Latest Stories


Holiday Land


Holiday buffet. Photograph by Margaux Salcedo

There is Filipino cuisine. And then there’s Pampango cuisine. Where what you love about Tagalog cooking is done with twice as much gusto and fervor. In the distribution of wealth, God gave Aklan white sands, Laguna received hot springs and Pampanga received the talent for cooking delicious delicacies.

The drive wouldn’t show it. Exiting the North Luzon Expressway, the roads only show cafeteria-style restos swarming with flies or the kind that doubles as a karaoke bar. Places that seem to offer nothing beyond pancit and San Miguel beer. It’s very rural, although further into town, there are franchised restaurant chains.

But you don’t travel all the way to Pampanga for a Chickenjoy or Burger McDo. What you would travel for is tapa. Tapang kalabaw. (Dried or cured carabao meat).There’s something about Pampanga and meats – whether pig, cow, carabao. Tocino, lechon and tapa are some of their best delicacies. Carabao meat, especially, can be a tricky thing. How do you tenderize something that was used to hard labor? How do you squeeze fat out of a muscle man? But the Pampangos have achieved it.

At Holiday Land, you can order the special Tapang Damulag, which is served a la carte, or have the Bistig Damulag (Carabao Meat Beefsteak) served at the buffet. Both are a delight to chew and not tough at all. The tapa borders on flavors of tocino, though, and is on the sweet side. If you cannot reconcile sweet with meat, this is not for you. Have instead the beefsteak damulag, which was bathed in soy sauce, beautifully marinated, instead.

Non-meat eaters need not fall into distress. Pampanga capitalizes on pork and beef but its talents are not limited to pleasing carnivores. The buro (fermented rice), a salty, sticky and savory rice delicacy (which uses rice and not glutinous rice a.k.a. malagkit) that has garlic sprinkled over it is a delight when wrapped in mustard leaves and, optionally, appreciated with fried catfish. It’s a delightful starter for the meat eaters that can serve as a main dish for those who have shyer appetites.

Two of the house specialties. Photograph by Margaux Salcedo

Daring eaters can dive into the balut a la pobre or fermented duck egg cooked adobo style. This is a stroke waiting to happen, but if you feel like you are healthy enough to escape death by balut, this would be perfect with an ice-cold bottle of Pale Pilsen. The best thing about this creation is that the white section of the balut, which is usually impossible to eat unless you are willing to have your teeth come off with it, is made especially soft, almost like the white part of a hard-boiled egg. Appreciating the balut with a fork and spoon becomes reality.

Other items on the buffet and sit-down menu are more common, such as adobong pusit (stewed squid) and kare-kare. They are good, too, but not exceptional enough to be considered a journey’s goal. The journey’s goal here would be the carabao. Balanced off by the mustasa and buro. Oh yeah.

Holiday Land is a simple place, with monobloc chairs. More like a pitstop. But you don’t journey to this side of Pampanga for a holiday. You journey to this side of the Philippines for the food. And in Pampanga, that’s always something to celebrate! •

Holiday Land. Olongapo-Gapan Road, San Fernando, Pampanga. Tel. (045) 961-3667. Major credit cards accepted. Open daily from 6:30 a.m. to 10 p.m. Wheelchair accessible.

Follow Us

Follow us on Facebook Follow on Twitter Follow on Twitter

Recent Stories:

Complete stories on our Digital Edition newsstand for tablets, netbooks and mobile phones; 14-issue free trial. About to step out? Get breaking alerts on your mobile.phone. Text ON INQ BREAKING to 4467, for Globe, Smart and Sun subscribers in the Philippines.

Tags: Food , Lifestyle , Travel

Copyright © 2014, .
To subscribe to the Philippine Daily Inquirer newspaper in the Philippines, call +63 2 896-6000 for Metro Manila and Metro Cebu or email your subscription request here.
Factual errors? Contact the Philippine Daily Inquirer's day desk. Believe this article violates journalistic ethics? Contact the Inquirer's Reader's Advocate. Or write The Readers' Advocate:
c/o Philippine Daily Inquirer Chino Roces Avenue corner Yague and Mascardo Streets, Makati City, Metro Manila, Philippines Or fax nos. +63 2 8974793 to 94
  1. How to enjoy Buntod
  2. World bids Gabriel Garcia Marquez ‘Adios’
  3. How Zsa Zsa Padilla found Conrad Onglao; Sharon Cuneta played Cupid
  4. ‘Wild West’ Masbate’s pristine marine gems
  5. Kim Atienza: At home with art and design
  6. How Margie Moran-Floirendo keeps her dancer’s body
  7. Life lessons I want to teach my son
  8. Garcia Marquez left unpublished manuscript
  9. Historic Fort Bonifacio tunnel converted into a septic tank
  10. Wanted: Beauty queen with a heart that beats for the environment
  1. How Zsa Zsa Padilla found Conrad Onglao; Sharon Cuneta played Cupid
  2. Are your favorite malls open this Holy Week break?
  3. Historic Fort Bonifacio tunnel converted into a septic tank
  4. ‘Labahita a la bacalao’
  5. Miss America: Don’t suspend teen over prom invite
  6. How Margie Moran-Floirendo keeps her dancer’s body
  7. This is not just a farm
  8. President Quezon was born here–and so was Philippine surfing
  9. Levine designs womenswear with help from fiancee
  10. Clams and garlic, softshell crab risotto–not your usual seafood fare for Holy Week
  1. How Zsa Zsa Padilla found Conrad Onglao; Sharon Cuneta played Cupid
  2. Mary Jean Lastimosa is new Miss Universe Philippines
  3. Did Angara ruin Pia Wurtzbach’s chances at Bb. Pilipinas?
  4. Dominique–Gretchen and Tonyboy Cojuangco’s daughter–now an endorser
  5. Vinegar test helpful vs cervical cancer
  6. From Jeannie to mom of suicide victim
  7. San Vicente beaches hidden but not for long
  8. Borgy and Georgina are back; others are off–again
  9. Why is the lifestyle set now afraid to wear jewelry–before Kim Henares?
  10. Sen. Angara: I thought Pia Wurtzbach gave a good answer


  • What Went Before: Malacañang allies alleged involvement in pork scam
  • Timeline: Napoles tell-all
  • 12 senators on Napoles ‘pork’ list, says Lacson
  • Napoles surgery in Makati hospital successful
  • Save the queen? Aide takes fall for Enrile, Gigi Reyes
  • Sports

  • Mixers trim Aces; Painters repulse Bolts
  • Donaire junks Garcia as coach, taps father
  • ’Bye Ginebra: No heavy heart this time
  • UAAP board tackles new rules
  • Baguio climb to decide Le Tour de Filipinas
  • Lifestyle

  • The best flavors of summer in one bite, and more
  • Homemade yogurt, bread blended with pizza, even ramen
  • Visiting chefs from Denmark get creative with ‘ube,’ ‘ buko,’ ‘calamansi,’ mangoes
  • Salted baked potatoes
  • A first in a mall: Authentic Greek yogurt–made fresh in front of diners
  • Entertainment

  • Return of ‘Ibong Adarna’
  • Practical Phytos plans his future
  • In love … with acting
  • From prison to the peak of success
  • ‘Asedillo’ location thrives
  • Business

  • This time, BIR goes after florists
  • Philippine Airlines to stop shipment of shark fins
  • PH banks not ready for Asean integration
  • Stocks down on profit-taking
  • Banks allowed to use ‘cloud’
  • Technology

  • ‘Unlimited’ Internet promos not really limitless; lawmakers call for probe
  • Viber releases new design for iPhone, comes to Blackberry 10 for the first time
  • Engineers create a world of difference
  • Bam Aquino becomes Master Splinter’s son after Wiki hack
  • Mark Caguioa lambasts Ginebra teammates on Twitter
  • Opinion

  • Editorial cartoon, April 24, 2014
  • Talking to Janet
  • Respite
  • Bucket list
  • JPII in 1981: walking a tightrope
  • Global Nation

  • PH seeks ‘clearer assurance’ from US
  • China and rivals sign naval pact to ease maritime tensions
  • What Went Before: Manila bus hostage crisis
  • Obama arrives in Tokyo, first stop of 4-nation tour
  • Believe it or not: Filipinos love US more than Yanks