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Travel With Maria
By: Maria Rona Beltran


Dubbed as the Melting Pot of Central Luzon where major and world-class expressways meet - TPLEX, SCTEX & CLLEX, Tarlac is a province in the Philippines that's undeniably popular for Manileños because it's geographically near the city. For those who cannot sacrifice a whole night of bus trip or afford an hour of flight to go somewhere else, Tarlac is the place to be.

It was through Lakbay Norte 7, a trip for bloggers and media that I had a chance to explore some of Tarlac's tourist spots last January. Before, the only thing about Tarlac I know is that this is the hometown/birthplace of two of the most iconic persons in the history of Philippine politics: Cory and Ninoy Aquino. Now, I can say that Tarlac should be known more than what it is used to be. Tarlac is a melting pot because it's home to Pampango, Ilokano, Pangasinense and Tagalog locals living in harmony. I hope this travel guide to Tarlac I made myself based from the trip I joined would be one of the reasons to help you plan your vacation there even for a night or a whole day tour soon.

Brief History of Tarlac

The last capital of the First Philippine Republic and seat of the Revolutionary Congress under Gen. Emilio Aguinaldo, Tarlac is an important dot in Philippine history. This town was the home of one of the Philippines' old universities called Cientifico-Literaria de Filipinas utilizing the San Sebastian Cathedral Convent as its building.

Tarlac was formerly part of Pampanga until it was declared independent through Real Orden of 1788 by Governor General Felix Berenguer de Marquina. The word "Tarlac" is believed to originate from an incident when some foreigners were asking Aetas, the province's early settlers about the name of the place using sign language. As they pointed to the ground, the Aetas thought they were referring to the grass and answered "tarac" which means "wild cogon grass". Others believe that the word "Tarlac" came from the term "tal-lac" which means "wooden poles stuck along the river banks to diminish the strong current used for fishing".

What to do in Tarlac


Do you love perfume? There's a world-class perfume factory in Anao, a municipality in Tarlac you may not even know it exists. The province's smallest town, Anao is making big waves because of its ylang-ylang (Cananga odorata) trees. The leaves harvested from these trees are used to make world-class essential oils, soap, lotion, shampoo and more. We are talking about scents of highest standard sold abroad by giant brands such as Chanel Number 5!

If you're not into perfumes, I still recommend visiting Anao. On the way to and from Anao, my eyes were blessed with a bucolic scene of living in the rural area. We saw countless trees covering the horizon and different fruit plantations. Anao is one big Instagrammable place I need to see again!

Anao's ylang ylang perfumes
Address: Office of the Mayor
Barangay Poblacion, Anao, Tarlac
Website: www.anaotarlac.gov.ph
Email: municipalityofanao@yahoo.com
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/anaotarlac/


Every commemoration of Holy Week in the country, doing a Visita Iglesia to Manila's churches also mean you'll have to deal with the crowd when this is the time you want silence for praying and contemplation. If you want this way, seeing the most beautiful churches outside Manila is the answer. There are three churches in Tarlac that can be your ideal Visita Iglesia itinerary this 2018: St. Faustina Kowalska Parish (the world's first parish dedicated to this saint) and St. Josemaria Escriva Parish (a posh-looking church that is owned/operated by private individuals).

For more options of beautiful Catholic churches in Tarlac, check out San Sebastian Cathedral (post-war Neo-Gothic church), San Sebastian Village Parish (dedicated to Saint Sebastian), Our Lady of Lourdes Church (honor of appearance of Mary in France in 18th century) and San Lorenzo Ruiz Parish (in honor of the Philippines' first declared saint)

Visita Iglesia Tarlac

Saint Faustina Kowalska Parish
Address: Paniqui, 2307 Tarlac
Parish Priest: Rev. Fr. Pablo S. Banag Jr.

Santuario De San Josemaria Escriva
Address: Gerona, 2307 Tarlac
Parish Priest: Rev. Fr. Renato Dimaculangan

San Sebastian Cathedral Parish
Address: Tañedo Street, 2300 Tarlac City
Parish Priest: Most Rev. Florentino F. Cinense


For those who are looking for outdoor adventure in Tarlac, Kart City Tarlac will take care of you. Built for karting enthusiasts (first timers are also welcome), KCT offers food and entertainment as well. If you're hungry there are numerous restaurant to choose from and if you want to go videoke singing, there's a place for that as well!

There are playground for kids, billard room, family lounge and game room at KTC too.

Kart City Tarlac
Address: MacArthur Highway, Tarlac City, Tarlac
Facebook Fan Page: https://www.facebook.com/kctarlac/


The Museo ng Probinsya ng Tarlac showcases contemporary art and exhibits from the second World War to the present. Paintings of upcoming and known locals of Tarlac are exhibited here. Some of Tarlac City's activities and talks are also held here. Please contact them first before visiting because there are dates that it is closed for private use.

Source: Tarlac.com.ph
Museo de Tarlac
Address: Romulo Blvd, Tarlac City, 2300 Tarlac
Facebook Fan Page: https://www.facebook.com/pages/Museo-De-Tarlac/1847184375604903

Refresh your knowledge about one of the country's unforgettable piece of history that happened in EDSA through Aquino Center and Museum.

I know this needs no introduction because obviously, its name suggests as the museum of the prominent Aquino family. Here, you'll learn about Ninoy’s fast-paced life, his momentous development into politics (from being the youngest mayor at 22 to being recognized as the youngest Philippine Senator at age 34), his solitary confinement at Fort Magsaysay (arrested after the declaration of Martial Law), his assassination at the Manila International Airport (his actual blood-stained clothes and photos of his open-casket are displayed at the museum), and the inspiring movement of the People Power that lead Cory to become the 11th President of the Philippines.

Aquino Center and Museum
Source: Aquino Center and Museum
Aquino Center and Museum
Address: Luisita Industrial Park Road, San Miguel, Tarlac City, 2300
Facebook Fan Page: https://www.facebook.com/AquinoCenterAndMuseum/

More places to explore in Tarlac

Visit the mystical spring of Barangay Dolores. A woman in the late 1800's dreamt so many times about this spring that can cure her mother's illness as told by a voice. She found it after three days of searching - her mom was healed from the water she got from the spring. Today, it is a favorite spot among local excursionists. This spring might be of great addition to your Visita Iglesia Tarlac itinerary.

See the train relic used to deliver sugar cane in the 60's. Central Azucarera de Tarlac is a sugar milling and refinery planet that used to operate in Barangay San Miguel, Tarlac City. This relic used to be a part of a mighty train that transports goods many years ago. You'll find it at the facade of Robinson's Complex in Luisita.

Check out the 79-year old Eisenhower tree inside Camp General Servillano Aquino. This tree was planted by Lt. Col. Dwight Eisenhower, Chief of Staff of Marshall Douglass MacArthur who was the military adviser of the Philippine Commonwealth. Eisenhower served as the 34th President of the US from 1953 - 1961.

Hang out at Tarlac City Plazuela. Formally known as the Ninoy Aquino Memorial Plazuela, this town square is just in front of Tarlac City Hall. It is said that some of the most prominent heroes of the Philippines have been here already such as Jose Rizal, Gen. Aguinaldo, Apolinario Mabini and more. Today, it is a venue for many events in Tarlac. It has basketball and volleyball courts too.

Find inner peace at Monasterio de Tarlac. Guided by the inspiration of the Holy Spirit on September 14, 1998, the parish priest of the Shrine of St. Therese of the Child Jesus founded a monastic congregation following the inspiration of the Risen Christ in giving "Hope to the Hopeless". Fast forward to 2007, the Papal Nuncio to the Philippines that time enshrined the relic of the Holy Cross of Jesus which was transferred from the Diocese of Essen, Germany to Tarlac.I strongly suggest this place to anyone who wants to have a spiritual retreat or looking forward to do Visita Iglesia in Tarlac which is coming soon.

Play golf at Luisita Golf Course. One of the finest 18-hole, par 72 championship golf courses in Central Luzon and for that matter, in the country. Luisita Golf Course has small man-made bodies of water that makes it an ideal and Instagrammable spot for playing this kind of sports.

Explore the Sikwako River Pool. An awesome combination of water and limestone, the trek to the fall's pool of the Sikwako River guarantees everyone a captivating nature scenery . Let yourself stumble upon a cascading fall in the middle of the river trek, halfway through to the Sikwako Falls!

Get wet at Duglo Falls. On the way to this majestic falls, several mini waterfalls in the middle of a forest, the incessant chirping of colorful birds of different sizes and a melodic sound of the rushing water from the river await you. This 40-foot waterfall is surely a thing of incredible beauty!

Level up your falls hunting trip by adding Calao Falls in Barangay Nambalan, Mayantoc. It only takes 30 minutes of trekking to reach the first of two 20-feet waterfalls in the Calao River. Stay in awe as you're surrounded by an abundance of fruit-bearing trees, mahogany and tropical pine tree as well as flowers and shrubs during the trek.

For beginners, hike Mount Tangisan in Sitio San Pedro, San Jose. An imposing mountain standing beside the Abelling community, this mountain is a favorite for neophytes of mountain climbing. It stands at 490 meters above sea level that's why it is perfect for leisure hiking and rappelling as well.

For intermediate and experts, go check Mount Telakawa in Santa Juliana, Capas, Tarlac. If you're looking for a more extreme hiking challenge, Mount Telakawa stands at 630 meters above sea level.

Never forget Tarlac's most popular attraction - Mount Pinatubo's crater. You can start riding on a 4X4 vehicle for an hour then choose what kind of adventure you want. The hike to Mount Pinatubo's crater is 2 hours and 30 minutes. You'll be rewarded with a view of the lahar landscapes along the river and the spectacular view of the volcano's crater.

Directions / How to go to Tarlac

From South. Take NLEX-SCTEX exit at Hacienda Luisita going towards McArthur Highway. Turn right and proceed towards north to Tarlac City Proper.

From North. As you reach Tarlac City via McArthur Highway before entering the City Proper, turn right going to Aquino Blvd (you will pass UNIWIDE Warehouse) then follow the service road leading towards Tarlac City.

(Credit: https://2.bp.blogspot.com/-Douum_tiM1k/Wq-MIuyrOjI/AAAAAAAA3vo/o7iGyHObdB4PPaC95S4WrximffTGkXQHQCLcBGAs/s1600/Karting%2BCity%2BTarlac.JPG)



Life is full of surprises and so is Tarlac. Known for its vast rice fields, the quiet province is often treated as a stopover venue when traveling to more popular destinations like Ilocos and Baguio. If you have some moments to spare, there are actually many things you can do in the place from tasting local delicacies to visiting beautiful churches. Better yet, go on epic road trip with your friends and you’ll discover what you’re missing all this time with the diverse town that is Tarlac.

About Tarlac

Tarlac is a landlocked province located in Central Luzon. It is surrounded by Pangasinan (north), Nueva Ecija (east), Pampanga (south), and Zambales (west). Diverse as it is, the province is a mixture of Kapampangans, Pangasinenses, Ilocanos, and Tagalogs. The different municipalities have their own local goods they are proud of like the Ylang-ylang products of Anao. Agriculture is the main source of livelihood and Tarlac is among the top producers of rice and sugarcane in their region.

Exploring Tarlac for more than a day, we were just surprised that we got to do numerous, exciting activities. So the next time you pass by this cool town, make sure to try for yourself the items listed below.

Top Things to Do in Tarlac

1. Go racing at Kart City.

Release your inner adrenaline junkie and go-kart with your buddies at Kart City. The place in fact was started by a group of friends who share the same passion for the sport. With first-class equipment and adequate briefing, the activity is surely safe even for the young ones.

Kart City is not just only about go-kart, it’s an entertainment center with karaoke and game rooms. It also has a number of restaurants where you can just chill and relax. What more can you ask for?

2. Experience Tarlac food trip.

Don’t ever leave Tarlac without going on a food trip, just don’t. Try the crispy Pansit Anao from Kape Agape, your friendly neighborhood coffee shop located at the Ylang-ylang town of Anao. What’s even cooler than Kape Agape’s ambiance is its support for mental health advocacy and the arts.

Crispy Pansit Anao from Kape Agape.

For ultimate Filipino comfort food, make sure to drop by at Tatuns. One of their bestsellers is Adobong Kambing. I also personally like their Papaitan.

Ultimate Filipino comfort food at Tatuns.

Have you tried pairing barbecue and hot pandesal? Situated next to each other, Bonnette’s BBQ Grill and La Boneteria will let you try the surprisingly good barbecue and pandesal combo.

Get some malunggay pandesal or bonete from La Boneteria and chill at Bonnette’s BBQ Grill. At Bonnette’s, hoard some barbecue and dip it with their homemade vinegar. More interestingly, you can also dip your pandesal in the vinegar.

Bonnette’s BBQ Grill barbecue and La Boneteria malunggay pandesal combo just works!

Betty’s Resto Bar offers the best native cakes in town! Spend an afternoon break in their instagrammable place and eat some Duman.

3. Find important religious relics and visit beautiful churches.

Tarlac also houses important religious relics and has some of the most beautiful churches I’ve seen. St. Faustina Parish, the world’s first and only parish church dedicated to St. Faustina Kowalska of Poland, can be found at the town of Paniqui. It was from St. Faustina’s diary where the expression “Jesus, I trust in you.” was discerned. Her relic, which was said to be a part of her finger, was kept at a small chapel. The chapel is being opened for public viewing every 5th of October, the church’s foundation day.

Relic found at St. Faustina Parish.

Two equally beautiful churches can be found in Gerona, Tarlac – St. Josemaria Escriva Parish and La Sagrada Familia Parish. Both were designed by Fr. Alex Bautista who worked as an architect before becoming a priest.

St. Josemaria Escriva Parish is the only parish in Asia built and dedicated to St. Escriva, founder of the Opus Dei. Opus Dei is a Catholic institution aiming to spread the church’s teaching. St. Josemaria Escriva Parish is known for its drive-through facility to visit the Blessed Sacrament located at the back of the main tabernacle of the church.

If you have more time, go inside the church and see the only relic of St. Escriva displayed in Asia (the relic was said to be a part of his tooth).

Beautiful inside out, La Sagrada Familia Parish was inaugurated last October 2017. Notice its altar table made from the marble that was kissed by Pope Francis during his papal visit in the country.

5. Taste the rural life at EDL farm.

In case you need to spend a night in Tarlac, EDL farm is highly recommended. With a homey vibe, the rooms are simple and neat. The best part? They’ve got a really nice pool and a pretty lawn garden. The next best part? You can roam around the farm if you need some sort of breather! I like visiting farms every once in a while because they remind me life’s ought to be simple.

6. Reminisce a portion of history at Aquino Museum.

If you’re a certified history buff, the Aquino Museum can satisfy your curiosity. It was really interesting to see both the memorabilia of Ninoy and Cory Aquino. Some of my favorite finds inside the museum: the musings and writings of Ninoy (especially those sweet letters dedicated to Cory), Ninoy’s vintage camera, and the collection of Cory’s paintings. The museum is beautifully preserved

7. Buy Ylang-ylang products in Anao.

Did you know that it takes four years for an Ylang-ylang tree to yield flowers? And that a kilo of Ylang-ylang flower can only produce 9ml of oil extract? With inadequate land available to plant more Ylang-ylang trees, Anao can’t meet the huge demand for their ylang-ylang products worldwide especially the oil extract. Other products include perfume and potpourri. South Korea even extended help and sponsorship to the local government to uplift more the town’s Ylang-ylang business. So when in Anao, don’t miss the opportunity to grab the limited Ylang-ylang merchandise.

Do yourself a favor and explore Tarlac. The wide array of things you can do in the place is more than just for a mere stopover. The humble town is just waiting to be discovered.

Disclosure: This Lakbay Norte trip was organized by North Philippines Bureau (NPVB) in partnership with NLEX Corporation, Bulacan Tourism and Convention Visitors Board (BTCB), Tarlac Convention and Visitors Bureau (TCVB), Ilocos Norte Convention and Visitors Bureau (INCVB), Victory Liner Inc., Department of Tourism Region 1, Department of Tourism Region 3, Jollibee Foods Corporation, and Merrell Philippines. Lakbay Norte is an annual media familiarization trip aiming to promote Philippine provinces in the north.

(Credit: https://travelhabeat.com/top-things-to-do-in-tarlac/)

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