Epic Ride: Balibago Food Trip

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Some of you might be thinking why bring a very small scooter on a long ride but don’t let the small gas tank fool you though. In spite of the small 4.4 liter capacity, the Zoomer X will bring you a long way, as what I experienced during my most recent gastronomic trip to Angeles, Pampanga. Manila to Angeles via Mc Arthur Highway is about 110 kilometers one way, and believe it or not, I only had to gas up once in this long ride. It seemed like the scooter isn’t consuming any gas at all as the fuel gauge appeared to be stuck at times, only it wasn’t.

The handling of the scooter proved to be the best part of my riding experience as in spite of the different road conditions I experienced, the bike never wavered a bit.

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For someone who loves to ride, some of my road trips are for food trips as well. I took this bike from Manila to Pampanga not only to attend the Inside Racing Northern Bikefest in Clark, Pampanga, but also to have some sort of a “Food trip, Road trip as well”. I tried out some places in this article during my most recent trip to Balibago, Angeles City, while the others were from previous trips, by motorcycle of course.

After going through 5 hours of traffic in MacArthur Highway and some detour roads because of a bridge under construction in Bulacan, after passing through Candaba and Mexico, finally I reached Angeles City, Pampanga . And so the food trip began.
Although there are more, here’s a list of some of my favorite spots in Balibago.

Coffee Academy – Although the business name doesn’t sound like anything Kapampamgan, Coffee Academy is a household name in Pampanga when it comes to serving coffee blends and is also a popular hangout spot in Balibago. Coffee Academy is unique in a sense that this coffee shop uses Kapeng Barako, a local coffee bean that used to be very popular but is now surprisingly is nearing extinction. They use high-quality local beans harvested from the mountains of Sagada, and as well as in Cavite and Batangas. The syrups that they use are purely 100% sugar cane and they do not use any artificial flavoring at all. My personal favorite are their Cookies and Cream Oreo Milkshake and their house blend brewed coffee. Their success can be attributed to its its bestsellers containing the coffee shop’s house blend recipe. It used to be that they just served drinks and some cakes to maintain the coffee shop atmosphere but most recently they announced that they would be serving rice meals and other short orders like pasta, sisig, and pansit.

The shop gives you a relaxing atmosphere as if it invites everyone to just hang in there and chill. It gives you such a homey atmosphere as they also has a free wifi access that is available for everyone, so whether you’re a young professional who brings work with you even at off hours or a rider like me that just wants to have their dose of caffeine for the long ride ahead, Coffee Academy has a place for you.

One of the best things I like about Coffee Academy is the fact that you will never see this store closed. I remember one time after coming from a Northern Luzon Loop and I had to stop somewhere in Angeles City and was actually looking for a coffee shop to give me a big dose of caffeine at 2 in the morning and I was lucky to spot this cool hang out place.
Posted inside is their motto “Enjoy the coffee, never mind the cup.” This means that they take their coffee very seriously – no fancy cups, expensive tumblers to put your coffee in. Just plain good ‘ol coffee.

Their main branch is by MacArthur Hi-way in Balibago with an Annex just nearby.

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Sweet! (Pun intended)

Angeles Fried Chicken –There’s some sort of history here. Angeles city’s original KFC is Angeles Fried Chicken or AFC. Currently it is the olders surviving restaurant in Angeles City, Pampanga. This restaurant became popular as their original receipt AFC chicken 99% tastes like KFC’s. How they got hold, or got to imitate the original recipe of Col. Sanders is beyond me but there is only one thing that I could say – it is “Finger Lickin’ Good!”

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Where chicken tastes heavenly!

Going inside the place, you will get that 70’s or 80’s vibe, kind of like what you see in old Fernando Poe or Lito Lapid movies when they go inside restaurant in their old movies. AFC’s restaurant lacks a bit of lighting but I think they intended for it to be that way because whether it is day or night the lighting stays the same, with the feel of a fine dining atmosphere combined with a cheap but delicious specialty chicken.

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One of the best things I liked the place is the friendly and attentive staff of AFC. Whether they are jam-packed or whether you are the only one inside, always expect for them to give you their attention in serving you and making sure that your visit there is worth your while. This is a very big plus for me in enhancing my dining experience because the food is already so good that the great service makes it a whole lot better.

I ordered their 2 piece AFC specialty chicken for only 120 pesos

Didi’s – Ask anyone from Balibago for a good pizza joint and majority would recommend Didi’s Pizza.
Although it is a local restaurant that serves other thing like pansit, burgers, etc., Didi’s is famously known for their combination pizza.

The service staff though might not be existent at times because this place is packed to the roof every single time I went there. You might need to guide yourself as well to your own table and not expect the usual customer service a pizza place might provide. I do not know if this is actually a good thing or a bad thing because it might just actually show how good their pizza really is. I have even experienced an hour’s wait just to get a table plus another 30 minutes just to get my order. But nevertheless, the pizza was great and I did not regret the wait.

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I have visited this place several times already and though I liked their pizza very much, I feel differently though about the ambience. This is probably the darkest restaurant you will ever have gone to. I’m not sure if they are just trying to save electricity or just trying to create an intimate atmosphere but either way it did not work. I will definitely just take out my pizza next time.

Aling Lucing’s Sisig – not in Balibago but what the heck.

Now I know that this article is about my favorite spots in Balibago, and Aling Lucing’s is in another barangay but what the heck, their sisig is to die for. Most of the time people from Manila would even travel over a hundred kilometers just to have a meal in this hole in the wall. And that includes me.

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Excited as a first timer!

Though unconfirmed, it is said that the mouth-watering sisig that we eat now originated from this very same place – just near the old PNR in Angeles. Call it crazy but travelling the 100 plus kilometers was worth it for me. I have tried several sisig variations from a little spicy, to sweet, to chicken, pork, or beef – just name it but there’s a special flavor that is present in Aling Lucing’s sisig that make people from far away provinces travel for hours just to get a taste of their specialty. They have a melt in your mouth type of sisig, which is uniquely good and a welcome change for me as well as other sisig chefs aim to make their sisig crunchy, but not in Aling Lucing’s, they try to make it soft/chewy/mashed, but in a good way. For about 150 pesos, you get to have an order of sisig good for two already.

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The famous Sisig Queen of the Philippines

AC RUMPA

AC RUMPA stands for Angeles City Retired US Military Personnel Association so that actually gives us an idea on the nationality of the owners.

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It looks like an old house from the outside

The first time I went here was when I was with some colleagues from my former work on the way to a team building activity in Fontana, Clark. I had the spare ribs and I actually liked it. My friends said it was to die for but although I can’t agree 100% that it was that great, the food was particularly good and I enjoyed the meal. The barbecue spare ribs cost my wallet less than 200 pesos only.

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I got to try the steak with mashed potato

The façade of the restaurant looks like an old, condemned house but the inside looks like a real restaurant.
AC RUMPA is located at 1307 Surla Street, Angeles, Pampanga

Balibago has more than its fair share of great hangout places offering excellent food so it would be no surprise if I would be back sooner than later.

On the way home, and since I went on a gastronomic trip here in Angeles City, I had no choice but to take the MacArthur Highway from Pampanga all the way to Valenzuela. Currently, after 48 years of being under repair, the Calumpit bridge is still not yet finished. Good job local government and DPWH. Because of that I was forced to take the banca RoRo. It wasn’t even a barge…it was just a small raft carried by small bancas. If ever it would tilt in one direction, no one or nothing would be there to save this precious little baby. So much for the everyday experience of Bulacan and Pampanga taxpayers.
Over-all, I had a fun timing riding the Honda Zoomer X so special thanks to Honda for giving me this one of a kind experience. I have this genuine, inherent joy in riding so it is always a welcoming experience for me if I get to ride different kinds of motorcycles, whether near or far. That for me is the essence of motorcycling, all for the love of it. ‘Til next ride!

Live Free…

– Erik Gatmaitan is the author of http://www.pinoyrider.com – Journeying the Philippines SOLO on a motorbike.

Follow his adventures on his website or through his Facebook page at http://www.facebook.com/PinoyRider

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