Wednesday, January 25, 2017

10 Things You Need to Do When in Baliwag Bulacan

The Lakad Pamana group with Baliwag town Mayor Ferdinand Estrella

Baliwag. I know it's one of the many towns in the province of Bulacan but my knowledge of Baliwag used to be limited to two things that are connected with it--Baliwag Transit and Baliwag Lechon Manok. Prior to my recent familiarization tour courtesy of Lakad Pamana tours headed by Sir Gilbert Dino and Walk with Chan with my good friend and fellow blogger, Rence Chan, I knew nothing much about Baliwag except for the ones I have mentioned above. My recent Baliwag trip with these two amazing guys was not only very informative and educational, but it also served as an eye-opener for a city-dweller like me. I even had the opportunity to meet, chat for a while and even handshake with the young looking but very much experienced when it comes to politics, the Baliwag town mayor, Mayor Ferdinand Estrella. There were so many things I wanted to tell you about Baliwag, Bulacan which I had truly enjoyed. 

Allow me to share with you through my humble blog what I think every traveler needs to see and experience when traveling to the town of Baliwag, Bulacan. Here, to make things easier for you, I have made 10 things(in no particular order) you need to do when going to Baliwag. Read on...

  1. Come and see the old historical houses in Baliwag. When in Baliwag, it's actually a sacrilege to miss and pass up the chance to visit old historical houses and the many ancestral homes. Unbeknownst to many, just like the quaint town of Taal, Batangas where my family hails from, Baliwag is home to a number of Spanish-era and American-period houses which still exists to this day. Amid the ravages of nature and time, there are still old mansions in the towns of Malolos, San Miguel and Baliwag that still stand proudly up to this very day and are kept intact and preserved. Just as interesting are the tales, nothing less historic--of the people and have lived in these historical treasures. 

Take for instance the mansion tucked right smack in a busy street in Baliwag use to own by the great grandfather of TV host and actress Charo Santos-Concio which is now owned by the former head doctor of the Baliwag's municipal hospital. The two-storey mansion seemed like the ones I've only seen in my history textbooks as a student. It's nice to finally had the rare chance to see them upclose. Upon entrance to the grand old mansion, visitors are ushered in to the wooden staircase leading up to the spacious sala where pieces of furniture are well worth my gawking and veneration. I couldn't resist my awe of ooohs and aaahs. The balcony offers the best vantage point during the town parades and yearly processions during the Lenten season. I can imagine you could just sit and see everything from there over a cup of coffee.

The Lakad Pamana group at the Old Municipio

2. Drop by Baliwag's old municipio. The old municipal hall has been converted into the town's museum. It's a perfect example of a 19th-century bahay-na-bato formerly owned by the family of the revolutionary Dr. Joaquin Gonzalez, the first rector of the Universided Cientifica Literaria de Filipinas in 1898, and said to be one of the two representatives of the province in the historical Malolos Congress.

3. Ride the free shuttle service. Take advantage of the Baliwag town's free shuttle service if you're pregnant, a senior citizen or person with disability (PWD). We had a blast as we rode and drove through the town going to the plaza, also known as Glorietta (yes, they've had that way before the Ayala malls have thought of that!). And while you're at it, take advantage of the free wifi service provided by the Mayor's office in cooperation with Globe Telecom. I have tried it myself and it was surprisingly that fast, considering it's a public wifi connection (where most people probably connect almost everyday). So while I was there, I took advantage of the public access to internet and checked in on Facebook using the free wifi connection. 

4. Visit the town plaza also known as Glorietta.

Long before the Ayala malls in Makati thought of renaming the old Quad into Glorietta, the locals at Baliwag already had their own place called Glorietta. The plaza used to be a local skating rink back in the old days, but now it's where you can find the town's cheapest bazaars locally known as tiangge. 

5. Don't forget to pray at the St. Augustine Parish.

Commonly known as Baliwag Church, the said parish is located in Plaza Naning at the poblacion (town proper). Baliwag's church is Baroque in its architectural style and it's obvious based on its facade and interiors. The church reflects the rich Spanish and Latin American architecture integration with indigenous Filipino work of art. It's massive limestone, gravel and sand, steel and brick structured had been designed to withstand both time and history.

 6. See the unique Jose Rizal monument as well as that of Mariano Ponce's monument  and the town's clocktower at Plaza Naning. 

The unique Jose Rizal Monument in Baliwag Bulacan
I know you guys might say, what's so special about Jose Rizal's monument in Baliwag? You've probably seen a lot of other Rizal's monument as you go around the country and even in the other countries where Rizal had lived. The Rizal monument is one of the notable landmarks in Baliwag. It's approximately 35-40 feet including its pedestal and it faces the town plaza and the public market. The said sculpture is actually an allegorical representation of the Philippines during the old times. The mother country holding a lyre huges Rizal from behind and appears as if she was whispering or saying something to him. It could be request to unite her children while our national hero, Rizal holds his Noli Me Tangere and El Filibusterismo books. Right below them are the words inscribed in Spanish "Ama A Tu Patria" which means "Love thy country." Below were three ladies dressed in Balintawak (native dress of Filipino women made from woven local fibers) in the left, right and center pedestals. At the center, the lady is holding a bolo on her right hand and a flag on the left symbolizing revolution. The lady seated on her right holds a corazon (heart) which symbolizes love for the country while the one seated on her left clutches a book which symbolizes knowledge and independence. 

The said statue was flanked by two revolutionaries which most people assume stands for Magdalo (the one sporting a rifle) and Magdiwang (the guy ready to pull his 'itak' (large knife) anytime. Two sphinxes also add beauty to this unique landmark as they appear as guardians. 

Another interesting landmark worth your time is the statue of another national hero and revered patriots of Bulacan, Mariano "Naning" Ponce. Ponce was a Filipino bibliographer, propagandist, journalist, historian, diplomat, and reformist. His roots were from Baliwag, Bulacan. 

Mariano Ponce's monument in Baliwag Bulacan

7. Don't miss the chance to eat Serkele. 

It was in the early 70's when Leonila "Nanay Luring" Castro-Trinidad opened her small eatery found in Concepcion, Baliwag, Bulacan. When she started serving her original recipe of the dish called Serkele, she had no idea the simple afternoon merienda (snack) dish would become a hit among the neighborhood which eventually became a household word fro everyone. Serkele is very similar to the popular Filipino dish called Dinuguan (a dish made from blood stew and innards) and Tinumis but with a twist. For one, it does not use pork, but instead uses beef. Yes, just like a typical dinuguan, serkele is also best eaten with puto (rice cakes) on the side. Although serkele is now being served in other restaurants in Baliwag, nothing beats the original which can be found at Aling Luring's. 

Aling Luring's place is a typical simple, turo-turo eatery with walls, windows and stools made of wood. The food is affordable and good. Nothing fancy, no pretenses. This is not the place to look for ambiance. Just dine here and eat like the locals do. 

8. Learn Rabbit Farming at Aven Nature's Farm and Rabbitry 

 I actually had no idea that I'd be having a grand time visiting a rabbit farm to be completely honest about it. Don't get me wrong, I enjoy visiting farms, but at first, I didn't know I'd be learning a lot with the mere visit at Aven Nature's Farm. 

Of course, since I had no interest in rabbit farming, I thought visiting Aven Nature's Farm and Rabbitry was simply just part of the tour's itinerary. But I was surprised to have learned a lot about farming, as well as about the different plants and animals which I never even knew existed. 

You may call me names for saying this, but I honestly didn't know that rabbits in real life aren't like Bugs Bunny. They don't eat carrots. They eat a special kind of pellets or grass. Aside from their meat, rabbits are great source of fur which are often used for felt hats, bags, coats and lining for winter clothing. Here in this side of Sta. Barbara in Baliwag, they use rabbit's claw and tails as keychains while they use the fur skin as carpets, bags etc.

A kilo of rabbit costs Php400
They say that rabbit's meat is a rich man's meat. Well, it's pretty much expensive if you ask me. But then, it's worth every peso plus a number of good health reasons. And it tastes good. It tastes like chicken minus the rancid or pungent taste that most chicken has. 

Aside from rabbits, I was able to taste and try this plant called Magic Fruit. It's my first time hear about it and I got even more excited to try it. Also known as Miracle berry, it has a mildly sweet flavor and is bland in taste. Do not underestimate this miracle berry because this fresh fruit can trigger citrus foods like limes, mangoes, oranges and lemons to taste sweet. It consists of glycoprotein particles known as 'miraculin'.

I was lucky enough to try it by eating unripe mangoes which were supposedly sour in taste. But upon eating miracle berry, it tasted really sweet. Yes, you're reading it right dear! It temporarily rewires your tastebuds, making things sour appear to be sweet for a maximum duration of one hour. It's one of the many interesting things I've had encountered recently during the Lakad Pamana Baliwag tour we've had. 

As if that's not enough, we were also served with delicious Blue Ternate Flower with Lemongrass Iced Tea as a welcome drink. The blue ternate flower has been gaining popularity as food either prepared into tea, juice, salads or making blue rice. At first I thought the flower was just for coloring beverages and rice. Upon researching, the blue ternate is not only for decorative purposes but it also contains numerous health benefits, one of which is it helps improves good memory. 

9. Be adventurous and try eating rabbit meat

Yes, I know that most people especially the vegetarian ones and those pet lovers would definitely frown at this suggestion of mine. But hey, I also find rabbits too cute to eat, okay? Unknown to many, rabbit meat is as common as eating chicken today. But actually, there are a lot of good reasons to eat rabbit meat. Allow me to share them to you:

  • It is one of the best white meats available on the market today. 
  • The rabbit meat has a high percentage of easily digestible protein.
  • It contains the least amount of fat among all the other available meats.
  • Rabbit meat contains less calorie value than other meats.
  • Rabbit meat is almost cholesterol free and therefore heart patient friendly.
  • The sodium content of rabbit meat is comparatively less than other meats.
  • The calcium and phosphorus contents of this meat is more than any other meats.
  • The ratio of the meat bone is high, meaning there is more edible meat when compared to other meats, even chicken.
  • Rabbit meat has many health benefits but does not have a strong flavor and although it's taste is comparable to chicken, it is not identical.
  • Rabbits are one of the most productive domestic livestock animal there is. Rabbits can produce 6 pounds of meat on the same feed and water as the cow will produce 1 pound of  meat on the same feed and water. 

 10, Visit the Buri Hat (Panama hat) factory and buy one as pasalubong or memento 

The Lakad Pamana group with Ms. Rosie Bautista, owner of the buntal hat factory

I had always wondered why Baliwag Transit had a hat as their official logo or trademark. It was only during my recent tour to Baliwag that I had learned how it got its connection. Buri hats, also known as Buntal hats or Panama hats originated from Baliwag, Bulacan.

Buri hats are made from a palm of fibers where buri, raffia, and buntal are obtained. The production of buntal fiber started in Sariaya and Tayabas in Quezon but the buntal hat weaving industry began in Baliwag, Bulacan way back during the pre-war years. 

Mrs. Rosie explains how the fiber is flattened by the machine

The first step to start a weave is to flatten the bunch of fiber on a heavy presser. And mind you, this is all done manually to enable the fiber to have a flat feature since the fiber comes in round shape and a bit cumbersome to weave with this texture. Once the process is done, the lead-weaver puts each strand of fiber into a symmetrical shape. After weaving a concentric circle, the woven fiber is out on a conical wood block which is used to shape the crown of a straw hat. Another weaver then takes over to do the crown up to the brim. Once it is finished, the straw hat is given to the back weaver, this person then does the closing of the fiber strands (it's said that it's a rare talent because not every weaver could actually close the fiber strands!) which are individually woven to close the brim. The straw hat is further pressed to tighten the weave and give it a shinier finish. 

With this process done, the straw hat is shaped into a Fedora, Trilby, Optimo and other sorts of hat styles. The sweatband and headband are attached and the straw hat is ready to be worn by the person who loves the straw hat of this top quality and workmanship.

Here, I've tried a purple colored Buntal hat myself.  How do I look? I hope this buntal hat craftmaship of Baliwag would be something that more people would be able to support. It's must be something of a legacy which could be passed on to the next generations.

These are actually just some of the things you can enjoy and more when you come and join the Lakad Pamana tours conducted by Mr. Gilbert Dino for Baliwag Town this February 18. If you're interested to join, please call 0975- 7336464. You may also follow and like them on Facebook for more details

Special thanks to Mr. Gerry Suva for the photos and Mr. Rence Chan and Gilbert Dino for the invitation. 

Disclaimer: I am not compensated for this post. Opinions expressed are 100 % my own. 

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