If you’re up for an unconventional family holiday, the former U.S. air base Clark (now a Freeport Zone) and neighbouring Angeles City offer a unique stay north of Metro Manila, Philippines. Flavourful food and a variety of sights and experiences make both cities a great family bonding location.
Words & Photography Abby Yao
Clark and Angeles City may not appear child-friendly at first glance, but together, they have an unexpected pull for Pampanga province. Clark Freeport Zone boasts quiet tree-lined avenues, while the adjacent Angeles City has a big town feel, with noisy jeepneys plying its narrow streets. Switching between the two brings a variety of attractions that will keep the family thoroughly occupied. With Pampanga’s reputation as a foodie haven, you can satisfy both your taste buds and thirst for new family activities in one go.
1PM Brave the elements and (wet)suit up for Wakeboarding 101 at Deca Wake Cable Park Clark. Standing up on a board challenges even those with good balancing skills, but the rush of zipping through a large body of water is just too fun to pass up! If you think holding on to a rope isn’t your thing, just watching amateur and experienced riders – both kids and adults – promises an amusing afternoon. Well, someone has to take photos, right?
Deca Wake Cable Park Clark Open daily, 9:30am-5:30pm. Wakeboarding/kneeboarding fees including basic gear: Weekdays– PHP 400 for 2 hrs, PHP 700 for 4 hrs, PHP 1000 for 8 hrs. Weekends & holidays– PHP 500 for 2 hrs, PHP 800 for 4 hrs, PHP 1200 for 8 hrs.
4PM Once your driver navigates the one-way streets of the old Sto. Rosario district of Angeles City, it’s impossible to miss the imposing façade of Holy Rosary Parish and the whitewashed Museo Ning Angeles right across it. Entering both is like stepping into a time warp.
The cathedral, completed in 1896, is an Angeles landmark. Its backyard is said to have been an execution site for enemies of Spain and a military hospital for the U.S. army at the end of the 19th century. On Holy Week, well-attended processions pass through its gates, but you can best appreciate its beauty on a quiet afternoon when there are no services. Slipping in through a back door, you can imagine devotees filling the pews as light streams in through the windows, flooding the sanctuary with a solemn grace.
Once a town hall in the 1920s, Museo Ning Angeles now showcases the history of Angeles City from the founding of Culiat town in 1796 to the eruption of Mount Pinatubo in 1991 through photos and dioramas. The other half of the museum is a Culinarium devoted to Kapampangan (Pampanga provincial) culinary traditions, ensuring that the cuisine and culinary heritage that Pampanga is so proud of will not be forgotten. You can find a sizeable collection of rare antique kitchen implements and settings—interesting for aspiring Junior MasterChefs!
Holy Rosary Parish Open Mon-Sat 5:30am-6:00pm, Sun 5:00am-8:30pm.
Museo Ning Angeles Open daily, 9:00am-5:00pm.
6PM There’s something unusual for you at Everybody’s Café, a byword in Pampanga’s dining scene. The cafeteria-style Angeles City branch serves favourites like morcon (stuffed meat roll) and tapang kalabaw (water buffalo jerky). If you’re adventurous, don’t miss the betute (pork-stuffed frog) and adobong camaru (wood crickets), some of the more exotic Kapampangan fare. When in doubt, ask for a half order.
Not so adventurous? Fear not, o hungry one. Historic Camalig Restaurant, the home of Armando’s Pizza, serves a delicious compromise: pizza on a bilao – a circular bamboo tray. The delightful setting—a colonial-era rice granary—is a living museum of sorts, with a collection of old items scattered around its Angeles City premises.
7PM Stock up on supplies and scout for good buys at Marquee Mall just within city limits. Plan to leave early to recharge for a full day ahead. The mall’s colourful fountains may hold your attention for a moment, but they are merely a teaser for the following day’s liquid happiness.
10AM After a hearty Pinoy breakfast of tapsilog (beef jerky, garlic rice and fried egg), play house throughout the Philippines at Nayong Pilipino sa Clark, where recreated houses from all over the islands let you tour the archipelago in just one hour. Stay for the cultural presentation at 11am and learn a local dance move. Why not pick up an inexpensive musical instrument from an Aeta (indigenous people of Central Luzon) seller found around the centre? The bamboo bird whistle that sounds like a true birdcall has our thumbs-up.
Nayong Pilipino sa Clark Open Mon-Fri, 8:00am-6:00pm. Admission: PHP 100 – Adult, PHP 50 – Child.
If the kids prefer to try horseback riding, El Kabayo Cowboy Town is the closest that Clark gets to the Wild West. Go trail riding, sit in a horse-drawn carriage or have your photo taken in cowboy costume. Finally, a chance to use those riding boots!
El Kabayo Cowboy Town Open Tue-Sun, 10:00am-5:00pm.
12PM Described as a hybrid of Cantonese, Spanish and Malay cuisine using local ingredients, Kapampangan food promises new discoveries for your palate. A scrumptious lunch at Binulo Restaurant just outside the Freeport Zone is sure to include perennial picks ensaladang pako (fern salad), binukadkad na hito (butterflied catfish) and kare-kare (meat and vegetables stewed in peanut sauce).
2PM Fight the urge to take a siesta and splash into the pools and slides of Clark’s Fontana Water Park for fun wet afternoon to counter the warm weather! The waterlogged would be best suited to a resort tour on a horse-drawn carriage and a round of golf. What a great way to spend an entire afternoon!
Fontana Water Park Open Tue-Thu, 10:00am-5:30pm, Fri-Sun 8:00am-6:00pm. Admission: Tue-Thu – PHP 375, Fri-Sun – PHP 475.
5PM With the kids asleep in the car, pass by Bayanihan Park for a brief photo stop of the Angeles landmark Salakot Arch. Built in 1978 to assert Philippine sovereignty over the U.S. bases, the traditional hat-shaped pavilion is a patriotic symbol that doubles as a respite from the heat.
6PM It’s time to scour SM City Clark, the largest mall in Angeles City, for souvenirs. Bring some sweet goodies from Susie’s Cuisine home as food gifts. Once everyone back home has been accounted for, dash to Cabalen restaurant for a tantalizing Kapampangan buffet or Aling Lucing Sisig at the food court for the original sisig (chopped pork jowl and ears). For picky tots, popular fast food chain Jollibee is a guaranteed hit. If the little ones still have energy left to burn, head over to the IMAX cinema for a late movie night.
Peek into Clark’s duty free outlets for some surplus shopping or head to Subic Bay for beaches and more theme parks. Also consider a Mt Pinatubo trek (suitable for older children).
When to go: The dry and relatively cool months of December to February are best for travel. Book early for the Giant Lantern Festival (December) and Philippine International Hot Air Balloon Fiesta (February). March to mid-May are dry and sunny but it may get too hot during mid-day.
Transport: The most flexible transport option is to hire a car and driver for the day. A cabbie who can bring you around for a set fee would be just as good!
Do you have other family activities in Clark and Angeles City to recommend? Share them with us in the comment section below.
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