Bacolor and Betis Church
The Bacolor and Betis churches in Pampanga are two of the most well known and visited churches in the province. They are known for different reasons.
San Guillermo Parish Church of Bacolor is known as the church that was half-buried in lahar after Mt. Pinatubo’s eruption. The church is one of the oldest churches in the Philippines and features baroque architecture. After the eruption, the people of Bacolor carefully excavated the altar and retablo (that ornate thingie behind the altar), restored the church back to its former glory, even if it’s 6 meters shorter.
Betis Church in Guagua, Pampanga is unimpressive from the outside. If you grew up surrounded by churches, you probably won’t be impressed upon laying eyes on its exterior. However, the true beauty of the Betis Church lays within. As soon as I stepped inside the church, I realize why they call this the Sistine Chapel of the Philippines.
Finely detailed paintings adorn every inch of the ceiling. We walked slowly down the aisle, eyes wide in wonder as scenes from the Bible greet us from each gilded frame.
Continuing with the heritage theme of the day’s itinerary, we had lunch at Atching Lilliane Borromeo’s house. A food historian, Atching Lilliane is a part of history: she hails from a family who has been making San Nicholas cookies for generations. She even has 400-year old molds to prove it.
Lunch was a buffet of traditional Campampangan dishes, which of course, includes batute (stuffed frog)
San Miguel, Bulacan
Before heading back to Manila, we had to make one last province hop: Bulacan. Our first destination in Bulacan was San Miguel, a municipality without any shortage of heritage buildings. We went inside the St. Michael the Archangel Parish Church and crossed over to the town hall, a heritage treasure itself to meet with the town’s tourism officials.
We piled back into the bus for a rolling tour through San Miguel’s equivalent to Vigan’s Calle Crisologo. Heritage buffs went crazy with their cameras as we passed houses showcasing the fine craftsmanship of the locals.
Biak na Bato
There was one last taste of adventure before we end the first leg of Lakbay Norte 2. Biak-na-bato National Park is both an ecological and historical site. The hideout of the revolutionary forces during the Spanish period is now a place where people can get their own adventure (though probably not as exciting as Gen. Emilio Aguinaldo’s adventures in the area). Visitors can hike and explore caves that are now inhabited by bats, not Katipuneros.