The beaches in La Union, the coves in Zambales, the cold breeze in Baguio, the sea of clouds in Sagada, and the Spanish colonial town in Vigan, are but some of the various reasons we frequent the North. Little did we know, just before these long-hour-drive destinations is a hidden gem, one filled with tourist spots, that we keep on passing by the North Luzon Expressway (NLEX)—Bulacan. And it is just a few minutes away from the Balintawak or Mindanao NLEX entry.

Many would only visit the province to spend a day or two at resorts, invest in jewelry, watch festivals, or buy fireworks. There is more to Bulacan, however than just swimming pools, golds, street dances, and pyrotechnic products. Officially named the “Land of the Heroes,” this province in Central Luzon also boasts of cultural heritage worth visiting.

Going back in time in Malolos, Bulacan

The Barasoain Church, also known as Our Lady of Mount Carmel Parish, in Malolos Bulacan that became the site of the Constitutional Convention of the First Philippine Republic.

Its capital Malolos is the best place to start learning about the rich history of Bulacan. At the heart of the town lies the must-see historic Barasoain Church, the site of the first Philippine Congress which ratified the Malolos Constitution, the constitution of the First Philippine Republic in 1899. The church was believed to be the perfect session hall because of its acoustics that amplifies clear sound, unlike other churches which produce echoes.

Don Antonio Bautista’s colonial house featuring female caryatids on its facade.

The church is not only the old structure in Malolos that witnessed history and survived nature’s wrath for years. The Spanish and American-era houses in Malolos Historic Town a.k.a the Camestisuhan or Pariancillo District can also take you back in time. The 1877 house of Don Antonio Bautista for instance features a rare exterior design in any colonial-era house — the female caryatids on the second-floor facade.

The living room of Dr. Luis Santo’s home accentuated by Fernando Amorsolo’s mural painting on the ceiling.

Few steps away from the neoclassical mansion is another quaint abode of Dr. Luis Santos. The art deco house will give you an idea of what a residence and clinic looked like in 1933. But, what’s notable in the mansion are the works of two National Artists namely the fountain sculpted by Guillermo Tolentino, and the mural on the ceiling by Fernando Amorsolo, which he did when he was still a student of his uncle, another National Artist, Fabian de la Rosa.

Abstract artwork of Jose Joya and portraits of different National Artists from Bulacan inside Hiyas ng Bulacan Museum.

There are several National Artists born and raised in Bulacan and their portraits are displayed at the Hiyas ng Bulacan Museum. But apart from knowing prominent Bulakenyos from the past in the museum, you’ll learn more about the province’s history from their collection of valuable relics, mementos, handicrafts, documents, and articles.

A small theatre room at Casa Real Shrine where visitors can watch about Philippine Revolution.

Another site that keeps Bulacan’s important memorabilia, specifically during the Philippine Revolution, is the Casa Real Shrine. One of the city’s oldest standing structures, it preserved the printing press machine during the Malolos Republic. Before it became a museum at present, it served as a printing press during the Spanish era, a municipal library after its restoration in 1852, a hospital in 1923, a High School annex in 1941, and a Japanese Chamber of Commerce headquarters during the Japanese Occupation.

Trying Malolos contemporary restaurants

After a taste of the past, indulge in the present to amp up your Bulacan experience. One of the best ways to do this is by dining at some restaurants amid its busy roads.

Casie’s pasta pomodorini.
Cyclists take a selfie with the small plane displayed at the back of Casie’s restaurants.

On MacArthur Highway, you can savor Italian-American food at Casie’s. The casual fine dining restaurant offers generous servings from appetizers to desserts. Their must-tries are truffle pizza, pomodorini (red sauce) pasta, filleto de porco (grilled pork), and mango cream pie desserts. An added attraction in the resto is the plane located at the back where guests can have their selfies at.

Kalye Mabini’s bestseller’s Lomo ribs.
Inspired by French pastry, the addicting square turon.

One more dining hotspot, which serves European-Filipino fusion cuisine, is Kalye Mabini, named after the street where it is located. A former house of the family of their chef, Jerome Mina, the resto boasts of its tasty fall-off-the-bones Lomo ribs. The meat is also available in pizza. To perfectly end your food trip here, try their square turon, presented like French beignet pastry, which goes well with their drip KM coffee. Adjusting its European cuisine to Filipino palette matched with comfy ambiance makes the place true to its tagline: “You are home.”

Learning more history in Bulakan, Bulacan

Marcelo del Pilar’s monument and tomb at the shrine.

Another municipality near Malolos that makes you feel at home is Bulakan. The town also preserves another historical site namely the Marcelo H. del Pilar Shrine. The former property of renowned lawyer, poet, and editor of La Solidaridad houses the hero’s tomb where a 10-feet high monument stands. Placed behind it is a mausoleum of the del Pilar family. Also erected at the shrine is a two-story house converted into a museum and library of historical artifacts and documents. Among the documents are the literary works of Marcelo H. Del Pilar.

The beutiful facade of the Nuestra Señora dela Asuncion parish in Bulakan, Bulacan.

Some of Marcelo’s written pieces against the Spanish are printed in pamphlets. There’s an incident where his nephew Gregorio del Pilar, the country’s youngest general, had secretly distributed pamphlets in a church. Said church, which you can still visit at present, is no other than the Nuestra Señora de la Asuncion Church. It is the first Marian parish not only in Bulacan but in Central Luzon. In 2007, the church that has Baroque and Neo-Romanesque architectural design was declared as a National Cultural Heritage site by the National Museum of the Philippines. Many brides would love to have their wedding there because of its long aisle.

Puni art can make toys and bracelets out of buli or coconut leaves.
Assorted bite-size kakanin of Bulacan.

Apart from bringing with you Bulacan’s history, you can also take home their long-time local main products before leaving these historic places. For food, you can bag their empanada de kaliskis, assorted kakanin, crispy mushroom flakes, chicharon, and bucheron, among other delicacies. And if you are looking for souvenirs, try asking for their puni handicrafts like toys, flowers, containers, and fashion accessories that are made from weaved coconut or buli leaves. Puni is a dying art of coconut leaf weaving that Bulakenyo’s are trying to revive.

Bocaue barrier at North Luzon Expressway (NLEX).

Driving via NLEX is the fastest way to access these towns. But don’t get too excited using the expressway. Keep at the required speed and observe traffic rules on the long stretch of the smooth spalt. NLEX ensures 24/7 safety not only through its traffic signs, road warnings, and CCTVs, but also the deployment of well-trained patrolmen who monitor the motorists’ speed, handle distressed drivers, and respond quickly to accidents. Good traffic enforcement is another reason to explore the North beginning, again, in Bulacan province.

To know more about how to travel, the new normal way, in Bulacan, you may visit their official website.

Source: Manila Bulletin (