Chuck

MERRY CHRISTMAS FOLKS

Yeah, this old man is still around.  I know it has been way too long since I last wrote and I am pretty sure folks have given up on me.  I have become a bit lazy or because of the lockdown addicted to HBO, Cinemax, and especially Netflix.  Because of my age I am not allowed in many places of entertainment and eateries.  Did I write “entertainment”, forget that, there is NO entertainment like we have enjoyed here for many, many years and I  suspect that will never return.  Right now, it does exist but you have to go to Barrio Barretto in Olongapo which most of us know about.  Why is this so you might ask?  The answer is in the geographical location.  Barrio Barretto is a bit mote isolated than Angeles City and has not earned the title of “Sin City”.  Additionally, their Mayor is not under the same pressure as the Mayor of Angeles City (AC).  AC has outgrown its “little City” status and is now the center of economic growth in Pampanga.  What the future holds for the businesses on Perimeter Road and Fields Ave I am not sure.  I can say that right now they are all struggling to stay open but many have already had to close their doors.  In order for a bar to stay open they must now become restaurants, cafes, resto sports bars, in other words they must be serving food.  No entertainers or dancers but no limit on “waitresses”.  Many bars have adapted in order to try and stay open until some form of normal returns to this City.  Restaurants are restricted to a 25% patronage that allows them of barely make enough to pay rent, utility bills and wages, forget profit.  Some landlords kindly allow reductions in rent, others do not.

Just today I received a very informative AC map that shows the businesses that are open or closed.  Once this arrived I knew that I must get this out to all my readers.  I did not get off my ass to do this as I am still sitting in my chair as I type this.  I wanted to go downstairs to my restaurant but i knew if I did I would not get back to my office until 9 PM when we close.  I have two sets of stairs to choose from, one is difficult to get down the other one is easier.  One is easy to get to, the other one more difficult.  See, each day I have this challenge, hard, easy or just stay on my ass in my office all day.  There are days where the decision making is so hard that I just stay in bed.  Ain’t old age great!

AC map updated

My title for this column was “Merry Christmas Folks” but of course I knew that this was not a reality.  How the hell can we have a Merry Christmas under the heavy handed restrictions put on citizens world wide as we all try to cope with this pandemic.  The rich politicians will not have a problem but the working class folks will not have the money to do much celebrating so in reality it will be a very sad Christmas for many.  It is hard to do anything without a paycheck.  For all those individuals and families who are struggling I extend my regrets and sincerely hope that the New Year will bring back the strong economy we had become used to.  Hopefully, the virus vaccines that are becoming available will help to restore a bit of that happiness for one and all.

Many of the businesses in Angeles City depended on the Tourist trade to succeed, without those tourists, no matter what we do, businesses will continue to shutter their doors.  I wonder who will move into those buildings, maybe the Chinese who will be involved in various nefarious enterprises?  The Chines presence in the Philippines is already high and many more will be coming.  The Angeles City Mayor is planning for Angeles City to promote the pleasures of Pampanga food (not the women) to attract tourists and also to promote the many nearby Filipino owned tourist destinations that many foreign visitors are not aware of.  This is a project that the Hotel and Restaurant Association in Pampanga (HARP) is very active in.  At this time I do not know how this benefits the member hotels and restaurants in Angeles City but I think HARP officers will show a way for Hotels to be able to make these tours available to their guests if and when we ever get tourists again.

The Hotels and Restaurants Association in Pampanga (HARP) initiated a kick-off to re-establish tourism within the province by organizing a two-part series of local familiarization tour “famtour”. Suitably titled “Lumibut, dumurut ta’ Pampanga! (HARP Local famtour 2020 – for a cause)”- the said famtour was held last November 21, 2020 and was participated by at least thirty tourism stakeholders from hotels, restaurants and allied sectors of the organization. The tour activity was spearheaded by the officers of HARP through the leadership of their President, Ms. Fatima Orfinada, aiming the purposed restart and recovery of tourism facilities and industries in this part of the region. This, after the IATF and Department of Tourism’s pronouncement in finally allowing and accepting local tourists, after months of being under community quarantine due to Covid-19 pandemic. Furthermore, it was a project that entailed social responsibility as it was also a fundraiser for the victims of recent typhoon “Ulysses”, wherein participants and members of HARP have contributed and donated cash and goods as a ticket to join the famtour.

“Lumibut, dumurut ta’ Pampanga” Part I, was mainly supported by the Office of the Governor of Pampanga and The Department of Tourism Region III (DOT- R3), with gracious assistance from the respective Mayors and Tourism Officers of the visited towns and municipalities.

Included in the itinerary were the City of San Fernando, Municipalities of Sto. Tomas, Lubao and Bacolor. All of which have generously welcomed the participants with their hospitality and abundance of tourism activities. The tour highlighted the best tourist spots of each town. First stop was at the Old San Fernando Train Station where a lot of history was unraveled which included various information and artifacts of post Japanese-American war and the Death March. A “Kalesa Tour” was also made available for the participants to quickly circuit the main city passing-by preserved heritage houses, the San Fernando Cathedral and the old market. A few kilometers away from the main city is Barangay Sta Lucia, where a famous lantern maker welcomed the group in his home and lantern showroom. Mr. Arnel Flores, a multi-awarded lantern and “giant parol” maker shared remarkable stories of his beginnings as a “parol”-maker and how this industry has evolved through the years. Fernandino’s are proud of this heritage craft, thus making them worthy of the title “The Christmas capital of the Philippines” which greatly contributed to Pampanga Tourism.

Passing the City of San Fernando is the small town of Santo Tomas, which is considered the smallest municipality in Pampanga, consisting of only 7 barangays. Though small, this town is huge in offerings for local tourism. This was the 3rd destination of the group travel. A hidden gem of a resort greeted the participants’ sights at Mula De Victoria. This is a vast accommodation facility providing themed Villas with individual swimming pools and spacious function areas for multiple purposes. The resort is also home to one of the biggest clay pot factory in the community, where an endless variety of pots are produced and marketed. Clay pots made in Santo Tomas are widely popular, same is true with another of their native product; Caskets. This preserved industry sustained the livelihood of many residents here. The group has also met with one factory owner that makes quality caskets and customizes funeral cars. Such rare and bizarre exhibit interests and attracts not only local but foreign tourists as well.

For the next stop, HARP members were treated with a sumptuous native lunch underneath the shades of giant bamboos at the Lubao Bamboo Eco-park. A serene and well-maintained nature park that offers various outdoor activities such as boat-riding, picnic, fish-foot spa, trekking, biking and many others that tourists or even locals can surely enjoy. The Diosdado Macapagal Ancestral home-turned Library/Museum was the last spot sighted in Lubao by the group.

The historic San Guillermo Parish Church and Museum, oddly half-buried by the lahar flow from the eruption of Mt. Pinatubo was the final destination visited by the HARP travelers. Thus, concluding the 1st leg of the remarkable day-tour of the HARP local Famtour 2020 dubbed “Lumibut, dumurut ta’ Pampanga!” 

Part II of this journey shall continue to the north-eastern part of Pampanga which will include tourist destinations in the municipalities of Magalang, Arayat, Sta. Ana and Mexico, tentatively scheduled on December 12, 2020.

With this I will close for now, reluctantly, as I have more I would like to add.  Regretfully mother nature has informed me that I cannot linger any longer and my butt is sore anyway.  Gosh guys and gals I promise not to take so long to have a bit of a chat with you.  Sometimes I think that when I think of something I should just write and publish instead of waiting so long.  I do have a bit more to pass on and maybe some self promotion as well.  Remember stay home, wear your mask when eating outside or at home, having sex, taking a shower, limit yourself to six people for Christmas dinner, don’t sing, don’t talk loud, whisper and if you have too many kids, send some to your neighbors who have no children for Christmas dinner.  My friend Victor Dufort is OK as he and his lovely wife have 4 boys so they just meet the limit.  Oh wait, those are rules for California, for a moment I forgot I was in the Philippines.  Remember folks, be kind to horses.

Posted by Chuck in Angeles City, Bars, Business, 1 comment