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Sinukwan Festival in Pampanga 2019

San Fernando Pampanga

San Fernando, Pampanga recently celebrated the Sinukwan Festival last November 23-30, 2019.  It was held at Pampanga Capitol Grounds and at Robinsons Starmills. The weeklong festival is a long-standing tradition in Pampanga celebrating the Kapampangan spirit through its culture.  It’s usually held year by year in late November or early December in the City of San Fernando.

San Fernando Pampanga

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I asked around for the origin of the name of the Sinukwan Festival and they told me that the festival pays respects to an old Kapampangan God called King Sinukwan or ‘Aring Sinukwan’ as he is known locally. Now, it serves a time for the community to unite and appreciate the colorful Kapampangan heritage.

San Fernando Pampanga

The festival gathers all the best local food, crafts, fashion, artists, music, and dance in one place. There’s even a local pageant show, poster design contest, and folk music & dance seminar workshops and other activities all week long.

San Fernando Pampanga

The main highlight of the festival though is the culminating activity, the Street Dance Competition. Here, schools and barangays from all over Pampanga compete for the best dance performance using the local classical song, ‘Atin Cu Ping Singsing.’ They also don their best costume portraying their culture, as they understand it. It is a very colorful and festive celebration and I’m glad to have witnessed it.

San Fernando Pampanga

The things I love most about Pampanga is it is very near to Metro Manila—only an hour to 1 hour and a half travel. In just 1 hour, you get this unique province in Central Luzon bursting at the seams with history and cultural pride. Apart from the grand Sinukwan festival, there are a lot of other things to do in the culturally rich city of San Fernando, Pampanga.

San Fernando Pampanga

  1. CSFP Heritage Passport

If you need a little help going around the City of San Fernando, Pampanga (CSFP) I recommend getting your free CSFP Heritage Passports.  You can travel the fun way through using the passport. It’s pretty unique and we had lots of fun trying to visit all the sites listed.

San Fernando Pampanga

You get to earn a sticker for every destination you visit in the passport. The passport itself gives you a list of several cultural sites and houses and even Pampanga’s local and national hero monuments. Some examples of the heritage sites and structures to visit are the old houses of the Lazatin family, Henson-Hizon family, which gives you a glimpse as to how people lived years ago. The passport also lists the Metropolitan Cathedral, San Fernando Train Station. You can also visit and see a factory for Lantern Making, the activity of which has since catapulted San Fernando into fame. Just remember to take a selfie per heritage site or activity and show it to the stamping stations as proof.

Get your free passports at:

  • CSFP City Hall
  • Heroes Hall
  • Hertiage Cafe
  • City Tourism Office, SF Train Station

Stamping Stations at:

  • CSFP City Hall
  • Heroes Hall
  • Hertiage Cafe
  • City Tourism Office, SF Train Station
  • Essel Supermarket

Opening Hours: Monday – Friday: 8:00 AM – 5:00 PM

  • San Fernando Train Station

This is one of the listed heritage sites in the CSFP passport but definitely not one to be missed. In my opinion, it’s one of the most meaningful and moving sites. This historical site touched me deeply because of its deep-rooted place in Philippine history.

The station is part of the north railway of the Philippine National Railway built back in 1892. The track runs from Tutuban, Manila to Dagupan, Pangasinan. Although it is no longer used anymore for over 31 years, this station is a must-visit. If only because this is the place the Bataan Death March’s Filipino and American prisoners of war marched to and waited before being transferred to Camp O’Donnell in Capas, Tarlac.

It is here you will see the old and faded brick structure of the train station. There’s also a museum displaying memorabilia and statues replicating the soldiers who were part of its hard and terrible story.

  • PINATAhanan the Painter

The next place you can visit in San Fernando, Pampanga is PINTAhanan. PINTAhanan is a humble little art gallery like no other. The artwork is incredibly realistic and made by Kapampangan artist, Erwin Dayrit. Born with Osteogenesis Imperfecta, known commonly as brittle-bone disease, Erwin has lived most of his 40 years with a short stature and deformed bones. However, he overcame his disability and has since earned the recognition as an Outstanding Fernandino Awardee, and recognized by the Bahay Kubo ng Sining Foundation, Inc. He has also garnered the respect of fellow artists and won several competitions in the art scene.

And while creating art is already impressive enough, many also know him as a mentor and teacher. He welcomes young children who want to learn to paint at his house. He established PINTAhanan as a home for the eager children who want to learn the art. He is also a mentor to art students online, through the Facebook art group, Guhit Pinas. His home gallery displays several of his realistic and beautiful artworks. There are also artworks gifted to him by his beloved students.

His life is truly an inspiring story to hear. His mindset and attitude towards life is a beam of light and positivity. He is living proof that no matter how difficult life becomes or the cards life has dealt you with, you can always choose and strive to overcome it.

  • Food Trip

Another thing you can do in San Fernando is to go on a food trip. San Fernando is dubbed as the “Culinary Capital of the Philippines” and no wonder. A lot of the delicious and exotic Filipino food comes from the area. Think morcon (Kapampangan embutido), betute tugak (stuffed frog), buro (fermented rice), tibuk-tibuk (sweet dessert), and my favorite, halo-halo among others.

Be sure to grab a table at Everybody’s Cafe and try the betute tugak (Stuffed frog) or if you’re brave, add the Kamaru (fried field cricket) to your plate. There are also ‘safe’ alternatives like the morcon, pancit luglug, kalderetang kambing, tapang kalabaw, and mami. You can also try Mila’s Tokwa’t Baboy and sample their tokwa’t baboy and sisig. Susie’s Cuisine is a popular favorite to buy pasalubongs and get your dessert fix. They have sapin-sapin, kutsinta, maja blanca, and halo-halo. These are just a few of the popular restaurants in Pampanga, but they are my go-to places to eat whenever I’m in the area.

  • Giant Lantern Festival

Last but definitely not the least, you do not want to miss the annual Giant Lantern Festival at Robinsons Starmills, San Fernando. It’s going to run from December 14, 2019 until January 2, 2020. Admission is free! Just in time for the holiday break too.

San Fernando Pampanga

This is the popular lantern competition that has given San Fernando City the famous title of “Christmas Capital of the Philippines.” What started as a simple parol festival around the small streets of the city has now become a giant parol competition. It has earned the attention of international eyes and has become a popular viewing tradition during Christmas time for Filipinos all over the country.

San Fernando Pampanga

In preparation for the Giant Lantern Festival, we got to visit and interview RolRen’s Lantern factory to learn all about lanterns. The name RolRen’s actually originated from a husband and wife duo. The Rol stands for Rolando and he has won several Giant Lantern Competitions in San Fernando Pampanga. I loved seeing all the different types of lanterns and parols on display in the factory. We found out how lanterns were made and also learned about the meaning of the lanterns in San Fernando. We also got to meet and greet the first female giant lantern maker, Maryanne Sason Torres, who also won the award during the Giant Lantern Competition. Talk about star-struck!

San Fernando Pampanga

I really encourage you to visit the Giant Lantern Festival this year. It officially opens December 14, 2019. Bring your loved ones and share the meaning of Christmas in the cool and beautiful city of San Fernando, Pampanga. It is a great way to end the year on a special note. Especially when you remember the meaning of the lantern or parols, which creates hope and brings a guiding light for those who see it. Truly a great way to end the year and start the New Year!

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