Best of the Philippines: Pacific Farms Agri-Eco Tour
It’s no secret that the Philippines is blessed with many natural wonders and resources. All throughout its 7100+ islands, The Philippines boasts of fertile, arable lands, extensive coastlines, and diverse flora and fauna. Surely there’s just so much to do and see in one’s lifetime! (Remember the breathtaking trip I made to Santa Ana Cagayan a few weeks back?) And just last week, I was able to do a uniquely immersive experience yet again up north. Welcome to the Salt Farm Tour at Pacific Farms in Bolinao, Pangasinan!
What is the Pacific Farms Agri-Eco Tour?
The Pacific Farms Agri-Eco Tour is a one-day educational tour that allows guests to explore the 500-hectare property Pacific Farms, Inc. (PFI). PFI is the largest salt farm/producer in the Philippines, producing about 15,000 metric tons of salt every year. The tour consists of six (6) stations with a friendly guide assigned to each one.
Salt Trivia 1: Did you know there are 14,000 known uses for salt?
Station 1: Sunrise Viewing Deck
So just a little back story. We were graciously accommodated by our hosts in their rest house in Alaminos City, Pangasinan. And since it was about a 40-45 minutes drive to the Pacific Farms site in Bolinao, our calltime that day was 4:00 AM as we had to leave by 5:00 AM. While on the way, Sir Glenn Konghun quickly briefed us about our activities lined up for the day. As well as a short history about the Salt Farm Tour, how the farm came about, and the life story of PFI’s founder (his dad) Mr. Johnny Konghun.
The first station of the Salt Farm Tour at Pacific Farms Pangasinan took us to the Sunrise Viewing Deck. We began our journey with the most important thing, of course – breakfast. Overlooking the vast salt ponds of Pacific Farms, we were served a local delicacy called “Binungey”.
So what exactly is Binungey?
Binungey, also known as “bamboo rice cake”, is essentially a local rice cake. It’s made of sticky rice (malagkit) soaked in coconut milk then slowly steamed over fire. Now what makes Binungey is that unlike typical rice cakes steamed in a banana leaf, this one is cooked inside an actual bamboo. In fact, its name comes comes from the Pangalatok word nungey literally meaning, ‘cooked in bamboo’.
And while its texture is generally much like suman or biko, there’s a delicious, earthy taste added by being smoked in bamboo. It pairs perfectly with a slice of sweet mango on the side. And if you want to elevate the flavor, try pairing the Binungey with a dash of Aro-en gourmet salt by Pacific Farms to taste. The smoked salt or vanilla worked best for my liking! 🙂 For drinks, we had warm cups of healthy malunggay tea, specially concocted by Sir Johnny.
As we savor on our Binungey, I can’t help but be excited of what’s ahead of us. Especially after hearing about visiting some actual salt beds and the bird watching tour we will be doing the next day. (Blogging about that soon too!)
Station 2: Chapel Ruins
Shortly after having our breakfast at the Viewing Deck, we rode the van again to reach the second station of Salt Farm Tour at Pacific Farms, Inc. That’s where we met our guide who has been an employee of PFI for 25 years now. He took us on a short hike up a hill to a serene spot called the Chapel Ruins.
Salt Trivia 2: Did you know that salt was mentioned in the Bible four times?
There, we learned about the short history of Pacific Farms. In the past, during its previous ownership, the chapel was used for rituals of local healers or manggagamot. But when PFI took over, it was transformed into a chapel for prayers. Unfortunately, when Typhoon Emong struck in 2009 with its 100 kph winds, most of the chapel was destroyed. It hasn’t been rebuilt since. But still remains as one of the most significant spots for both the employees and the Pacific Farms Agri-Eco Tour.
Nowadays, the Chapel Ruins is home for the company’s annual Unity Day. A special day in October where 3000 Mighty Energy Eggs are harvested. And taken to the Chapel Ruins to be blessed and shared upon by PFI’s employes.
Station 3: Love Bridge
One thing thing I loved about the Salt Farm Tour at Pacific Farms Pangasinan is the multitude of stories contained in the farm. A famous one happened at the very location of Pacific Farms Agri-Eco Tour’s third stop. What we thought was just another bridge within the 500 hectare property turned out to be a historic one.
According to stories, it is where “love” prevailed between the troubled management and the labour union of PFI. When the farm experienced mismanagement and financial crisis in the past, workers have not been paid for six months. Thus prompting an angry “strike” from the laborers.
And yet in the middle of chaos and tension, a miracle happened. A pregnant goat stood in between the two clashing parties and suddenly gave birth. Resulting in everyone’s amazement and took away the heat off people’s heads. Some say the incident was just pure coincidence. But for most, it’s a symbol of peace and new beginnings. Just like giving birth to a new and better tomorrow for Pacific Farms.
Salt Trivia 3: Did you know that salt played a vital role in the Spanish galleon trade? As salt was used to preserve various meats and produce then?
Station 4: Salt Harvesting and Stock Pile
Next station on our Salt Farm Tour at Pacific Farms Pangasinan were the Salt Harvesting and Stock Pile. And it couldn’t be more exciting!
For us, salt may just be a simple ingredient to cooking but it certainly goes way beyond that. While there’s an abundant supply of it because we are surrounded by coastlines, the process behind it can also be quite a challenge. It takes real hard work and patience to make the best kinds of salt that’s safe for human consumption.
Salt making at PFI is made by solar evaporation from the seawater. It starts by having saltwater flow into the evaporator using a brining system. The seawater is then left to be ‘evaporated’ on the giant salt beds, often days at a time. Once the water is dried up, the crystalized salt is then scraped off and raked into 11kg baskets for cleaning and sorting.
The brining process can begin as early as October. Making harvest season for the salt around summer (February until May). Unfortunately, we came during the rainy season so we were not able to see the large salt ponds/beds. But that didn’t stop us from trying filling salt buckets in the smaller ones. And I’m telling you, it’s no joke filling up those buckets. The ‘rakes’ were heavy and filling the buckets was tricky.
Salt Trivia 4: Did you know Pacific Farms produces 60+ kinds of salt? Amazing!
We were also able to catch some sun briefly that time. So we were able to approach a salt stock pile nearby. There were about 6-8 workers who were working then. Basically all the crystalized salt is ‘dumped’ into a giant stock pile, forming a mountain of salt. (We even joked around to pose with it and claim it’s snow, hehe) And after which, workers would need to take out any visible dirt and crush mounds before bagging them into 50kg sacks. From there, the salt sacks will be sorted and made into different kinds of salt at PFI.
Station 5: Salt Lake
Love salted egg or itlog na maalat? Then you’d love the fifth stop of the Pacific Farms Agri-Eco Tour.
Aside from its countless salt ponds, Pacific Farms also has a unique Salt Lake. It has a temperature ranging from 70 to 75 degrees Celsius. That’s why Pacific Farms, being the innovating company that it is, decided to make another product: the Mighty Energy Eggs.
How does that go? Well, basically the duck eggs are put inside nets (usually 20 per net) and dipped/hung to be cooked in the salt lake. After three (3) days they’re harvested and ready for consumption. Aside from being delicious, PFI’s mighty energy eggs also prove to be very healthy. They are high in protein as well as other minerals like iron, calcium, magnesium, and potassium. Sadly yet obviously, the salt lake is not suitable for swimming. 🙂
The mighty energy eggs are also served to guests during their Salt Farm Tour Philippines at Pacific Farms. I loved that they’re not mushy and as salty compared to regular itlog maalat available in the market.
Station 6: Locomotive
Ever rode a train in a farm? I bet you haven’t. But you can do so at your Salt Farm Tour at Pacific Farms Pangasinan. PFI has built a special locomotive for this 500 hectare salt farm in the Philippines. All thanks to its own team of Pacific mechanical engineers, welders, and electricians.
It will take you on a 3-kilometer ride along the coastline with beautiful views of Pacific Farm’s salt bed harvesting area. You’ll pass by the different stations of salt making. Including the warehouse, washing, and salt bed/crystallization areas. The workers use the rail system to transport salt around using salt cars/wagons when there are no tours scheduled. Too bad it was pouring when we went. So we opted for a photo on the locomotive instead.
Station 7: Lunch at the PFI Admin Office
Our Pacific Farms Agri-Eco Tour ended where it all began for the company – the PFI administrative office. We were first pleasantly greeted by the credo and moral values instilled by Pacific Farms. I love how much kindness, hard work, and honesty were highlighted all throughout.
We then proceeded with a short program attended by some of PFI’s key employees. We all thoroughly enjoyed their unique stories about their experience with Pacific Farms. Of which, we exchanged with words of appreciation for their kindness and hospitality. We also prayed the company’s prayer and sang along their catchy hymn.
Souvenir Shop at PFI’s Admin Office
There is also a small corner in the admin office that serves as their souvenir shop. Some of the products I would totally recommend include the Genesis Healer Salt that activates the spleen and helps regulate one’s blood circulation. The Nigari Drops is also a must try. It has all the minerals that your body needs daily. It’s water soluble, 10-20 drops each day will keep you energized and healthy.
Your best bet would be Stamina if yourre an athlete or quite active. It’s an anti-dehydration salt that helps you retain water and minerals while you’re active. Love cooking? You can make meals even tastier with Pacific Farm’s Aro-En Gourmet Salts. They have 16 variants, perfect for every kind of seasoning need – meat, desserts, baking, etc.
We finally ended our Salt Farm Tour at Pacific Farms Pangasinan with a bountiful but healthy lunch feast. For starters, we had Sea Purselane (Dampalit) Salad with olive oil, mighty energy eggs, onions, and tomatoes.
How to Book the Pacific Farms Agri-Eco Tour
Telephone Numbers: 371-4304 to 05 412-5425 to 27
Mobile no.: 0999- 4296902
E-mail: email@example.com or visit the PFI website
Salt Farm Tour Rates at Pacific Farms, Bolinao, Pangasinan
Package 1: Daytour, Pacific Farms Agri-Eco Tour
- Php 1,800 per person, Minimum of 20 pax
- Inclusions: Full Day Tour
- Sunrise Experience Overlooking Pacific Farms (View deck)
- Healthy Breakfast (Binunguey paired with Mangoes and Aro-En Gourmet Salt)
- PFI Chapel and Love Bridge
- Salt Harvesting Experience
- Salt Lake: Mighty Energy Egg Harvesting
- Healthy Morning Snack at the Loyalty Park
- Learn the History of Pacific Farms, Inc. (1954 to present)
- Kapihan: 20 minutes 12 Moral Values Presentation and Salt Farmers sharing of thoughts
- Locomotive Ride (Salt Sculptures)
- Photo-shoot in Salt Mountain
- Visit to Washer Area and PFI Weather Station
- Healthy Buffet Lunch: Happy Chicken (Pinaupong Manok sa Asin), Lechon (Kalot ed Kahon), Sea Purslane Salad
- Other inclusions: Cold Towels, Tour Guide, Drinking Water
Package 2: Pacific Farms Agri-Eco Tour + Hundred Islands
- Php 2,400/person, Minimum of 20 pax
Package 3: Overnight (2D/1N) Agri-Eco Tour + Bird Watching
- Rate to follow
- Visit to Large Evaporator Areas for Bird Watching with Lunch, Snacks, and Guide
Directions to Pacific Farms Inc.
Pacific Farms is located at Barangay Zaragoza, Bolinao, Pangasinan PH. And there are two ways to get to PFI:
Via Private Car
If going by private car, the trip should take you 4.5-6 hours total, depending on traffic conditions. Just take NLEX-SCTex via Tarlac-Alaminos-Bolinao. Nearest landmark is the Brgy. Zaragoza Hall.
Via Public Transportation
Or you can also ride either Five Star or Victory Liner from Cubao (Northbound) bound for Bolinao. Just tell the driver or conductor that you will go down at the Alaminos Bus Terminal. Deluxe Fare should set you back Php 450.00 (non-stop, with toilet). While regular aircon will cost you Php 427.00. You can arrange with PFI pickup from Alaminos Terminal.
Overall, I truly enjoyed my Salt Farm Tour at Pacific Farms Pangasinan. It was unique and a real eye-opener. I applaud the management for making such agri-eco tour possible. Not only did I learn the process of making salt. But I’ve also gained a whole new level of appreciation for nature’s blessing – SALT.
Thank you Mr. Johnny Konghun, Mr. Glenn Konghun, Mr. Gerald Konghun, and the entire PFI team for the invite and kind hospitality! Salt you soon!
* NOTE: This article was written by Tina Punzal of Hungrytravelduo for Karlaroundtheworld. All photos credit to the writer.