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Some people don’t go for vacation for rest and relaxation, but for thrilling adventures and some adrenaline rush! If you are one of those adventure seekers craving for physically risky and challenging activities, go ahead and visit the landlocked Tarlac.
Tarlac is a province in Northern Philippines fully surrounded by land that is now getting famous for the various outdoor activities it offers. With its large plains, mountains, and five major rivers, the province is among the nearest places to Manila for exciting adventures.
The nearest airport to Tarlac is the Clark Airport in Clark Freeport Zone, Pampanga. However, there are no flights coming from or going to Manila because Tarlac is merely 125 km or two hours away from Manila. Instead, the airport is being used by low-cost airlines for passenger flights to and from foreign destinations such as Singapore and Dubai. But one airline, Cebu Pacific, offers flights from Cebu, Philippines to Clark Airport.
From Clark, you can take a jeepney ride to DAU Bus Terminal. Buses going to Baguio and Dagupan pass through Tarlac.
The best way to go is of course by land. Air conditioned buses traveling to Tarlac are stationed in Cubao and Pasay. Five Star bus rates from Manila to Tarlac range from PhP224 to PhP252, depending on where you will alight.
By car, from Manila, Tarlac can be reached via the North Luzon Expressway through Subic-Clark-Tarlac and taking the Tarlac Exit route.
Most locals own their own motor vehicles. Jeepneys and tricycles (motorcycle with attached enclosed sidecar) are the chief means of public transportation.
While still warming up for your outdoor adventures, you can start your tour by visiting the tourist attractions of Tarlac.
If you are a Christian devotee, you should not miss visiting Monasterio de Tarlac. Although this church is relatively new, having been constructed in 2001, it has become a religious landmark for two reasons: the 30-foot colossal statue of Jesus Christ built there, and because it houses a relic of the True Cross, or physical remnants of the cross upon which Jesus Christ was crucified. The Monasterio is also home to the Tarlac Eco-Tourism Park which is a popular destination for picnics and relaxation.
If you think a visit to a new place is not complete without learning more about its culture and history, take time to visit the Museo de Tarlac and the Aquino Center and Museum.
There are a variety of awesome outdoor activities to thrill that daredevil in you. You can hike Mt. Muntol Baka (for beginners), Mt. TMC-Kawayan, or Mt. Tangisan where you can meet 110 indigenous groups of Tarlac. For the competitive ones, you can go kart racing at Kart City Tarlac. Then if you want more blood-pumping rides minding your own business, hit the dirt road and drive an ATV (all-terrain vehicle) at the Tarlac Recreational Park. There you can also rent a mountain bike and go biking at its 1.5 km trail.
If you need to take a break from all that land activity, take a dip at the park’s Olympic Size swimming pool; you and your friends can even conduct your own on-the-spot swimming race competition there. Another water adventure to try is kayaking, still at the park, because it has its own lagoon. But if you’re up to more thrilling rapids, then go river rafting. A good spot is the 7.2 km-long Nambalan River.
For a combination of land and water activity, trek to the ANZAP Twin Waterfalls. The trek includes crossing the Nambalan River, some climbing to reach the campsite in Mayantoc, and then an overnight camping for dinner and rest. Finally, the morning after is for admiring the 20- feet high waterfalls situated among stone landscape and green plants, and of course, swimming.
Tarlac is nicknamed the melting pot of Luzon basically because people from its neighboring towns such as the Kapampangans from Pampanga, Ilocanos from Baguio, Pangasinenses from Pangasinan, and Tagalogs from Nueva Ecija, have come to Tarlac and adopted the place as their home. The resulting rich variety of cuisine in Tarlac is testament to this mixing or melting together of cultures.
For seafood, Filipino food, and paluto, which means food will be cooked on the spot according to your instructions or request, go to Dampa sa Tarlac. Vegetable dishes are also plenty here so rejoice, veggie friends! The long chairs and tables give that native, beach vibe though there is no beach in Tarlac.
The seafood they serve is from neighboring provinces Pangasinan and Bataan. Dampa is located in MacArthur Highway, Brgy. San Rafel, Tarlac City. Other good food stops are Victor’s Barbecue and Lechon Manok, also in MacArthur Highway, and Isdaan Floating Restaurant, for Filipino food, and Chaps Café near SM Tarlac for Western-Asian food.
If you want your sweet tooth sated, Urdu Restaurant & Bakeshop’s cakes, cookies, pies, and their famous cassava cake, ensaymada, and pichi-pichi are your best bets. But for some authentic native delicacy, have a taste of iniruban or nilubyan, a delicacy made from sticky rice, coconut milk, and hardened sugar cane molasses. This rice cake is sold at Camiling Public Market every morning.
After sunset, you might still be in very high spirits due to all the adrenaline-pumping activities you had earlier. If you want to have more fun before hitting the bed, you can head out to the trackside recreational complex of Kart City. A favorite hangout place among locals, the complex has dining areas, karaoke rooms, and pub game rooms.
For more partying and clubbing, you can experience Tarlac City nightlife at Liquid Coffe, Bar and Restaurant located in Hacienda Luisita, Tarlac City. In fact, they have Party Life Fridays and Saturdays.
As Tarlac is just emerging as a tourist destination, there are just a few notable hotels in the province which are mostly located in its capital city, such as Microtel Inn & Suites, Central Park Hotel, and La Maja Rica Hotel, all in Tarlac City.
Schedule your visit during cooler months but little rain such as May to June or November to January. During these months, the surroundings are greener and the waterfalls are rich in water. Further, cooler but dry weather will let you do more outdoor activities because you will be thankfully spared from possible quick exhaustion due to heat and there’s no rain to stop you from hitting the dirt road.
Bring your water bottle with you. All these activities in Tarlac will make you sweat and always thirsty.
Bring several clothes to change into as well as footwear appropriate for rough outdoor activities. Take an insect repellant with you when you go hiking and trekking.