All roads lead to Arayat

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Friday, May 2, 2014


By Ching Pangilinan
Culturati

UNEXPECTED journeys sometimes yield the most fruitful of results. I admit that I prefer traveling on a private vehicle than taking public transport at times but I am currently re-thinking a paradigm shift in order to lessen my carbon footprints as a travel enthusiast. I recently embarked on a little experiment on the ease and mobility of public transport in Pampanga as if I were on an ordinary backpacker who visits the province for the first time.

My starting point for this particular journey was at Robinsons Starmills, City of San Fernando, Pampanga where the Victory Liner buses usually pick up or drop off passengers. Right in front of the mall’s Starmills Gate passenger jeepneys bound for the different towns of Pampanga pass by almost nonstop. For this day I chose the farthest point where my legs and camera will take me and that is the town of Arayat where the legendary mountain lies majestically.

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A jeep ride to Arayat from San Fernando costs a mere twenty five pesos and takes you through the towns of Mexico and Santa Ana which also offer charming vignettes of Kapampangan everyday life. But in the heat of a summer’s day, what I just really wanted was to cool down in the cold spring waters of San Juan Bano in Arayat or maybe just have two glasses full of the famous Kabigting’s halohalo.

When I reached Arayat town proper, the jeepney driver kindly dropped me off near the marketplace from which the town church in honor of Saint Catherine of Alexandria is also a stone’s throw away. While it was nearly midday, I found it safe to walk around the town proper which really had a small town feel that I appreciate after the hustle and bustle of small city life in San Fernando.

My destination was the home of Kabigting’s Halohalo and I was most pleasantly surprised to see that it has moved to a bigger shop right beside its original home. This upgrade is appreciated by worn out travelers who want to chill with the aircon on while enjoying halohalo but personally I prefer the original backyard operation which I found more natural and cozier. Nonetheless the same old refreshing goodness of Kabigting’s halohalo is still there, with my favorite pastillas from carabao’s milk.

Though I was not able to visit the famous baths of San Juan Bano this time, my good friends told me of their recent experience on the re-opening of the Mount Arayat National Park which features upgraded amenities which are quite impressive. I am happy about this development and the efforts of the local government in promoting tourism. Historically, President Manuel Quezon made a summer rest and recreation destination out of Mount Arayat during his heyday and it will be tragic if we lose sight of this heritage of tourism in our province. On a more personal note, I have a lot of fond summer memories of swimming parties held at Mount Arayat when our entire clan trooped to the mountain side to enjoy the cold springs each May.

While my jeep trip was cut short and I had to immediately go back to San Fernando, it was such an eye-opening experience for me to see the beauty of my province from the commuter’s perspective. I noticed how the air we breathe changes the farther we get away from the city and there are some views from our everyday life that are simply breathtaking. In this particular trip, I was just awed by the subtle majesty of the resting Mount Arayat.

Published in the Sun.Star Pampanga newspaper on May 03, 2014.

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