Follow the trail up North Luzon and you’ll step into a world of rich history, cuisine, and landscapes. We took our car and started The Journey North— discovering places, dishes, and traditions you can only drive up north to experience.
We took the new Chevrolet Trailblazer Phoenix on the road, and it definitely proved itself as a great car for road trips. It can withstand the winding roads and uphill climbs flawlessly. It has more power compared to the previous model, making it the best in class when it comes to power.
Day 1 of our Journey North went something like this: Manila – Bulacan – Pampanga – Baguio
5:00AM – Leave Manila
6:00AM – Arrive Malolos, Bulacan
8:00AM – Leave for Pampanga
12:00PM – Arrive Angeles City, Pampanga
3:30PM – Leave for Baguio
6:00PM – Arrive Baguio
Sounds like a long day ahead, but there’s so many activities to look forward to!
Stopover 1: Bulacan
The Best Kakanin in North Luzon
Mang Gorio’s Kakanin
Atnag, Malolos City, Bulacan
Kakanin is the quintessential Filipino merienda, and it comes in all shapes and colors. The term comes from what I believe are the Filipinos’ two favorite words in the dictionary: “kain” (to eat), and “kanin” (rice). In its most basic form, kakanin is a sweetened sticky rice snack mixed with coconut milk. It is then steamed and wrapped in banana leaves.
Mang Gorio’s has been making varieties of kakanin for over 30 years. You might get lost while trying to look for the shop, but once you spot it, you’re in for a treat. Cauldrons with sticky coconut concoctions are bubbling away, and hot orange coals are fired up ready to go. Here you can see how they make kakanin from scratch.
When we paid them a visit, I was able to see how they prepared bibingka, kalamay monggo, and sapin-sapin. The people here prepare as early as 1AM, just to make it in time for their customers to pick up the finished product.
Empanadas de Kaliskis: A 200-Year-Old Heirloom Recipe
Mercy’s Empanada de Kaliskis
M Tengco St, Malolos, Bulacan
An empanada is a savory pastry that’s also a popular snack in the Philippines. It’s made of a thin dough filled with a meat mixture, which is then folded over into a crescent shape and baked or fried. Here in Malolos, we found a small shop that sells these baked goods. Mercy’s empanadas de kaliskis are a sight to behold, it looks too good to eat!
The brilliant thing about food is that it can live through generations and still be enjoyed the same way. This particular empanada recipe has stood the test of time for 200 years. It’s a well-kept secret, but the crisp golden ridges that fold one after the other have become instantly recognizable. Bite into it and you’ll see that it’s filled with chicken and potatoes fresh from the market.
Stopover 2: Pampanga
A Bird’s Eye View of Pampanga
Angeles Flying Club
Pampanga is best known as the country’s culinary capital. This is the birthplace of some of the country’s best cooks, and also where you can find exotic dishes like betute tugak (stuffed frogs) and fried crickets. It’s best to visit for a food trip, but this place also has outdoor activities you can try.
For the adrenaline junkies, you can try the 4×4 offroad trail near Mt. Pinatubo. The scenic views of the lahar landscapes as you zoom past the trail is definitely an extraordinary experience.
Or if you’re brave enough, you can take it up in the air at the Angeles Flying Club. You’ll be able to see Pampanga in one sweep, from the lush fields to a closer look at the famed Mt. Pinatubo.
Stopover 3: Baguio
Food Tasting of Igorot Delicacies: Pinuneg, Pinikpikan, etc.
The Igorot Chef Restaurant
Magsaysay Ave, Baguio, Benguet
Drive up 3 more hours north and you’ll hit the famous province of Benguet. Our last stop for our first day is in Baguio. This highland is known for its cluster of pine trees and rustic vibe. It’s a popular destination for Filipinos during long weekends, almost like a quick retreat from the city life. Popular activities include strawberry picking, coffee-tasting, or sightseeing through the parks.
For our last activity, we rewarded ourselves with a huge meal of the finest Igorot delicacies. At the Igorot Chef Restaurant, they’ll serve you a massive tray enough to feed a whole family.
Included in the meal is pinuneg, or blood sausages. It’s made with pork blood, innards, and chopped vegetables. They also have pinikpikan, which is made by hitting the live chicken repeatedly to get the most flavor.
Watch our Journey North!