Taking on the Philippines Part 1

The Philippines is uncharted territory for me. I have no notion of the food, the people (except how Tagalog sounds like…), the attractions, how the streets may look, and also no one to clue me in on them. I’ve always been a city girl, I shun the sun, sand, sea, and sports, to look for food and shopping. When the folks at AirAsia very generously proposed a trip to the Philippines, I might have accepted it a little too excitedly 😛 The itinerary of Clark, Pampagna, Angeles City, Boracay, landed on my lap shortly after and I recognized only Boracay. Everyone knows Boracay promises awesome white beaches, but I decided not to look up the rest too in depth, to set myself up for surprise! This is probably my first trip out of high school that involves little shopping (and therefore no fashion).

In the province of Pampanga are neighbouring cities Clark and Angeles City. Clark is a former US airbase (from early 1900s to 1991), sparsely built and populated but still thick with American influences (even cowboy ones!). Old, low-lying barracks and airplane hangars have been converted into chilled-out cafes and duty-free stores, interpersed with quiet business buildings. It’s unpolished but alluring, an unusual sight for us who are used to the squeaky clean, meticulously planned towns of Singapore.

There is a lot of Filipino food to be had here, and it tastes much like a mish mash of Malay, Chinese, Spanish and American elements. The most popular in Pampanga is sisig, a sizzling dish of pork cheek and some other parts which may not whet your appetite if mentioned, but is just as delectable to me. Their devotion to this dish is such that there’s a festival every December! Another favourite of mine is is garlic fried rice, along with a sweet-spicy sausage called logganisa.

We visited two malls, Marquee and SM, which are great for getting cheap and good! manicures, massages, last minute beach buys like toiletries, light clothing etc. You can also go horse-riding and visit their quaint assemblage of miniature parts of Philippines (past and present day), called Nayong Pilipino. I’d love to visit Mount Pinatubo, best described in guide books and travel sites as “a volcano within a lake (of bluest water) within a volcano”. Mind boggling stuff.

Within Clark, AirAsia also provides shuttles between the airport and city, and a low-cost Tune Hotel just 15 minutes from the airport. I wouldn’t stay more than a day or two here though, because Clark leads you to so many other interesting places, whether by bus (to Anilao, Hundred Islands, Subic Bay) or another flight connection, like we did on another AirAsia flight to Boracay via Kalibo.

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Look out for Part 2 which chronicles our time in, wait for it… Boracay baby! In the meantime, check out the pics we posted along the way, either on Instagram, #airasiasgcrk, or just click here.

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