With beautiful beaches, sprawling mountains and vast forests, Bataan is truly an underrated weekend getaway from the busy metro — it’s only two and a half hours away from Manila by car. We’ve written articles on Bataan in the past, such as the spots you shouldn’t miss while in this nature-filled province, like this beautiful two-tiered waterfall among others.
Photos by Glenn Imperial and Kevin Liao
But beyond being home to the wilderness, Bataan is a cradle of rich history and culture, an idyllic place that marries the old and the new. This is especially seen in its capital, the City of Balanga, once a quaint town and is now on the cusp of progress. It’s where one can be acquainted with its historical landmarks, booming local businesses, and sanctuary to the wild migratory birds that flock its riverside.
Get to know this little city that shows a different side of Bataan, a charming and rustic town that lets you sample the local culture and provides a respite from the hustle and bustle of Manila. The best part is, you can easily explore Balanga City over the weekend!
Bike through the beginner-friendly Abu-Abu Trail
With a ride time of 2-3 hours, the Abu-Abu trail is ideal for first-timers or those just getting into biking. The ride usually starts and ends at the Bataan Capitol grounds located at the Capitol Drive in Balanga City. You can even take a dip in the local river to cool off after the ride! Perfect for those who want to give mountain bike riding a try.
Visit the Plaza Mayor de Ciudad de Balanga
Who says you have to visit Vigan to get a glimpse of old Spanish-era architecture? The Plaza Mayor de Ciudad de Balanga is at the heart of the city, perfect for OOTDs and IG-worthy snaps.
Come during the daytime to witness a slice of daily local life — the plaza is right smack in the middle of the St. Joseph Cathedral, the local City Hall, and the Galeria Victoria mall, all adorned in vintage, Spanish-inspired design.
Wetland Nature Park
Unbeknownst to many is that every year, the City of Balanga is haven to many migratory birds that flock to its riverside. The best viewing site is at the Wetland Nature Park in Tortugas, where you can witness the birds in their natural habitat. In fact, the annual Ibong Dayo Festival is held where birdwatching enthusiasts all over the world come and photograph the birds that come from as far as South America. Come for a morning picnic and watch the sunrise. If you’re lucky, you can even feed the birds!
Have lunch at Daddylo’s Kitchen
Daddylo’s is one of Balanga’s best secrets — it’s a classic steakhouse in Balanga City offering steaks that give bang for your buck, mouthwatering burgers and yummy shakes. It’s a real treat for families, and has something for everyone.
Their burgers are huge in size with juicy patties, that they can very well hold a candle to some of Manila’s best burger joints. The steaks are also flavorful and affordably priced. Come for a premium meal without breaking the bank.
Some of our recommended dishes: Daddylo’s Hungry Burger, T-Bone Steak, and any of their Milkshakes
Visit the World War II Museum
Just behind the Balanga Elementary School sits the World War II Museum, a gallery that opened in 2014 to commemorate this page in world history. In case you need a refresher, Bataan figured as an important spot in World War II, from the Fall of Bataan to the Bataan Death March.
Just outside the museum is the Surrender Site Monument, the actual site where American and Japanese officers signed the surrender of the US Army to the Japanese.
Go for dinner and drinks at Esquinita Kitchen + Pub
When traveling to a new place, nothing beats visiting a neighborhood pub where all the locals are hanging out. The liveliest spot? Esquinita Kitchen & Pub is the best sample of local nightlife, where you’re guaranteed a fun time. They have weekly events as well, so if you’re lucky, you may find yourself in the middle of an acoustic gig with Bataan’s best acts, or a beer pong contest.
Come in for dinner and stay for the drinks. Esquinita has a wide menu composed of tasty rice meals, beloved Filipino pulutan like sisig, a flight of cocktails ensured to give you a buzz, and a selection of local and international beers. Oh, and did we mention they have butterbeer and caramel beer?
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