With its colorful history and amazing heritage sites, Baliwag offers surprisingly beautiful destinations within its borders. Let me first extend our heartfelt gratitude to the Local Government Unit of Baliwag, through Ms. Laarni of Municipal Tourism Office, for the familiarization tour held last September 23, 2018.
Sauntering through the downtown center of Baliwag, easily recognizable from the skyline is the Church Facade and Bell Tower – Saint Augustine Parish Church. It was on a Sunday when we set foot on its front yard, almost like filled to the brim with parishioners, and the usual sampaguita vendors at its doors.
Adjacent to its walls is heritage parks that shaped the recent history of the town- the Glorrieta Park, famous as a skating rink during the 80s and 90s. Talk about nostalgia. Today, the park has a multipurpose use public area and water fountain. There are public seats under the shade of trees if you wish to enjoy the sites and sounds of the downtown center.
It is also noticeable in this heritage area the bust of Andres Bonifacio, which is actually unique, as the bust depicts the hero riding a horse, unusual to the other busts around the archipelago. There is also a bust of Jose Rizal nearby, beside a woman figure that signifies justice. It is placed high on top of a pillar-like structure.
Fronting the church bell tower is the Clock Tower. Approximately about 5-6 storey high and another defining structure of the Baliwag skyline. I instantly have compared it with the Two Towers movie of Lord of the Rings franchise.
A few strides from towers would be the original stall of Gloria Romero, one of the heritage restaurants of the town. We have our breakfast at the new location of Gloria Romero, and what defined my new threshold of delicacy is their “Killer Okoy”! We are lucky to have a live preparation of this delicacy and enjoy a freshly made Okoy on our plates. I easily downed five pieces but still craving for more. The fried squash strips made into a patty and mix of shrimp creates a pleasant aftertaste while chewing.
Going to the old municipal hall is about less than 5 minutes walk from the heritage area. Its facade still has the original structure and are perfect backdrop for your social media posts. The arches and walls already have ferns and other plant species growing from it.
Fronting the building is one of the oldest trees in the town – talk about surviving decades and decades of cyclic or erratic changing of the weather.
We are greeted by below weavers of Buntal Hat at the first floor of the old municipal building – one of the main and traditional products of Baliwag. I asked personally one of the weavers, Ate Emilia, 58 years old, she started the craft since 15 years old, you do the math. According to her, it would take about a week to finish one hat. Sir Erwin Valenzuela aka “Tsunami”, one of the most respected travel guides in the Philippine Tourism Industry mentioned, that Philippine Delegates don these exquisite hats during a huge international sporting event. What a way to flaunt Filipino craftsmanship! The second floor holds a museum where artifacts are on display. There are books that hold the history of Baliwag and other war artifacts. There is this one on display with a bullet mark.
Who have thought that a heritage building is well kept inside a busy university in the town. Baliwag University has the known “Bahay na Bato” within its premises and is staged to be the university chapel and a hall in holding functions. As you ascend to the halls of the university chapel, I am amazed with architectural details they are able to preserve, plus the smell of old wood completes the experience.
If you are a religious art fanatic, the Tengco family holds one of the largest collection of religious statues. Its covered front yard has many statues on display. Noticeable also is a certification from the Vatican.
There is a manmade pond in the middle of the yard. Since I have this apprehension being near statues of saints, I just stayed near the pond and observed the displays afar.
Are you keen in knowing how meat products are manufactured? We are lucky that we are able to observe the delicate processes of manufacturing hot dogs, cured meats and meatloaf inside the production area of Ortega’s Best. We are required to don hairnets, masks, boots, and long gown, and joked around as part of a medical team. This is Baliwag’s major meat processor.
There is this farm in the very heart of Baliwag that holds one of the most number of fruit-bearing trees and hundreds of rabbits – Aven Nature’s Farm and Rabbitry. As you enter its gates, you will be welcomed by tall fruit-bearing trees planted few feet apart. It is the most diverse farm I have seen as of writing. Since I am craving of fruits from Davao, I asked if they have Marang and Durian tree. Guess what is the response of Sir Art. Yes, they have! I got delighted though that we have these trees in Luzon soil.
During the tour, We are lucky to have Sir Art, the owner, to answer all of my intriguing questions about the awareness of rabbit farming. He said that rabbit farming is still at its baby stage and needs the support of the LGU.
We are able also to try rabbit meat dishes like congee and caldereta. Its taste resembles that of chicken meat, however, has its distinct aroma or aftertaste that I can hardly describe.
The tour in the farm, of course, includes seeing hundreds of adorable rabbits of varying age, size, and color. It is hard to think that these cute animals will be products for meat – cause it is in my paradigm that rabbits are pets only.
The day is capped in enjoying the sunset at The Greenery resort, one of the known and instagrammable resorts in Baliwag! Its beautiful architecture, layout and design will transport its visitors and guests in the farms of USA. During our visit, there are many groups having photoshoot sessions, from prenups to debutants.
Baliwag town is connected with the NCR and nearby provinces through established public transportation – bus, jeep, and vans. Visiting this amazing town is proved not daunting. Baliwag is just near the Metro Manila area, however, this town packs in destination for history and heritage lovers, plus its natural spots are prepared to bring awe to the visitors. Visit Baliwag now!