There’s no denying that the province of Pampanga is known for its delectable dishes. But in the city of San Fernando, apart from exciting culinary fare, affordable fashion and the province’s vibrant culture are taking center stage.
A 30-minute ride from Quezon City via the North Luzon Expressway, Robinsons Starmills is a destination for locals and foreign tourists alike looking for a wide variety of fashion selections that won’t burn a hole in their pockets.
With outlet stores of international and local brands housed in this three-level mall—Mango, Guess, Olympic Village Outlet, Folded & Hung, People are People, Space, Collezione, Mogao—it’s a place where the value-minded fashionista can shop till he drops, because items are sold at discounted prices of as much as 75 percent.
Christmas in the Philippines starts as early as September. And with the coming of the “’Ber” months, in Pampanga it signals the start of its well-loved festivals—Tugak, Sinukwan and Giant Lantern.
Known for exotic and authentic dishes like batute (deep-fried frog), the Tugak (Kapampangan for frog) Festival celebrates the tradition of the city’s residents of catching and cooking frogs.
It also celebrates the resiliency of its people. Having survived the eruption of Mt. Pinatubo in 1991, Pampangueños were able to rise from the ashes and make their province economically viable again.
In honor of Aring Sinukwan, god of the ancient Kapampangans, the Sinukwan Festival relives the Kapampangan spirit in a weeklong celebration capped by a colorful street-dance parade to the tune of Pampanga’s folk song “Atin Cu Pung Singsing.”
Annually held from Nov. 29-Dec. 6, Sinukwan highlights Pampanga’s cultural diversity.
And come the week before Christmas Eve, the mall is lit with beautifully crafted lanterns signaling the start of the Giant Lantern Festival.
The festival, a competition of giant lanterns, has earned the city the title of “Christmas Capital of the Philippines.”
Apart from the usual shopping and dining experience one can get in a mall, the Department of Foreign Affairs, in partnership with Robinsons Land Corp. (RLC), opened its consular office at the second floor of Starmills to serve passport applicants not only from Pampanga but also those north of Manila.
Pampanga’s Foreign Officer-in-Charge Arturo Romua said this undertaking is part of the public-private partnership initiative of the Aquino administration.
RLC group property manager Jodee Pineda-Arroyo said the DFA’s consular office is part of the mall’s Lingkod Pinoy Center, a one-stop shop where one can avail of “hassle-free, safe and comfortable processing of documents such as NBI clearances, SSS payments and the likes.”
Following mall hours, the consular office in Starmills processes passport applications and renewals. And starting this month, it will also authenticate public and personal documents needed by Filipinos abroad, such as birth, marriage and death certificates, school diploma and other school records, contracts and other services.
“These services will be of most convenience to our overseas workers,” Romua said.
One thing that sets this consular office apart is that here one can feast his eyes on the various artworks done by Kapampangan artists.
“We want to showcase the artistry of Kapampangans,” Romua said.
Whether it’s been a day of shopping, processing documents or just strolling, one can always find something that will satisfy the palate at the mall’s Fiesta Kapampangan, a pocket within the mall that provides not just traditional but also innovative Kapampangan dishes.
Below are the must-trys at Fiesta Kapampangan:
Aling Lucing’s Sisig
Known for: Variety of sisig. Pioneer and inventor of the famous sisig of the ’70s and earned the title “queen of sisig.”
Known for: Pampanga-style grilled liempo with lagat puso, grilled tugak batute (frog stuffed with ground pork)
Da Nanuk’s Steak House
Known for: T-Bone steak, sirloin
Edelyn’s Homemade Nuts
Known for: dry roasted cashew nuts, greaseless peanuts, special garlic chips
Rosemary & Thyme Restaurant
Known for: Civet coffee, salad
Known for: authentic Kapampangan kakanin
Cecilia’s Crispy Pata and Bulalohan
Known for: crispy pata and bulalo
Known for: authentic Kapampangan cuisine
Asan Danum Cuisine
Known for: seafood
Navarro’s Taba ng Talangka
Known for: crab paste, fermented shrimp, papaya pickles