Pangasinan is mostly known for three things: bangus, puto and the Hundred Islands. However, there’s much more to see in this coastal province than postcards suggest. Even better, prices of Pangasinan food and accommodations are well within the average budget!
Last June, GMA News TV’s ‘Biyahe ni Drew’ was out to prove that it’s possible to have a weekend away with the whole family without breaking the bank. Here’s our complete itinerary for the Pangasinan road trip, from a special episode guest-hosted by Luane Dy.
How to get there
Take a car. It will take around five hours to get to Pangasinan from Metro Manila—four hours if traffic is light all the way. Wondering how to pass the time? We put on some music and split the time between sleeping and goofing around. “Mas magulo, mas masaya,” joked Luane.
Where to go and what do to (ordered by municipality)
Balungao is the first municipality you’ll reach if you’re coming from Manila. Pronounce it as “Balung-gao” and sound just like a local.
What to do: Balungao Hilltop Adventure
An easy P50 will get you entrance and access to a small swimming pool. But the real attractions here are the adventure rides. Try the zip line for P300 or rent an all-terrain vehicle (ATV) for P200. Even though the ATV ride just lasts 15 minutes, Luane felt it was worth the cost. “First time kong gawin ‘yun,” said Luane. “Feeling ko action star ko.”
What to buy: Veggies and tupig at Villasis Bagsakan Public Market
Moms and foodies will love shopping at Villasis Bagsakan, a warehouse-like market where the province’s vegetables are first dropped off. Prices are low, fruits are big—what’s not to love?
At the side of main building, you’ll find a row of tupig vendors. Tupig is a sticky rice-and-coconut-cake that’s a Pangasinan signature product. It’s best to buy your tupig here, where competition keeps quality high and prices low. [For more about Pangasinan’s cuisine, check out this list of dishes you’ll want to try in the province.]
Get one for P5, or buy a box of 20 for P100. When you buy a box, the vendors usually throw in an extra piece for free!
What to buy: Puto Calasio
What to watch out for: Puto Calasiao Festival (December)
Calasiao’s puto is so famous that it has its own festival! Look for the line of puto shops near the Calasiao church. Those shops are members of the Calasiao Puto Producers, a collective that makes the town’s signature snack.
What makes puto Calasiao different from puto in Manila? It’s softer, fluffier very moist. “Ang sarap ng authentic. Ito yung tunay!” said Luane. Get a bag for P85 per kilo.
What to do: Our Lady of Manaoag Church
Devotees flock to this church with a reputation for miracles. If your road trip crosses a Sunday, why not attend mass here? The famous white and cream exterior is a good backdrop for souvenir photos.
Less than 20 minutes by car from the Manaoag church is Dagupan City, home of large bangus and the restaurants that serve it in more ways than you can count.
What to do: Dawel River Cruise
Who can say no to a free cruise? This cruise, a project of last term’s local government, takes you on a 45-minute cruise that begins from the Dawel Bridge. While waiting to board the bamboo barge, you can check out the larger-than-life bangus sculptures painted by Filipino artists. We suggest coming here during the late afternoon so you can catch the sunset!
A Dagupan-based spa also has its own bamboo raft used as a floating massage center.
Where to eat: Jacobo’s Seafood Grill
Sitio Calima, Arellano Street, Dagupan City (De Venecia Road Extension, going to Bonuan)
Just five minutes from the Dawel River Cruise by car is a restaurant built on top of a bangus fishpen. Here, Pangasinan’s famous fish is big, meaty, and cooked to perfection in dishes that cost between P200 and P400, good for sharing between two people.
Inihaw na bangus is a classic, but the fun starts when you try the bangus dishes not usually served in Manila restaurants. We enjoyed the kinilaw na bangus; the bangus’ belly fat became nice and chewy in the vinegar marinade. They also serve sizzling boneless bangus, seafood pasta and ampalaya salad.
Something the kids will love: On a sunny day, you can even get a bit of fish food from a plastic container and toss it to the fish below.
What to eat: Pigar-pigar
Galvan and Gomez streets, Dagupan City
Pigar-pigar is a dish of deep-fried beef or “carabeef” (carabao meat) seasoned with onions and served on a hot plate—it’s like a cross between bistek Tagalog and sisig. At night, Galvan Street is lined on both sides with pigar-pigar shops. For just P85 for ¼-kilo of pigar-pigar, barkadas can eat well into the night.
For a more family-oriented atmosphere, try Great Taste Pigar-Pigar restaurant along Gomez, one of the streets that branch off from Galvan. Aside from the perks of dining in an air-conditioned, well-lit restaurant, the beef itself is softer and comes in more flavors.
Great Taste’s owner picks up recipes from his travels and applies them in his restaurant, which is why they serve savory teriyaki-style pigar-pigar. Check out Great Taste’s official Facebook page, where they announce seasonal promos such as the P159 eat-all-you-can deal.
Lingayen is the capital of Pangasinan and home of the famous bagoong isda. In fact, Pangasinan’s name comes from the thriving industry of salt (asin) and salted products in the province.
What do buy for pasalubong: Bocayo
Unlike puto Calasiao, bocayo does not spoil easily and will keep for days on end. The flat brown pallets are flavored with lemon. “Yung normal bocayo, parang asukal lang na tinuyo tapos nilagyan ng niyog, pero ‘yung sa Lingayen parang may tsokolate at lemon. Ewan ko ba, ang sarap!” said Luane.
A piece of bocayo is around two inches on each side. Get a pack of four pieces for just P10.
What to see: Hundred Islands
Drive for one hour from the center of Lingayen to get to Pangasinan’s premier tourist destination: the Hundred Islands! Did you know that the Hundred Islands aren’t actually one hundred in number? The number varies depending on the tide—there are more islands during low tide and less during high tide.
Boat rentals go for P1,400 per day, while tour guide packages cost P800 for a group of five people. Add P600 to this and they’ll help you look for a place to stay for the night. Sounds big? Divide it among a group of five and the whole things costs just P560 per head!
Where to stay: Punta Riviera Resort
Brgy. Ilog Malino, Bolinao, Pangasinan
From P3,000 to 5,000 a night, you can get a room for two at this cozy beachside resort. Bigger groups can try the rooms that are good for four (P4,000 a night) or good for eight (P12,000 a night). The rooms are average-sized, but are clean and have decent bathrooms.
Not in the mood for the beach? There’s a swimming pool and garden park where guests can hang out for a quiet afternoon. Breakfast is included in all the rates, as well!
What to do: Bolinao Beach
In Bolinao, you don’t need to spend for a day at the beach. The Bolinao Beach is absolutely free! Just bring P200 for a kubo to store your things, and you can swim all day. There are also vendors selling halo-halo, grilled food and cold beer.
What to see: Enchanted Cave
Of all the places in Pangasinan, this is the one you shouldn’t miss. On the way to Bolinao Beach, you’ll see signs pointing to the Enchanted Cave. The cave, found inside a mountain of corals, has a pool of water so clear that you can see rocks as deep as ten feet below the surface. Entrance to the cave and pool costs P120, or P90 if you won’t swim.
Inside the cave, the cold water turns a rich shade of blue-green; in the deeper areas of the pool, the water reflects the rock ceiling above. The effect is surreal—no wonder GMA-7 shot the mermaid scenes of ‘Dyesebel’ here!
What to see: Cape Bolinao
Cape Bolinao is the second tallest lighthouse in the Philippines, second only to Ilocos’ Boreador lighthouse. While it isn’t the tallest, it does get extra coolness points for being fully operational and solar-powered.
A fork in the road on the way to the Enchanted Cave takes you to the lighthouse. Just stop by for five minutes, take a picture, and be on your way.
Where to eat: Sungayan Grill
Brgy. Balingasay, Bolinao, Pangasinan
This restaurant is named after the sungayan fish, a platter-sized fish with a single horn (sungay). We ordered a bilao of crabs, squid, sungayan, liempo, seaweed, grilled eggplants and mango salad—the whole thing was good for our crew of seven and cost only P1,300. — PF, GMA News, Cristina Tantengco