historic Camalig
- The Original Razon’s
- Bale Datung
- Picolo Padre Restaurant
GETTING TO AND MOVING AROUND IN PAMPANGA
How to get to Pampanga, you may ask? Whether you’re coming from Metro Manila or outside of it, you have a few transportation options to consider.
- By plane: The fastest way to get to the urban center of Pampanga is to fly to Clark International Airport. This option is most convenient if your specific destination is Angeles or Mabalacat City, and if you’re coming from the Vis-Min areas, such as Bacolod, Bohol, Cebu, Iloilo, and Davao.
- By bus: Taking a bus to the province is more economical than flying. Victory Liner in Cubao, Quezon City has buses that run to San Fernando City, suitable for Metro Manila residents visiting Pampanga. Other bus companies running operations from Manila to Pampanga include Philippine Rabbit and Five Star Bus Company. There are also point-to-point (P2P) buses plying from TriNoma to Clark Airport.
- By private car: If coming from Manila, the fastest way would be to take the North Luzon Expressway (NLEX). Take the San Fernando Exit if you’re bound to the provincial capital or the Angeles Exit if the destination is Clark Freeport Zone or nearby areas. Meanwhile, the Subic-Clark-Tarlac Expressway (SCTEX) connects the provinces of Bataan, Tarlac, Zambales to Pampanga. Past the Tarlac Exit, SCTEX becomes Tarlac-Pangasinan-La Union Expressway (TPLEX).
Ridding a jeep is a common way to get around Pampanga. Upon reaching San Fernando City, you’ll find SM City Pampanga that has its own jeepney terminal. The jeepneys often take the routes going to Angeles City and Clark Freeport Zone. Choose the latter if you want to reach some of Pampanga’s well-known tourist destinations and the former to witness the province’s modern facilities and nightlife scene. Taxis and tricycles are also available in Pampanga if you want a more private or quicker transportation option.
WHAT TO DO IN PAMPANGA
Being in Pampanga is nothing short of fun! There are plenty of good spots for you to visit—alone or with loved ones. From laid-back to dynamic outdoor activities, we’ve got it all covered:
Go on a Culinary Adventure
Discover the food secrets that make Kampapangan cuisine one of the best in the country. Or better yet, just enjoy your meal and the sights that may surround you. Besides the well-loved sisig, level up your culinary adventure by trying out fried crickets or stuffed frogs with ground pork.
Looking for something sweet? Pampanga is also the place to be. Try tibuk-tibuk—the province’s version of Maja Blanca that melts right in your mouth. The summertime favorite halo-halo is also a must-have. Look out for Kabigting’s and Razon’s as these two food places are most popular in the local halo-halo scene. Before ending the trip, grab that pack of Turrones de Casuy for your pasalubong
Reconnect with Nature
At times when you just want to get away from the city, consider doing nature-based activities in Pampanga. For your first stop: Mount Pinatubo.
Although not exclusively located in the province, the stratovolcano covers the area of Floridablanca, Pampanga. Trekking to Mount Pinatubo allows you to witness the beauty of its crater and experience a bumpy yet fulfilling 4×4 ride towards the trailhead.
A more meditative activity, on the other hand, is to go bird watching in Candaba. The town takes pride in its Candaba Wetland, which attracts migratory birds and wild ducks taking refuge from the cold weather. Considered a main biodiversity area of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources, the wetland allures nature lovers and birdwatching groups who usually visit the site from October to April.
Porac’s Puning Hot Spring is another relatively popular attraction in Pampanga. Going to the hot spring, you get to marvel at lava formations, rock boulders, and humble Aeata villages along the way. You can ride a 4×4 jeep or trek from Sitio Target in Angeles City to reach the thermal waters of Puning. Complete the relaxing experience by availing of the volcanic spa service.
Explore the Clark District
The Clark district in Pampanga spans the areas of Angeles, Mabalacat, and Porac. It also extends to the towns of Capas and Bamban in Tarlac. A significant part of the Clark district is the Clark Freeport Zone, where you can find some of the province’s most advanced and fun-filled developments.
These include theme parks for the young and young-at-hearts. There’s the 10-hectare Aqua Planet, a modern, world-class waterpark where you can “slide, soak, drop, and splash.” Aqua Planet has over 38 waterslides and amenities that visitors of all ages can enjoy. There’s also Dinosaurs Island, a family learning theme park with animatronic dinosaurs on display. Adjacent to this is the Insectlandia, offering a trail tour that welcomes you to the world of giant insects.
For a spooky kind of outdoor experience, check out the Clark Abandoned Haunted Hospital. The site was built by the United States Air Force (USAF) for treating American troops from the Vietnam war. Locals and previous guests claim that the hospital has an eerie feel even during the daytime.
Other famous sights in Clark Freeport Zone include the following:
- Nayong Pilipino Clark
- Ifugao Village
- Fontana Leisure Complex
- Midori Clark Hotel and Casino
- Hilton Clark Sun Valley Resort
- Clark Marriot Hotel
- Clark Parade Grounds
- Air Force City
- SM City Clark
Infuse more joy into your next Christmas celebration by taking it to the Christmas Capital of the Philippines: San Fernando, Pampanga. This city is famous for its Giant Lantern Festival, which occurs every mid-December. The festival’s highlight is the competition between villages, showcasing their creative, giant lanterns. From lanterns made with simple materials, the festival now features more inventive and unique lighting effects.
While in the Christmas Capital, check out this guide for other activities that make for a memorable holiday.
Have Fun at Night
The nightlife scene in Angeles, Pampanga gives you plenty of options for dining spots, pubs, and KTV bars. Many of these establishments are located along Fields Avenue, visited mainly by foreigners from the nearby Clark International Airport.
Parks, golf courses, and shopping malls are also scattered throughout Angeles, making it a major hub for entertainment. Casinos and luxury hotels are likewise prominent in the city, and so it continues to attract tourists, business travelers, and affluent locals looking for night-time recreation.
The quality of living in Pampanga continues to improve, particularly in its top cities and towns with robust economies. Here are some of the neighborhoods in the province worth checking out:
San Fernando City
Aside from being the Christmas Capital of the Philippines, San Fernando is known as the city capital of Pampanga. It’s the location of several regional government offices, concentrated along Manila North Road.
San Fernando’s economy is largely based on service, retail, and manufacturing industries. As of 2019, the city has over 9,000 registered service-based and retail businesses. Well-established manufacturers, such as Universal Robina Corporation, San Miguel Corporation, and The Coca-Cola Company, are also found in the city, helping shape its image as an industrial powerhouse.
The first SM Mall in Central Luzon, SM City Pampanga, is also in San Fernando City. It’s near Sky Ranch Pampanga, which boasts one of the tallest Ferris wheels in the country.
The next stop is the vibrant city of Angeles. It’s the ideal spot to enjoy a balance of urban and suburban living experiences, thanks to its modern entertainment facilities and top-quality residential developments.
Balibago is the most bustling barangay in the city because of its high population and proximity to the nightlife scene of Fields Avenue. Malls also surround this barangay, including MarQuee Mall, SM City Clark, One North Mall, and Robinsons Place Angeles. Balibago, along with Malabanias, are also hotspots for condo properties in Angeles City.
When the sun goes down, explore this Angeles City map to find the best places to drink, dance, and hang out.
Of course, Angeles City also has its laid-back areas for peaceful living and relaxation. In the lesser-known barangay of Pampang, there are exclusive and upscale subdivisions. Timog Residences, for example, is a prime residential development that promotes a relaxed lifestyle near nature-filled locations. There’s also the Forest Park Homes North, featuring ultra-modern, spacious, and elegant houses.
Mabalacat is located just less than 30 minutes away from Angeles City via Clark Perimeter Road or Manila North Road. Most of the Clark Freeport Zone is located in Mabalacat, making it a popular neighborhood among tourists and even searchers of a highly convenient home in Pampanga.
Mabalacat is considered a major transportation hub since it’s traversed by several road networks. Besides Manila North Road, SCTEX and NLEX cut across the city. The Clark International Airport is also in Mabalacat, as well as the Clark Global City, a mixed-use central business district built on accessibility.
Porac is among the biggest towns in Pampanga in terms of land area and is accessible via SCTEX. Portions of the Clark Ecozone and Mount Pinatubo are in the town, making it a must-visit place among tourists. Porac is also blessed with refreshing waterfalls, such as the Haduan Falls, Miyamit Falls, and Dara Waterfalls.
Porac has recently seen significant developments with the rise of Alviera Country Club, a 5.6-hectare sports and leisure club, and SandBox Pampanga, a 2-hectare adventure park for outdoor family fun. Both of these developments are part of the bigger mixed-use estate of Alviera, envisioned to boost Porac’s economic potential. Alviera will also have educational zones, residential developments, and an eco-industrial park, all nestled in nature.
Located in the southwestern portion of Pampanga, the first-class municipality of Lubao shines through with its rich history and cultural heritage. As the oldest town in the province, Lubao is home to the centuries-old Saint Augustine Church and Lubao Institute, the first and oldest private school in town.
Lubao is also the birthplace of then-presidents of the Philippines, Diosdado Macapagal and Gloria Macapagal Arroyo. Another notable landmark in the town was named after the former, the Diosdado Macapagal Museum and Library.
The location and fertile lands of Lubao also play a crucial role in the town’s agricultural sector. The area is most popular for producing rice, sugar cane, and Sampaguita. Plantations are mostly located in rural villages, wherein livestock farming supplements the livelihood of villagers.
Urban facilities, on the other hand, are located in the central business district that covers barangays Concepcion, Lourdes, Remedios, Sto. Nino, Sta. Cruz, and Prado Siongco. The main business center of the town is Sta. Cruz, filled with numerous office establishments, food stores, and restaurants.
Another first-class town in Pampanga is Mexico, strategically located near Angeles and San Fernando. The town was once a largely agricultural area, with a significant portion converted into residential developments. Established property developers, such as Camella Homes, Sta. Lucia Realty, and AboitizLand, have master-planned projects within the municipality.
Mexico, similar to Lubao, has its fair share of historical sights, which include the Old Santa Monica Church Bell Tower, San Jose Matulid Chapel, and the Abacan Bridge. Mexico is also the site of The Lakeshore Pampanga, a world-class community dubbed as the oasis in the north. It has luxury villages and a 12-hectare human-made lake surrounded by parks, boardwalks, and tree-lined streets. Prenup shoots, weddings, debuts, and other special events also take place in The Lakeshore Pampanga.
Using this map, find other notable landmarks that make for a relaxing day tour in the rising town of Mexico.
Finally, adjacent to Mexico is the municipality of Arayat. It’s well-known for hosting the Mount Arayat National Park, a family-friendly destination for swimming, hiking, camping, bird watching, and more. The mountain peak is accessible from the Arayat town after three to four hours of hiking, promising a magnificent view of Central Luzon, Pampanga River, and the Sierra Madre range.
Other attractions in Arayat boasting of scenic views are Gintung Pak Pak Eco Park, Montara Waters Park and Resort, and Sunflower Farm Parungao. With all these leisure destinations nearby, living in Arayat is perfect for nature lovers and seekers of comfort outside a buzzing city.