Pray and Play in Pangasinan
Text and Photos by BERNARD SUPETRAN
Mention Pangasinan and two images come instantly to mind—Manaoag Shrine and Hundred Islands—two destinations which entice one to pray and play in this charming northern getaway.
It is then no coincidence said that Pangasinenses pray hard, evident in the massive churches which reflect their piety. Manaoag was recently elevated into a Basilica Minore because of its historical and devotional significance, being a pilgrimage site for people seeking divine petitions.
The massive church complex, one of the most visited in the country, is also home to an ecclesiastical museum
chronicling the religious development of the town. At the outer wall of the church is a pasalubong center where one can bring home the best local delicacies and handicraft.
Other remarkable houses of worship include the postcard-pretty churches of Bolinao and Calasiao, declared a National Cultural Treasures by the National Museum.
It doesn’t have to be Holy Week to do a virtual visita iglesia, but church-hopping around is like a crash course on history and architecture.
Among the pilgrimage-worthy churches are those of Alaminos City, Binmaley, Bayambang, Aguilar, Bugallon, Lingayen, Labrador and Dagupan City, the seat of the Archdiocese.
After praying, visitors and locals alike play as they hie off to the nearest beach or resort hideaway.
With the rich Lingayen Gulf, undulating mountains, the mighty Agno River system, inland resorts and fine beaches of different shades, Pangasinan is a playground that won’t disappoint.
A must-do is island-hopping at the iconic Hundred Islands National Park in Alaminos City, one of the country’s earliest beach hideaways which have tickled our fancy since childhood.
Leap-frogging in this 123-island archipelago has become more exciting with helmet diving in Governor’s Island where one can descend to the seabed in a special underwater gear for non-divers. The newly-landscaped Quezon Island boasts of an exciting zipline and spruced up facilities.
A more physical way to explore the islands is to paddle a kayak to admire the various rock formations up close.
With an almost infinite coastline, the province provides a beach overload to sunworshippers—Patar in Bolinao, Tondol in Anda, Cabo in Burgos, and the old-time favorite San Fabian.
A playground in the true sense of the word is the Aquatica Marina Waterpark of El Puerto Marina Resort in Lingayen. The only one of its kind in Pangasinan, the beachside park boasts of five swimming pools—a long slide pool, a wave pool with a giant bucket, the “raging river”, a small slide pool and a kids’ playpool. The main hotel has a fancy Inca-inspired swimming pool which is ideal for pictorials.
A stone’s throw away is Lingayen Gulf if you prefer to bask in the sea and the sand. The vast expanse of beachfront
became the landing ground of the Allied Forces in 1945 led by Gen. Douglas MacArthur to liberate Luzon from Japan during World War II.
Guests can surf, skimboard, kayak or ride an ATV in the beach, do evening bonfires, or gaze at the poetic sunset.
For a back-to-the-basics experience, wake up at before dawn and witness the fisherfolk, mending their nets with a bountiful catch. You can buy fresh fish and other aquatic harvest at rock-bottom rates for a seafood feast.
The resort, arguably the best in the province, offers comfy tropical-themed rooms and modern lodgings in their new VCI-accredited hotel building. Its sprawling complex is ideal for business-related activities, team-building, private functions, and garden or beach weddings.
They also arrange sightseeing tours around the heritage spots of Lingayen and nearby towns, as well as island-hopping excursions at Hundred Islands for a worryfree travel.
In a land blessed with rich soil and seas, food-tripping is one way to enjoy Pangasinan’s natural bounty.
Come chow time, El Puerto Marina offers a gastronomic journey with the mouthwatering local cuisine which represents the best of the province. Sink your teeth on the tasty bangus of Dagupan City, the small-but-luscious longganisa of Alaminos, pinca (swordfish) of Sual, freshwater cacth from Bayambang, and puto from Calasiao. Most of these food delights can be sourced at the Lingayen public market, a major provincial trading post and a one-stop shop for the obligatory pasalubong.
The town’s claim-to-fame is the bagoong (fish paste), a native condiment which perks up every Filipino dish. Lingayen is lined with bagoong factories where visitors can enter and witness its traditional preparation.
For those with sweet tooth, bukayo candy (sweet coconut candy strip) is another must-taste which is a throwback to the good old days of simple countryside living.
Along the highway are roadside stalls and ambulant vendors peddling the signature dessert-slash- appetizers tupig (grilled glutenous rice sticks) and patupat (sweet sticky rice in coconut leaves).
While every municipality has its own version of these two popular delicacies, the interior town of Balungao takes pride with its home blend and splendid packaging which makes its way across the country.
Regarded as the “goat capital” of the province, Balungao boasts of tender mutton meat which they try to reinvent from papaitan and kinilaw to sushi and other Oriental concoctions.
Pangasinan’s food is also influenced by Ilocano way of life because of its proximity, so don’t be surprised if pakbet, dinengdeng at bagnet appear on your dining table.
This is Pangasinan where you can pray, play, fast and feast.