Sugarcane. Inuruban and Chicharon Festival. The Aquinos. Hacienda Luisita.
These are some of the first things that come to mind when we first hear of Tarlac, but unfortunately, for some, these are perhaps the only things. But what most of us don’t know is this: these are just the tip of the iceberg. Kayaking? Dune buggy riding? Kart racing? Tarlac has all of these. Or perhaps you’d like something more tranquil: Imagine standing atop a hill overlooking a spectacular landscape of neighboring hills and valleys, so lush and rich in color and vegetation. A hill where a towering 30-foot Christ the Redeemer statue is erected—ala Rio De Janeiro. Didn’t know this existed in Tarlac? Me neither. And, ironically, it looks even more unbelievable in person.
But with all things, as in places, there is always more to what first meets the eye. And in Tarlac, the case is not any different.
Monasterio de Tarlac
This is where the religious flock. And for a mighty, holy reason (pun intended). Here in Monasterio de Tarlac rests the relic of the true cross of Jesus Christ. It was brought to Monasterio in 2007 from Essen, Germany where the relic had been kept for about 1,000 years. This put the monastery on the map, and pilgrims from around the country and the world have been visiting since.
Monasterio de Tarlac sits atop a hill, 308 meters high. The place is surrounded by well-kept gardens, and a landscape view of Tarlac that is worth seeing. This is where the majestic 30-foot Christ the Redeemer statue can be found, too.
Learn about the humble beginnings of a modern hero—Ninoy. Get a glimpse of his life as a family man, and his achievements as an academic. See pictures, read his words, listen to stories. Take this tour and realize that he, too, was just another man with a life. And a man who had that life taken away from him. A man who was tortured to the brink of insanity. But, above all, that he was a man with an unbowed spirit.
There are countless items exhibited at the Aquino Museum that signifies a point in the lives of the iconic couple Ninoy and Cory, but even more countless things to learn. An actual piece of the Berlin Wall that was Germany’s gift to Cory Aquino during her presidency? Yes, you can find that here (and no, you cannot touch it).
Despite all the interesting artifacts in the Aquino Museum though, what impressed me above all was the passion that could be heard through the voices of Karen Lacsamana-Carrera, the manager and curator of Aquino Center, and historian Xiao Chua who gave my group a tour of the museum.
Karen and Xiao’s words were the spark that set fire to the tinder. I set foot at the museum knowing so little about Ninoy and Cory’s legacy, but left not only a few facts wiser, but also a little bit prouder of our country’s remarkable, albeit tragic, history.
“Some people, when they get to the point of Ninoy’s bloody jacket, they think it is the end,” Karen told us. “But it was not the end. It was actually the beginning.”
JSJ Goat Farm
You will never find yourself in a place with more endearing goats than here.
The JSJ Goat Farm houses around 300 goats and sheep imported from Australia. They produce fresh goat’s milk, which is good for lactose intolerance and constipation. It is also said to be more nutritional and healthier than cow’s milk.
Our visit started with the milking of the goats, and we were asked to wait outside of a shelter where will the milking will take place. But it was empty. Where were the goats? Not long after, a sound of pitter-pattering took over the sound of conversations of the people waiting, and everyone turned to look. Suddenly approaching over a elevated, wooden walkway are a dozen goats, all queued in a neat, single file. With no one to herd them. These goats have been trained, although it didn’t come easy at first, the owner told us.
Sorry to disappoint you though, but this is 2015 and the milking isn’t done by hand anymore—there are machines for that now. The fun part is, they will teach you anyway.
Tarlac Recreational Park
Tarlac governor Victor A. Yap knows that recreation is important in maintaining people’s life balance. And so, to also continue his father’s dream of building a sports complex with international standards, Tarlac Recreational Park rose in San Jose, Tarlac.
Kayak through a serene lake. Or catch a lap and swim in their Olympic pool. Rather stay dry? Catch a lap on their track field instead. Rent a mountain bike and ride through the expanse of TRP’s 78-hectare property. Or play airsoft instead, if you’re going in a group. And if you’re feeling more adventurous, I would recommend their dune buggy ride. Drive through rough slopes and dirt paths, and enjoy the remarkable view while at it. Just don’t forget to bring a face mask, because it’s going to be one dusty (and bumpy) ride.
Kart City Tarlac
This is where yuppies go to end their day and where families go on the weekends. Kart City Tarlac or KCT boasts of a world-class karting facility, with go karts coming all the way from Europe. As the owner of the place, Pio Arugay, is an avid racer himself, the racetrack at KCT is assured to be well-designed. In fact, Pio told us that the track can be altered to nine different configurations. They change this every now and then, so that even the most loyal guests would have a different challenge to look forward to each visit. The go-karts can go up to a speed of 80 kph, so if adrenaline rush is what you’re looking for, adrenaline rush is definitely what you’ll get.
And for families with kids, there’s a kiddie racetrack too, in case you want to start them young.
After a race with your friends, head on over to one of the restaurants just right beside the racetrack—there’s Chaps diner, Chaps cafe, Trackside Grill, The Game Room, and Chaps Family Lounge. Coffee? Beer? Pizza? Or perhaps a game of billiards and darts, or a round of KTV? Sounds like a pretty amazing night in the making, if you ask me.
A Taste of Tarlac: History, Religion, and Adrenaline Rush
Whether it’s for a day trip or a weekend getaway, for friends or for families, Tarlac—as I have found out—has more to offer than just sugarcane and chicharon. With their religious and historical background to their energy-pumping activities, Tarlac, as it turns out, is a place where adrenaline for both the body and the soul can converge. And that is a rare good thing.
Special thanks to North Philippines Visitors Bureau and Manila North Tollways Corporation for inviting When In Manila to be part of the 2015 Lakbay Norte media tour. Thank you also to Victory Liner, O+ USA, Blue Cross Insurance, Headware, and the Region 3 Department of Tourism.
All images in this post by Martin San Diego.
Monasterio de Tarlac
Mount of Ressurection, Eco-Tourism Park, San Jose, Tarlac
Luisita Industrial Park Road, San Miguel, Tarlac
firstname.lastname@example.org / (045) 985 0968
JSJ Goat Farm
Brgy. Caturay, Gerona, Tarlac
Tarlac Recrational Park
San Juan de Valdez, San Jose, Tarlac
Kart City Tarlac
Mac Arthur Highway, San Roque, Tarlac