Imagine getting away to the mountains of Cordillera and strolling the historic towns of Ilocos then road-tripping around the plains of Pampanga and the beaches of Zambales and finally living the adventure in the caves of Cagayan all in one day? Impossible? Think again. Located in San Fernando, Pampanga is HILAGA Philippines, a tourism village where the wealth, character and cultures of the four Northern Regions of Luzon are pooled together to provide every visitor the virtual experience of a visit to the North-Cordillera Administrative Region (CAR), Cagayan Valley, Ilocos and Central Luzon Regions.
Formally launched in September 2003, HILAGA is the former Paskuhan Village. It sits on a 9.3 hectare property of the PTA in San Jose City, San Fernando, Pampanga. Hilaga can be seen as you approach the San Fernando exit tollgate along the North Luzon Expressway, 65 kilometers from Manila. It is 60 kilometers away from Subic International Airport and just 20 kilometers from Clark International Airport. It is located at a crossroad close to two giant shopping malls.
Any public transport bound for Zambales, Bataan or Pampanga can take you to Hilaga. By car from Metro Manila, you can take the North Diversion Road, exit at the San Fernando Toll Plaza, and then turn right at the Olongapo-Gapan Road.
The main attraction of the Village are the regional exhibit halls which are microcosms of each of the four Northern regions. Each of the exhibit halls are appropriately designed and arranged to evoke the nature, character and atmosphere of the region it represents. The "Rimat ti Amianan" exhibit hall features the best of Ilocos Norte, Ilocos Sur, Pangasinan, La Union, and the cities of Dagupan, San Carlos, Urdaneta, San Fernando, and Laoag.
Replicas of the Shrine of the Nuestra Señora de Manaoag, the Hundreds Islands, and the town of Pagudpud are displayed. Also included in the exhibit are photos of historical places and attractions of the region. Pictures of the Archbishop’s Palace, St. Paul’s Cathedral, The Bantay Church, the coralstone belltower, The Redeemer’s Cross, Paoay Church, and the Cape Bojeador Lighthouse, natural and tourist attractions such as Sulvec Beach, Paraiso ni Imelda, Pinsal Falls, Pug-os Beach, and the beaches of Pasuquin.
The second exhibit hall is called "Kappianan na Cagayan Valley Hall." Here, the provinces of Cagayan, Isabela, Quirino, Nueva Vizcaya, the City of Santiago and the Island Province of Batanes are featured.
The main displays are artifacts from everyday Ibanag, Bungkalot and Ivatan life, from costumes to houseware. Illustrated are the old art of brick making, and old churches like the Cathedral of the Immaculate Concepcion, the San Pablo Church, the San Jacinto Chapel, and the St. Vincent Ferrer Church.
The Miracle of Our Lady of Piat, tracing back its roots from Macao to Lallo, Cagayan and to its current resting place, with pictures and a replica of Our Lady. The Caves of the Cagayan Valley are featured in one corner of the exhibit.
Region 3’s exhibit hall, "Sinukwan Hall," showcases the history, arts, crafts, festivals, products, and also the eminent people of Aurora, Bataan, Bulacan, Nueva Ecija, Pampanga, Tarlac, and Zambales.
Photos of Aurora’s tourist attractions like the Suman Festival, the Ditumabo falls, the Disacalarin Beach and cove, the Diguisit Beach, the Borlongan Beach, and the Pinadawan Beach. The Bataan exhibit displays the infamous Death March trails and World War II paraphernalia.
Displayed at the Bulacan exhibit are pictures of historical and tourist destinations such as the Barasoain Church, St. Anne National Shrine, Kakarong Republic 1896, the Biak-na-Bato National Park, and the Pulian Butterfly Heaven.
Snapshots of Nueva Ecija’s tourist attractions like the Pantabangan Dan, the Midtown Freedom, the Gabaldon Spring, and the Luna Falls, are also part of the presentation.
Pampanga’s exhibit draws attention to the pictures of festivals like the Sinukwan Festival, the Aguman Sanduk, the Cutud Lenten Rites, the Apung Iru Festivals, and the Sabat Santacruzan are also shown.
Tarlac’s exhibit features different sites like the Tarlac National High School and the San Sebastian Cathedral of the Catholic Church, which was the seat of the Philippine Revolutionary Congress.
Showcasing the best of Abra, Benguet, Ifugao, Kalinga-Apayao, Mountain Province and the chartered City of Baguio, is the "Gran Cordillera Abong Hall."
Snapshots of the slopes and mountains of Sagada, most significant of these is Mt. Pulag and the hanging coffins in the caves of Sagada are shown.
Photos of the Philippine Military Academy, Burnham Park, Wright Park, Mines View Park, the Mansion House, Mt. Sto. Tomas, and the Baguio Market, are put on show.
The decorations in each of the exhibit halls are so quaint and the miniatures are very apt that they evoke the desire to visit and travel to the actual spot and see the attractions, savor the tastes, immerse in the sounds and atmosphere of the area.
And of course, any travel experience is incomplete if one fails to buy local goods to bring back home. HILAGA is replete with stalls where local merchandise from any of the provinces of the Northern regions are sold. There are stalls that peddle basi wine from Ilocos, bangus from Pangasinan, hand-woven shawls and carpets from the Cordilleras, wood carvings from Cagayan, and various rice products from Central Luzon.
Apart from the regional exhibit halls and the stalls, there are the gardens of HILAGA and the Aviary which can provide visitors some peace and quiet and a little dose of knowledge and discovery. The Gardens boast of various landscape designs as well as endemic and exotic plants, while the aviary is home to several birds such as the parrot, the cockatoo, and the mallards as well which can be found only in Mindanao.
And if somehow the stroll makes you feel quite tired, you can always resort to the boat ride on the tranquil man-made pond just beside the hotel and the aviary. For only R30/half hour, one can truly immerse in the cool breeze and let your mind get lost in the quiet ambiance of the Gardens. But if you are looking for action and more excitement, HILAGA has swimming pool, paintball and target shooting facilities.
The swimming pool, which is right beside the Gardens of HILAGA, is operated by Gerturdes Lozada of the reputable and athletic Lozada clan. The Paintball and Target Shooting facilities on one hand are run by the Extreme Paintball Philippines and the Pinoy Paintball Incorporated. The Paintball facilities are situated between the swimming and the aviary areas while the target shooting facility is right beside the entrance to HILAGA.
In addition, there are bicycles and Kalesa rides around the HILAGA Oval. For only R10, the rides are a good alternative to a leisurely walk from one place to another within the oval in several rounds.
And if all the strolling and rides around the areas render you a little exhausted, spread all over the HILAGA Oval are ice cream, cotton candy, taho and fishball stands and carts to help you replenish your energy. But if real meal is what you are after, you can always head to the Food Court where regional cuisine and local delicacies are prepared and served at a good deal.
If the sun sets down on you while you are still in the village, don’t fret, HILAGA is best appreciated at night time. As soon as twilight comes, HILAGA comes alive with all the bright lights and lanterns hanging on trees and posts. And while the lights start to get you in the right mood, the live acoustic and band performances in Plaza de Guiao and Secretary’s Garden, respectively, will definitely make your day and night complete. And if you are lucky, you may even catch some live cultural performances in the Amphitheater or the Plenary Hall.
to be continued..
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