48 HOURS IN PANGASINAN: Heritage or adventure
Aside from its good-tasting “bangus” (milkfish), Pangasinan has always been known for its Hundred Islands National Park in Alaminos City and the Minor Basilica of the Our Lady of the Rosary of Manaoag in Manaoag town.
But as a province of “more than a hundred wonders,” it has much more to offer for tourists to see and experience, according to Ma. Luisa Elduayan, provincial tourism officer.
With shorter travel time now from Metro Manila because of the Subic-Clark-Tarlac Expressway (SCTEx) and the Tarlac-Pangasinan-La Union Expressway (TPLEx), tourists would have more time to visit other places of interest in Pangasinan.
But they should first decide whether their visit is a cultural-heritage tour or an ecotourism adventure trip, or a combination.
A heritage tour begins at Minor Basilica of the Our Lady of the Rosary of Manaoag. It should be a breeze to catch any of the morning Masses with only a two-and-a-half-hour drive from Balintawak in Quezon City to Manaoag.
On weekdays, Masses are held every hour from 5 a.m. to 11 a.m., and at 5 p.m. On Saturdays, one Mass is added at noon and another at 4:30 p.m. On Sundays, two more Masses are offered at 3 p.m. and at 5 p.m.
After Mass, tourists can visit the basilica museum, drop by its candle gallery and offer a prayer, take a short tour of its rosary garden and buy some religious items from its store.
The next stop is Saints Peter and Paul Church in Calasiao town. Rebuilt in 1753, it is one of the most preserved baroque churches in Pangasinan, declared a National Cultural Treasure by the National Museum of the Philippines and the National Commission for Culture and the Arts in 2001.
At Señor Divino Tesoro Shrine, a statue of Jesus Christ nailed on the cross is displayed on an altar. Devotees claim the image is miraculous.
About a hundred meters away, drop by the Calasiao puto stalls, where they can buy bite-size rice cakes that come in assorted colors and flavors.
To cap the church tour, an option is to visit St. John Metropolitan Cathedral in nearby Dagupan City, the episcopal seat of the Archdiocese of Lingayen-Dagupan, where one may obtain papal blessings and plenary indulgence. The cathedral has been given a bond of spiritual affinity with Basilica of St. Paul Outside the Walls in Rome.
For a taste of the famous Bonuan bangus cooked in different ways, Michelle Lioanag, president of the Pangasinan visitors’ bureau, suggests lunch in any of Dagupan’s reputable restaurants, such as Matutina’s, Patio Elmina and Kuya Max along De Venecia Highway and Ciudad Elmina in Barangay Bacayao Norte and Dagupeña in nearby Calasiao. Ciudad Elmina also offers fishing and boating activities, and in tour packages, bangus cooking demonstration.
From Dagupan, the cultural tour begins with the 30-minute drive to Lingayen town, seat of the provincial government. Visitors can go on a guided tour to the capitol, Urduja House (official residence of the governor) and to a bagoong (salted fish) factory in a nearby village. The capitol, one of the oldest in the country, was restored in 2007 and has since become one of the most visited places.
Part of a tour package is a mini-cultural show at the Sison auditorium, Pangasinan’s cultural center.
“The capitol tour can take three to four hours, including photo-ops. Tourists can end it with a refreshing sunset walk by the baywalk before checking in at a hotel,” Lioanag says. Dinner may be at Papa Dong’s Restaurant, with its gigantic projector screen in the al fresco area while eating. Be sure to also order buttered oysters.
An overnight stay in Lingayen is always “restful,” Elduayan says. “You can even stroll on the capitol grounds at night and on the beach because of the well-lighted baywalk. In Lingayen, you have sunset and sunrise,” she says.
The following morning, tourists may opt to go kite-flying or wakeboarding in the public beach or join a Zumba session that begins at 5:30 a.m.
After a short rest, travel to Urdaneta City for lunch, drop by the bagsakan vegetable market in Villasis town, and head to Hilltop Adventure in Balungao town, where one can take a dip in the resort’s hot springs or try its more than a kilometer-long zipline. Balungao is just a 30-minute drive to the TPLEx exit at Barangay Carmen that would take them to Metro Manila in two hours.
For the adventurous and nature lovers, Hundred Islands National Park is a perfect starting point. From the SCTEx exit in Tarlac City, the place can be reached in three-and-a-half hours, including a 30-minute boat ride from Barangay Lucap to the islands.
Tourists may opt to enjoy the islands the whole day or just stay there for as short as two hours. Enjoy a zipline connecting two islands, helmet diving, snorkeling, trekking and island hopping.
Accommodation facilities are available and some of the islands are solar-powered.
Thirty minutes from Alaminos, the town of Mabini offers its caves. Elduayan says tourists must ask for a cave guide from the municipal tourism office. They can spend the whole day exploring the Cacupangan caves.
Another option is the Cabongaoan beach in Burgos town, about 45 minutes from Alaminos. The place is ideal for snorkeling.
Elduayan says many more options for adventure tours can be taken on weekends and tourists can make their own itineraries.
On Dec. 6, Gov. Amado Espino III launched the province’s tourism website (www.visitpangasinan.com), which was created in partnership with Xplorra, a web hosting and design company. The website features tourist attractions found in every town, as well as accommodation facilities, contact details and their rates.
(Eastern and Central Pangasinan)
Manaoag – Our Lady of Manaoag Minor Basilica
Calasiao – Calasiao puto and native sweets and cake shops, Saints Peter and Paul Church and Señor Divino Tesoro Shrine
Dagupan City – Lunch at city restaurants to savor the “tastiest bangus”—cooked in many ways
Lingayen – Heritage tour, beach, bagoong making
Urdaneta City – Lunch
Villasis – “Bagsakan” of vegetables and fruits
Balungao – Hilltop Adventure (ziplining, ATV drive and other adventure activities)
Alaminos City – Island hopping, swimming, snorkeling, helmet diving, banana board ride, cliff jumping, etc. (Other options: Visit to a salt farm, bird watching at Bued Mangrove area)
Mabini – Cacupangan caves (30 minutes from Alaminos)
Burgos – Cabongaoan beach (pristine and almost deserted white sand beach; 30 minutes from Alaminos)
Agno – Umbrella rocks (1 hour from Alaminos)
Hundred Islands fees:
Entrance/environmental fee/insurance fee – P80 per head (day tour); P120 per head (20 percent discount for senior citizens/PWD)
Boat rental – Day tour service boat: Small (5 passengers) – P1,400; medium (6-10 passengers) – P1,800; large (11-15 passengers) – P2,000
Guest house – P5,000 overnight
Gazebo rental – P600 (good for 10 passengers (day tour); P1,000 (overnight)
Pavilion – P3,000-P5,000 (day tour); P4,000-P7,000 (overnight)
Rent for picnic tables and chairs – P200-P500
Tent space/pitching fee – P200
Zipline (546m at Governor’s Island) – P250/jump
Zipline (120m at Quezon Island) – P100/jump
Banana boat for seven passengers – P1,500/ride
Helmet diving – P400/head/dive (20 minutes)
Snorkeling – P250/gear set rental
Kayaking – P250/hour
From Manila (via Rosales, Bayambang, or Mangatarem): 3-4 hours
From Clark, Pampanga: 2-3 hours
From Baguio City (via Sison or San Fabian): 1.5 – 2 hours
From Olongapo, Subic: 3.5 hours
Victory Liner: Daily trips from Pasay and Caloocan terminals and two stations in Cubao. Has direct route to Lingayen, Dagupan, Alaminos City and Bolinao
Five Star Bus: Daily trips from Cubao and Pasay terminals. Has direct routes to Dagupan, San Carlos and Alaminos cities
Pangasinan Solid North: Daily trips from Cubao to San Manuel and Binalonan
Dagupan Bus Co.: Daily trips from Cubao terminal to Dagupan City, Anda, Agno and San Carlos City
Viron Transit: Daily trips from Cubao terminal to Dagupan and San Carlos cities and Tayug
Bus fare: P300-P450
Van rental: P7,000-P8,000 per van (Manila-Pangasinan)
Food: “Kakanin” (rice cakes), “bocayo,” “tamales,” “tupig,” Mangaldan’s “tapa” and peanut brittle, Calasiao’s “puto” and “kutsinta,” Lingayen’s “bagoong,” Alaminos’ “longanisa,” Bayambang’s “buro,” Dagupan’s “bangus” and “pigar-pigar,” and Bolinao’s “binungey,” seafood and dried fish
Handicrafts and products:. San Carlos bamboo handicrafts, Alaminos and Bolinao shell crafts, Binmaley’s woodworks, Basista’s corn husk handicrafts, Pozzorubio’s sword and metal crafts
Pasalubong centers: Capitol Tourist Assistance and Pasalubong Center (Lingayen), Valleden’s Pasalubong House (Lingayen), Lucap Wharf Souvenir Shops (Alaminos), Pasalubong Center (Urdaneta), Best Pasalubong Center (Rosales), and Pangasinan’s Best (Dagupan)
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