For motorsport aficionados, Clark Freeport Zone has long been synonymous to the International Speedway, the country’s racing mecca in the heartland of Pampanga. With its 4.2-km circuit accredited at grade 4 level by the Fédération Internationale de l’Automobile no less, it is home to countless motorsport events, most notably Toyota’s sought-after Vios Cup and Vios Racing Festival.
With a splendid road network connected to the expressways, this aerotropolis is a haven for big bikers, cyclists, and food trippers who crave for Kapampangan cuisine. With the opening of the Philippine Basketball Association’s 45th “bubble” season tonight in Angeles City, the Greater Clark area is indeed a logical destination which is accessible and inexpensive, sans the over-the-top isolations and swab test requirements.
The venue of the 30th Southeast Asian Games, the former US Air Base will also host the fourth Philippine Sports Tourism Awards this December, having won the said award twice.
Here’s a unique guide for the travel-deprived wanderers for a beyond-the-usual journey into a place we think we know so well.
Pit Stop 1: Clark Parade Grounds. The core of the Freeport, this vast open space is lined with century-old hardwood trees and pine wood barn houses, where the former US air base started as the Fort Stotsenburg cavalry camp in 1902 and grew over the years.
The quadrangle is dotted with the Fort Stotsenburg portal gate and tableau, World War II memorial markers, the Clark Museum, and the spot where President Manuel Roxas died in 1946, to name a few.
Grab a bite at Cafe Mesa which is known for its tasty power breakfast, pastries and gourmet dishes at an American-style bungalow.
Pit Stop 2: El Kabayo Riding Stables. An oft-forgotten fact of Clark’s checkered history is its being a hub of military horsemen. And one way of preserving this heritage is to rediscover the area on horseback from an age-old regal mode of mobility offered by El Kabayo.
Ride across the Sacobia River bed and be transported to another place in time at the canyons of the so-called Verdant trail reminiscent of the Wild, Wild West. Intriguing side attractions along the way are Bella Montana Farm which overlooks Clark’s plains and the obscure Calbutan Farm which has a spring pool where riders and bikers dip and refresh.
Alternatively, you can also pedal your mountain bike or motor the challenging offroad trails in the nature and adventure subzone in Bamban, Tarlac.
After the thrilling ride, feast on certified angus beef brand steaks, prime rib roast and baby back ribs
at Amante Ribs and Steaks, to complete your foray into cowboylandia with the resto’s Texan saloon motif and cuisine.
Pit Stop 3: Mountain Clark Shooting Range. After a hearty lunch, pump up your adrenaline and fire rounds in this range in Pulung Maragul, Angeles City. With its wide array of Glock pistols, M4 rifles, and shotguns to choose from, even newbies can mark this experience with a bang.
Pit Stop 4: Angeles Heritage Zone. Travel back in time in this antiquarian downtown, known as Santo Rosario, which is noted for its historic structures which figured in our libertarian struggles. The most prominent of these is the Pamintuan Mansion, which was once Gen. Emilio Aguinaldo’s headquarters and is now the Museum of Philippine Social History.
For a better feel of its Old World charm, it is best to tour on foot or on a bicycle to see up close the Holy Rosary Church, the Bale Matua or Founders’ Residence, and the Museo Ning Angeles, the city museum and former municipal hall. An eye-catching grain storehouse-turned-restaurant is Ang Camalig which serves Armando’s gourmet pizza made up of Pinoy ingredients, palamig beverages, and admire its collection of antiques and vintage photographs of the city.
If you snoop around diligently, you’ll surely spot pasalubong shops, well-preserved old houses, and hole-in-the-wall eateries which can spring up the signature sizzling sisig and other native delicacies.
Pit Stop 5: San Fernando. On the way back home, unwind in this laid-back urban center which has its own set of surprises which makes the Greater Clark a unique mix. Cozy up for dinner at The Souq, a virtual melting pot of gastronomy, art and inspiration, which captures the ambiance of an Arabic marketplace with its chic but welcoming look.
If the action-packed day and the hearty dinner makes you sleepy, yield and hit the sack at the adjacent designer boutique Hamanda Hotel for a sound and rejuvenating sleep.
With recharged batteries the next day, you might just want a new round of physical activities like a golf game at the 18-hole Mimosa Golf and Country Club, an endurance run around Clark’s 50-km bicycle trail, and an irresistible food trip sequel.
A true-blue day tripper since age 19, he has travelled across the archipelago by land, air, and sea. As a communications trainer, travel photojournalist, tourist mapmaker, scuba diver, environment advocate, or simply a family road tripper, he has imbibed the diversity of the Philippines by learning the basic way of life of the places he visits.