Weekend Food Trip and Adventure in Pampanga

When we were still based in Singapore, my husband and I had this habit of watching a lot of Filipino shows on The Filipino Channel (TFC). I guess it helps beat the homesickness blues. One of the shows we used to watch was Kris TV, an open format daily show which features places to eat, go and other trends in the Philippines. Last May, we saw a feature on this new adventure place called SandBox and Apag Marangle, a local restaurant, both located in Pampanga. My husband has been urging me to go here once we’re back in Pinas. After so many failed attempts because of the weather, we finally went on a whim last Friday. Thanks to Waze, we found our way!
Kapampangan Food Feast at Apag Marangle
Since it was dinner time and we were incredibly hungry, off we went to find Apag Marangle. We made a lot of bad turns but luckily found it! From NLEX, take the San Fernando exit and go straight to Olongapo-Gapan Road in Bacolor, Pampanga. Apag Marangle is right along the highway.
Location Map from Bacolor Pampanga's Official Website

Location Map from Bacolor Pampanga’s Official Website

Apag Marangle means Dining in the Farm. True to Its name, it is a very spacious farm with huts on stilts built on a huge fish pond. Since we were there for dinner, we weren’t able to take photos of the view but I bet it looks good during day time. You may check out Lakwatsero’s Blog for more photos of the place.
On to the much awaited part: eating!!! Almost all their dishes serve 3-4 pax so as much as we wanted to try so many things, we limited ourselves with the humba, nasi marangle, betute and their specialty drinks. We ordered the following:
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Nasi marangle (P295) is actually rice mixed with pakbet and topped with fried pork. So tasty and I must say, a meal in itself! We couldn’t finish the whole serving but I think our leftover can still feed 2-3 pax!
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Humba (P285) or braised pork was served with sweet bean sauce. Not really a fan of sweet ulam but this one was a perfect balance of sweet and salty. Loved it!
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The betute (P90/pc) is a local exotic dish –a deep fried frog stuffed with savory ground pork like relleno. It tasted like chicken but I can’t finish it all because it looked very much like a frog to me! Hahaha!
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I also liked their drinks. I had the iced lemongrass tea with honey which felt relaxing at every sip. My hubby got their buco pandan drink which was also good too.
Good news metro peeps! They will be opening a branch in Parksquare Makati soon!
Overnight stay at Tune Hotel
We didn’t book a hotel in advance so I relied on my trusty Agoda app to help me find an affordable but decent hotel to stay in. So I found Tune Hotel, located at Don Juico Avenue, Malabanias, Angeles City, Pampanga. It is right outside Clark which makes it convenient for us to go to SCTEX the following day.

When I asked what types of room they have, the receptionist said they only have 2. One with a queen sized bed and another with 2 single beds. Since I went here with my husband, we went with the former. The room costs P1,115 quite a steal given its proximity to Clark and also very near some restaurants.

The room was very simple yet highly functional. A bed with clean, white sheets, 2 pillows, A/C, TV with cable, hot and cold shower, hair dryer and a safe. Don’t expect breakfast too because there’s none. They do sell instant noodles at the reception but we were prepared, we brought our own Nissin Cup Noodles! Since we checked in around 9 and were to leave early the following day, I think the rate was really worth it.

Upside apart from value for money was it’s clean. The staff were really helpful too. Downside, there’s no parking and the tap water comes with a price.

Just some quick info I picked up from their site:
  • Conveniently located along Don Juico Avenue, where a host of restaurants, entertainment outlets and bars are located
  • 20 minutes by car to local tourist landmarks such as Salakot Arch, Old Pamintuan, Bale Matua (Founder’s Residence), Camalig, Santo Rosario Church and Fort Stotsenburg.
  • 10 minutes by car to get inside Clark Ecozone, a former US Airbase with hotels, resorts and the world-class Mimosa Golf Course.
  • 6.1km to the Clark International Airport, formerly known as the Diosdado Macapagal International Airport (DMIA)
  • Check in time : 2:00pm onwards
  • Check out time : 11:00am
We were also able to squeeze in a one-hour body massage from Nuat Thai which was right beside the hotel. I enjoyed mine since the pressure was just right, however, my husband felt his muscles went sore even jokingly saying that the masseuse might be having a bad day! Lol.
Half Day Adventure at SandBox
This is us, trying to shy away from the old farts that we are. Hahaha! Adventure is out there! We took SCTEX from Clark and took the Porac exit. I think it was short of 20 minutes away! You can easily spot Alviera (where SandBox is located) when you take the Porac exit.
Good day to be out!

Good day to be out!

SandBox is inside ALVIERA. It is a collaboration between Ayala Land and Leonio Land, Inc. It’s a sprawling 1,125-hectare  development which will house various establishments like a commercial area, business and industrial park, university, recreational areas, and residential neighbourhood. SandBox is part of this grand master plan. It provides an outdoor attraction for family and friends to enjoy. Although I’m a bit wary for little kids, I think this works best for kids 8 and up.

.We're here!

There are 2 steps before you can get inside SandBox:
(1) Pick the attractions you want:
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(2) Pay the corresponding fees. Entrance Fee is at P75. Since the Avatar One was under repair, the packages weren’t available so we had to choose on a per attraction basis. They give out tickets per attraction so be sure to keep all those safely tucked in your pocket or bag.
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Tickets? Check!

Tickets? Check!

We tried the Giant Swing which was the most exciting amongst the available attractions. My husband, who had a terrible fear of heights, had no choice but to try it out with me! As with any extreme activity, the first swing from the highest point was the most jaw-dropping one! The feeling of your heart stopping and your stomach seeming to float in the air is the same with this one.
Up in the air

Up in the air

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Aerial Walk

The Tower for Free Fall, Rappel, Wall Climb and the Avatar One

The Tower for Free Fall, Rappel, Wall Climb and the Avatar One

We tried the Wall Climbing but goodness gracious! I couldn’t even lift myself up! Props to the husband who was able to go mid way up! That tower right there is what we had to climb. Trust me, it wasn’t as easy as it looks. The Avatar One was closed for repair.  I think it’s been closed for 3 weeks. Too bad! 😦 This was the attraction I was really excited to try.

We didn’t get to try all because the lines were crazy long. During our visit, there were regular guests and an AXN event. There was also some confusion on where people should line up since the AXN guests had a line exclusive to them. Not a big deal for me but I just hope that the staff were proactive and attentive enough to make the guests queue where they were supposed to be and not making them transfer after an hour of agonising waiting. The scorching heat also didn’t help. There were tents for the queue but gaaaaah, I cannot take the heat anymore. I realised now more than ever that I like being out in the sun only when I am clad in a bikini 2 feet away from the beach.

We were so, so thirsty and the Snack Yankee Shack right at the entrance was our only saving grace. The menu is very American but it’s very affordable. The drinks were quite refreshing! See what we got below:

Snack Yankee Shack Menu

Snack Yankee Shack Menu

Strawberry Slushie to beat the heat!

Strawberry Slushie to beat the heat!

Some tips and watch outs:
  • It’s a rough road once you’ve entered Alviera to reach SandBox, be sure your tires are ready!
  • I cannot stress the fact to wear comfortable shoes (rubber shoes to be exact) and clothing.
  • Wear sunblock, the heat can be excruciating.
  • If in case there is rain, the venue has the right to close the amenities for safety purposes. Better safe than sorry!
  • There are age, height and weight restrictions for the attractions. Be sure to check them out here before you go.
  • You cannot bring food inside but the parking lot is quite near so perhaps you can store your snacks and drinking water in your car.
  • Last and the most important one: Driving all the way to Pampanga with the purpose of visiting SandBox alone may get you a little disappointed. There are limited things to do and the area is far from getting developed. So to have a good time, consider this as a one-of in a list of destinations you will visit in the North. I suggest you plan it out and perhaps go to Nayong Pilipino in Clark, extend your drive to Subic or go on a food trip in Pampanga (which we did).

Lunch at Meat Plus Cafe in Clark

Meat Plus is a popular steakhouse in Subic offering different kinds of steaks like American Angus steak. This is a classic Subic baby which started its operations back in the nineties when the American troops were still at the base. They now have a second branch at the Shell Station in Clark, Pampanga which we tried for the first time!

My perfectly cooked slab of meat

My perfectly cooked slab of meat

When in Meat Plus, one should order the steak so I got the Topsirloin steak which came with rice, vegetables and a drink. The meat was very tender, had it cooked in medium well. My husband who’s hard to please when it comes to my I-wanna-try food suggestions liked it too! (Yey!) He ordered a cheeseburger meal and said that the meat of bun tasted very much legit.

We ended our little food trip with Buko Pandan at Nathaniel’s Bakeshop in true Kapampangan fashion. But between you and me, we bought at their Timog branch hahahaha! We were looking for a branch in Pampanga via Waze but got lost so we opted for one which was along the way. 🙂

To give you an idea on how much we spent, please see below.
Expenses (of course, we could have saved a lot more if we weren’t such gluttons):
Items Amount in PHP
Toll Fee – NLEX 45.00
Toll Fee – NLEX 112.00
Dinner at Apag Marangle 760.00
Overnight stay at Tunes Hotel 1,115.00
Toll Fee – SCTEX Clark to Porac 30.00
Sandbox Entrance Fee and Attractions 850.00
Lunch at Meat Plus Café 560.00
Nathaniel’s Buko Pandan 260.00
Toll Fee – SCTEX 30.00
Toll Fee – NLEX Angeles to Balintawak 198.00
1-Hour Massage for each person at Nuat Thai 700.00
Total 4,660.00
 There you go! That’s our 2D1N in Pampanga 🙂
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