Epic Ride: Tarlac Back in Time

“Tarlac: Back in time”


The Filipino Flag Standing High and Proud in Tarlac


Tarlac is a landlocked province of the Philippines located in Central Luzon. Its capital is Tarlac City. Tarlac borders Pampanga to the south, Nueva Ecija to the east, Pangasinan to the north, and Zambales to the west. It is a part of Central Luzon (or Region 3). It was the last Central Luzon province to be organized under the Spanish rule.

So why Tarlac?

For a province full of history, why not? The province of Tarlac has Philippine history written all over it and although the province is not that easy to get to due to its distance from Manila, the trip will be all worth it due to the numerous spots riders can visit. They will also not just be able to tour a new destination, but learn about their history as well. Furthermore, if you are the religious type, or you just want to reflect, Tarlac also has a lot to offer.

The preparation

As always, the most important part for me in any trip would be the preparation (Although it is fun at times to just go out and wander). Laying out your route, making your itinerary, preparing your safety gears.
Since it was raining the night before, and it was cold, I decided to bring a leather jacket along with my other usual safety gears.
I also did the basic pre-ride checks on the touring bike I would be using – The Yamaha SZ16 to at least minimize the risks and ensure that I’ll have a smooth ride to my destination. Apart from that, I already filled the gas tank up to the brim, as well as to put the correct tire pressure on the stock tires.
If you’ve been following my website www.pinoyrider.com over the years, you would have noticed that every time I go on a long trip, I always make sure to bring a topographic map. Apart from the usual purpose of a map, which is to give you directions, I could actually say that it helps me keep my sanity! You must be wondering why. The reason behind it is that when being in long trips, sometimes it takes as much as 12 to 14 hours in one day, you really know your progress. Being on road trips such as what I do takes hundreds and hundreds of kilometers solo, on consecutive days.
Anyway, since I wanted to keep the Yamaha SZ16 as stock as possible (and since I didn’t want to run the risk of voiding the warranty), I now bring a portable power bank with me (I used to have a charger installed on one of my other bikes) which contains up to twice as much power as my smart phone battery, so that means it could charge the device two times over. Perfect for long rides.
I knew that I had a lot on my plate today, and thus I left while the sun wasn’t still up. That way I would be able to cover as much distance as I could before the traffic sets in.

How to get there:
Northbound: From Manila take the MacArthur Highway (formerly the Manila North Road) starting in Valenzuela. It’s pretty much a straight shot from there except for the fact that you should take a left turn in Sta. Rita going to Malolos City (if you go straight you’ll end up in Gapan, Nueva Ecija). You’ll pass by the other towns of Bulacan up to Pampanga. Go straight until you’ll reach Mabalacat and then you’ll see huge Bamban bridge separating Pampanga from Tarlac. Tarlac is approximately 105 kilometers from Metro Manila.

Southbound: If you will be coming from the North, just take the provincial highway passing thru Ilocos Norte, Ilocos Sur, La Union, all the way up to Urdaneta, Pangasinan. From there just stay on MacArthur Highway until you reach Tarlac.

Exploring Tarlac

The Death March Memorial Shrine

The Bataan death March was the forcible transfer by the Imperial Japanese Army of 60,000 – 80,000 Filipino and American prisoners of war after the three month Battle of Bataan in the Philippines during World War II. All told, approximately 2,500 – 10,000 Filipino and 100 – 650 American prisoners of war died before they could reach Camp O’Donnell. Death tolls vary, especially amongst Filipino POWs, because historians cannot determine how many prisoners blended in with the civilian population and escaped. The march route started from Mariveles, Bataan to San Fernando, Pampanga. From San Fernando, survivors were loaded to a box train and they were brought to Camp O’Donell in Capas, Tarlac. Along the way, these prisoners were not given any food or water, and died from heat and / or exhaustion.

Situated along the main road of Capas town, The Death March Memorial Shrine commemorates and gives tribute to the bravery of Pinoy and American heroes during the Second World War Unfortunately, at the same time we recollect and pay tribute to the lives lost and gone during that dreadful period, this also reminds us of the atrocities and war crimes committed by the Imperial Japanese Army during the said period.

This shrine l stands and points in the high heavens. This structure signifies the heroism of the gallant and courageous soldiers who fought, sacrificed, and died all for the freedom we now possess. . I could not help and feel a bit patriotic as I took some pictures, knowing that a lot of soldiers who were fighting for our freedom died on the way here. This image ensures that we will never forget the heroism shown by these brave soldiers, Filipino and American. It would also be safe to say that this tells us that there will be better days ahead.


Death March Memorial Shrine

Luisita Train Relic

The only information I got about this old train is that it was used back in the 1960’s to deliver sugar cane to Hacienda Luisita. Hacienda Luisita is a sugar plantation owned by the Cojuangco family. It’s nice that they kept it and put it on display for everyone to see. Judging by the looks of it, one can even go as far back as the 1940’s as it reminds us of old style Filipino agriculture. The railway was made in the forties when Hacienda Luisita was managed by the Compañía de Tabacos de Barcelona. It delivered sugar cane to the sugar factory in the hacienda, and the sugar from the factory to Tarlac all the way up to Manila.
It’s always great to see artifacts such as this openly displayed for the public to see. It also gives us a brief glimpse of the how the early Filipinos (well not that early) lived and what their way of life was.


The Luisita Train Relic can be found at the center of Plaza Luisita in San Miguel, Tarlac.

Corazon Aquino Monument

At the city center, a monument to Cory Aquino stands in the middle of a small rotunda. It’s pretty hard to take a good picture due to the sheer number of cars and tricycles that pass by every time you try to set your digicam timer at 10 seconds but Cory is a very important symbol of our democracy, and a liberator against the oppressive iron-fist rule of the Martial Law, so I had to take a souvenir photo.
Corazon Cojuangco Aquino who was a self-proclaimed “housewife” prior to entering politics is recognized here in Tarlac (and most of the Philippines actually) as a hero who fought for our country’s democracy and freedom from oppression. As a widow dressed in yellow, her soft-spoken and honest dedication to the struggle to win back our democracy by peaceful means earned her the respect of an empowered nation and the international community. Burmese peace and democratic champion Aung San Suu Kyi even considers Cory Aquino as her inspiration.


Up to this day, President Cory stands as the undying symbol of our nation’s freedom. It’s not true that all that glitters is gold, maybe yellow too.

Benigno S. Aquino Monument

Ninoy Aquino once said “I return from exile and an uncertain future with only determination and faith to offer – faith in our people and faith in God.” These symbolic words demonstrated how confident and trusting Ninoy was on the Filipino’s resolve.

Probably the most famous Tarlaqueño, Ninoy was a Governor of Tarlac, then Philippine Senator and an opposition leader against President Ferdinand Marcos who held office from 1965 to 1986. He was assassinated at the Manila International Airport (later renamed in his honor) upon returning home from exile in the United States. His death catapulted his widow, Corazon Aquino, to the limelight and subsequently to the presidency, replacing the 20-year Marcos presidency. In 2004, the anniversary of his death was proclaimed as a national holiday now known as Ninoy Aquino Day.


The Benigno Aquino Monument in Tarlac City was erected to give gratitude and respect to Tarlac’s famous freedom fighter, Ninoy Aquino.

Tarlac Recreational Park

Officially called Jose V. Yap Sports and Recreational Complex – From a barren rocky terrain sprawled a 78 hectares sports and tarlac recreational park named after the late Congressman Jose V. Yap. It was his vision to have an international standard sports facility but the design of the complex was the brainchild of Gov. Victor A. Yap.
After several months of intense labor, the realization of the dream became the site of the two big sporting events, the Central Luzon Regional Athletic Meet (CLRAA) in 2009 and the much-talked about successful hosting of the Palarong Pambansa 2010.
The Tarlac Recreational Park and Sports Complex has a track oval of international standard, two football fields, two baseball fields, two soft ball fields, two basketball courts, volleyball and sepak takraw courts. A bmx track and firing range is on the works. Currently, a kiddie pool with amenities at par with the best inland resorts is also in operation.
78 hectares, with all those amenities and all sorts of international standard fields and courts, enjoy all of these for a small fee as you visit Tarlac. Entrance is free if you would just want to roam around. Being a cheapskate, that’s exactly what I did.


The Tarlac Recreational Park is located in Barangay San Juan de Valdez in San Jose.

San Sebastian Cathedral

The San Sebastian Cathedral is found at the heart of Tarlac City. It was once the site of the Revolutionary Congress. The highest Filipino seat of learning, the ‘Literario-Scientifico’ Universidad of Malolos in Bulacan was transferred here when San Sebastian Cathedral was formerly the Tarlac Catholic Convent in the late 1880’s.
As much as possible, I try to visit at least 1 church per long trip to ask for guidance in my journey as well as to thank the good Lord that I am able to do what I am doing right now, touring the Philippines.

From Manila, take the North Luzon Expressway then exit the Dau Toll Plaza. Upon reaching the Capas Town Market, turn left to Brgy Sta Rosario then proceed to Brgy Sta Juliana.


The Cathedral of Tarlac is located along F. Tanedo Street cor P. Burgos Street, Tarlac City, Tarlac. It is infront of the Town Plaza. Beside it is the College of the Holy Spirit. Tarlac is 120 kms from Manila and Travel time will take 2 hours via NLEX and up to 4 hours via MacArthur Highway

Should you be coming from MacArthur Highway, just go straight to Tarlac City town proper and you won’t miss this huge church as it is situated right across the City Capitol.

Monasterio de Tarlac and Servants of the Risen Christ Monastic Community

Probably the most difficult destination in my Tarlac province trip, Monasterio de Tarlac can only be accessed by going uphill to the mountains of Barangay Lubigan in Tarlac. By the time I reached the top, I was very much exhausted due to the sweltering heat that was present during the time. It was 36 to 37 degrees and I was wearing a leather jacket at noon. Not a good idea. Anyway, my advice to you fellow riders would be to hydrate and stop every now and then because you wouldn’t want to be dehydrated and collapse while being 150 kilometers away from home.

I could say that the monastery was the highlight of my trip to Tarlac. It was simply amazing, well-maintained, and solemn when I got there, as there weren’t much people around. The monastery was complete with amenities – its own church, prayer room, souvenir shops, monastic residence, among others. According to the Monastic Priests of Monasterio de Tarlac, There is no need to go beyond the self to discover God’s will, but only look within one’s soul and seemingly withdraw from worldly allurements. Solitary confinement within the reach of one’s aspiration enables him to discern God’s will in every given situation. The atmosphere of SILENCE and SOLITUDE is common in monasteries. Here lives are merged into one because of the attraction of a single vocation in stillness; serenity is produced out love for Jesus and neighbor. The innermost sanctum of one’s hearty and its desire day by day… moment by moment… time after time… we should then not hurry for anything for everything is a process, a gradual discovery of “Who am I?”

Monasterio de Tarlac is also said to carry a relic of the Holy Cross, the only one in Asia that possesses that distinction. It is also famously known for the 30 feet high statue of the Risen Christ overlooking the whole province, atop the mountain. One couldn’t help but be amazed and compare it to the famous Christ the Redeemer statue in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.

Monasterio de Tarlac can only be accessed by going uphill to the mountains of Barangay Lubigan in Tarlac. Road signs are abundant so you won’t get lost. Just don’t trust the kilometer markers that tell you how close (or far) you are from your destination, as they are highly inaccurate.



Riding around Tarlac

As I’ve mentioned earlier, Tarlac is home to different important moments in our country’s history so it won’t be very difficult to find out interesting places to visit. I would suggest to also go to the “inner” part of the province so at least you would be able to get to talk to the locals, learn their culture, and check out how hospitable they are. Most of the roads are paved already and there are several shortcuts within that connects the different towns altogether but I would not recommend it to first timers. Enjoy the cool breeze of the mountains, and expect to see a lot of rice fields, as the province is still predominantly agricultural. Also, don’t be surprised to see road works most especially on the highways as it seems to be a permanent fixture in Tarlac.

The Yamaha SZ16’s engine proved adequate and capable for this Epic Ride. The large gas tank helped a lot too as it made sure that I did not make any unplanned and unnecessary stops just to gas up.



The Armed Forces Museum in Tarlac holds very important artifacts of the 2nd World War

Rice and Field terraces are ever present in Tarlac


The Pinoy Rider traversing the Roads of Tarlac Province

Another epic ride, it was once again worth it as I did not only enjoy the trip, but learned about the country’s history as well. Notwithstanding the risks involved, I feel that motorcycling really gives me the freedom I want. I get to think, reflect, and go to places I’ve never been to using my motorbike.

Live Free…

– Erik Gatmaitan is the author of https://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

Live Free…

– Erik Gatmaitan is the author of https://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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