Pangasinan is the third largest province in the Philippines, located on the west central area of Luzon. Its waters are abundant with natural resources and its terrains are blessed with marvelous bodies of land. Each town in Pangasinan is distinct with its own natural wonders and historic landmarks but its people are bound and shaped by a mix of cultures and their strong religious faith.
Pangasinan is home to the Hundred Islands, one of the most impressive natural attractions in the country. Located in the town of Alaminos, it is composed of 124 islands, each crowned with lush vegetation and surrounded by white sand beaches and rock formations. The fun activities to be done are as many as the islands in the area like swimming, boating, cliff diving, snorkeling, sightseeing, camping, and more.
Another town to visit in Pangasinan is Manaoag, which offers a glimpse into the religious life of the province. The Lady of Manaoag is a statue of the Virgin Mary made of ivory and brought to the Philippines from Spain during the 17th century. It is housed in the Shrine of Our Lady of the Rosary of Manaoag. Devotees believe that the statue can create miracles, and has been the patroness of the needy, sick, and the helpless.
The city of Dagupan is famous for its milkfish (bangus) industry. Every year, Dagupan celebrates the Bangus Festival as thanksgiving and to promote the industry all over the country. Various events are held during the festival. Some of the highlights are the cooking competitions, street parties, and concerts.
From Metro Manila, you can reach Pangasinan via road trip. You can get to Pangasinan in less than four hours if you pass through the North Luzon Expressway (NLEX), Subic-Clark-Tarlac Expressway (SCTEX), and Tarlac-Pangasinan-La Union Expressway (TPLEX).
Meanwhile, for those who want to commute, there are several bus lines that offer daily trips to specific points of Pangasinan. Travel time is about four to five hours depending on the route. Victory Liner, Five Star Bus, First North Luzon, Dagupan Bus, Dominion, and Partas are just some of the many bus lines that serve Pangasinan. You can find these terminals in Pasay City and Cubao in Quezon City.
How to Get Around
You'll find jeepneys plying the roads of Pangasinan. You can ride one to get around town or to get to another town or city. Make sure to familiarize yourself with the jeepney routes so you won't get lost. Don't be shy to ask for directions from the locals.
Buses are also available in Pangasinan if you want to hop from one town or city to another. You'll find both nonaircon and air conditioned uses along the major roads.
You can also ride a tricycle to get to a certain point in town. Aside from one way trips, tricycles are also available for tours. You can hire tricycles to take you to some of the tourist spots in the province. Just remember to negotiate properly with your driver regarding the tour rates.
What to See
Blessed with a bounty of interesting sites and natural wonders, Pangasinan will captivate travelers of different interests.
There are many Catholic churches in Pangasinan that the faithful and even the curious can visit. Among them, the Manaoag Church is perhaps the most visited. The church also serves as the Shrine of the Our Lady of Manaoag. The 16th century image of the Blessed Virgin Mary enshrined in the church was brought in from Spain during the colonial period and is believed by many to be miraculous. Pilgrims visit the Manaog Church all year round to ask the intercession of the Blessed Virgin to grant their prayers and wishes.
Apart from Manaoag Church, you should also visit the centuries-old Saints Peter and Paul Parish in Calasiao, the St. James the Great Parish in Bolinao that features a facade made from black coral stones, and the Epiphany of Our Lord Parish Church with several church bells in its courtyard.
The lighthouse at Cape Bolinao is another well-known landmark in Pangasinan. An amazing seascape view awaits you when you climb to the top of this century-old lighthouse.
Pangasinan is becoming a favorite beach destination among city dwellers. One of its most popular beach offerings is found in the Hundred Islands. Within the Hundred Islands National Park in Alaminos are over 120 amazing islands. Some of the most popular include Governor's Island, Children's Island, and Quezon Island, which you can visit when you go on an island hopping tour.
There are also beaches outside the Hundred Islands that you can explore. In Bolinao, there's Patar Beach: this stunning beach features gorgeous white sand shores and inviting, clear waters. Meanwhile, discover the peaceful and Tambobong Beach in Dasol if you don't like your beach bumming experience marred by the noise from huge crowds. Other beaches to visit include Bonuan Blue Beach in Dagupan, Bolo Beach in Alaminos, Surip Coral Beach in Bani, and Sabangan Beach in Agno, which is known for its wondrous "umbrella" rocks.
Pangasinan also has its share of waterfalls and rivers. There's Baliwangga Falls in Bani, Pila Falls in Natividad, Antong Falls in Sison, and Agno River. Go on a trek and once you reach these falls and rivers, reward yourself with a relaxing plunge in the fresh waters.
There are also caves in Pangasinan for those who want to explore more of its landscape. The Enchanted Cave in Bolinao is popular because of the natural spring pools inside where you can take a dip. You can also include Villacorte Cave in Infanta, Mabini's Binmatya Cave, and Cacupangan Cave to your Pangasinan spelunking bucket list.
For mountain climbers, you can set your sights on conquering Mt. Balungao, an extinct volcano in the province.
Dasoland Family Adventure Park is the perfect place to bring your kids. This theme park offers an assortment of attractions for people with varied interests. Apart from its swimming pools, there is also a zoo filled with different species of animals, a few museums and gardens, and a man-made lake.
Acop Dam Eco-Park offers you a selection of exciting water sports that you can enjoy amidst relaxing nature surroundings. You can also enjoy a picnic in this eco-tourism site. You can also have picnics while enjoying the view of the Acop Lake.
There are also many sports activities and attractions at Balungao Hilltop Adventure that you can try to spike that adrenaline rush that you've been seeking. You can ride the zip-line or drive one of the ATVs at this adventure park.
If you want to have a blissful experience in your vacation, devote a hike to the Redeemer's Way of the Cross in Bani. A popular pilgrim site especially during Lent, it is situated on a plateau that overlooks a stunning view of the West Philippine Sea. Aside from a spiritual experience, you can also have a dose of culture by visiting Pangasinan's museums: Bolinao National Museum and Dagupan City Museum are just two of the museums you can include in your itinerary.
Events and Festivals
Every May 1, the whole province celebrates the Pista'y Dayat Festival as a tribute to its bountiful seas. The event itinerary is packed with a fluvial parade, trade expos, and lots of contests and competitions to hype the spirits of both the locals and tourists who came to see the spectacle.
Aside from the Pista'y Dayat, some of the must-see town and city fiestas include Dagupan's Bangus Festival every April, Manaoag's Galicayo Festival every December, and Calasiao's Puto Festival also in December.
Where to Eat
Fast Food Chains
There are many fast food chains in Pangasinan that you can choose from. You can dine at a Jollibee, McDonald's KFC, Yellow Cab, Tokyo Tokyo, or Goldilock's.
Pangasinan's bountiful seas make fish and other seafood one of their main products, so you can expect that a majority of its local restaurants offer numerous seafood dishes in their menu.
Some of the popular Filipino restaurants in Pangasinan that serve sumptuous seafood fare include Matutina's Seafood House and Restaurant, Ciudad Elmina Restaurant, and Kuya Max Resto Grill all of which are in Dagupan City. And since the city’s main export is milkfish or bangus, do order some of their bangus dishes. Hardin sa Paraiso in Manaoag, Maxine by The Sea in Alaminos, and Sungayan Grill in Bolinao are also popular restaurants. If you're allergic to seafood, the restaurants also offer other delectable options like grilled meat and vegetable dishes.
If you want to have a taste of Pangasinan's native dishes, head to Great Taste Pigar-Pigar Restaurant. As the name suggests, this establishment specializes in pigar-pigar, a stir-fry dish made with beef or carabao meat. Aside from pigar-pigar, you should also order kaleskes, which is a stew made from cow innards.
For some afternoon snacks, head to Yellow Tree Cafe, one of the popular hangout spots in Dagupan. Choose from its wide array of tea and coffee drinks and light fare.
Galvan Street is the place to go if you want to enjoy pigar-pigar at an affordable price. Several stalls pop up here at night, selling pigar-pigar and kaleskes on top of other dishes.
Bars and Clubs
Most restaurants, already offer beers in their menu if you want to have some alcohol along with your meal.
Where to Shop
You'll find several malls in some of Pangasinan's cities in towns. In Dagupan, there are community malls like CSI City Mall and Nepo Mall in Dagupan as well as Magic Mall and CB Mall in Urdaneta. You'll also find an SM Mall in Rosales and a Robinsons Mall in Calasiao. These shopping centers offer a wide variety of shopping, dining, and entertainment options for both locals and tourists.
Markets are a one-stop-shop not only for fresh goods and ingredients but also for pasalubong and souvenirs. You can buy dried fish products as well as daing na bangus in most markets. Alaminos also has its own version of longganisa—the ends of the sausages are held with toothpicks instead of strings. You can buy these savory treats at Alaminos Market.
Meanwhile, visit Villasis Bagsakan Market if you want to stock up on some vegetables. The prices are way cheaper than in Manila.
Street Vendors and Stalls
Buying from street vendors and stalls are more economical compared to buying at malls. In addition, you'll also support the livelihood of the locals. Make sure to buy some binungey, a rice cake cooked in a bamboo shoot, from vendors in Bolinao. And if you want to take home some delicious Puto Calasiao, approach any of the stalls set up near the Saints Peter and Paul Parish. Aside from plain, there are also other flavors of puto including ube and buko pandan.
Meanwhile, don’t forget to bring home some tupig, a glutinous rice cake made with coconut strips, which is usually sold at the stalls outside of the Manaoag Church. You can also buy some religious items like rosaries and statues of saints and have them blessed by the priest. Souvenirs like T-shirts and mugs are also sold in some of the stalls.
Lastly, make sure to also buy some bagoong or fish paste from the roadside stalls on your way back to Manila.
ATMs and Money Changers
There are banks and ATMs in Pangasinan's malls as well as the town and city centers. You'll also find pawnshops, remittance shops, and money changers in some places in the province.
Fare: PHP 300.00 to PHP 700.00
Bus fare depends on your drop-off point in Pangasinan and the route that your bus will be taking. Sometimes, the model and the amenities of the bus also serve as factors that determine the bus fare.
For one way rides, the minimum jeepney fare is at PHP 8.00, while tricycle rides cost as cheap as PHP 20.00.
Food: PHP 50.00 to PHP 300.00
There are a wide variety of dining options in Pangasinan so you're sure to enjoy delicious meals no matter how much your food budget is. PHP 50.00 can already buy you a meal at a carinderia or a budget meal at a fast food chain. Meanwhile, for a PHP 200.00 to PHP 300.00 budget, you'll already enjoy a dish or two at a restaurant.
Shopping: PHP 50.00 ++
Most of the pasalubong you can buy are food products. Tupig in Manaoag sells at PHP 5.00 apiece. Meanwhile, if you want to buy some Puto Calasiao, a kilo of the plain-flavored puto sells at PHP 80.00 to PHP 100.00, while one kilo of the flavored kind costs about PHP 100.00 to PHP 120.00. Bolinao's binungey, on the other hand, ranges from PHP 35.00 to PHP 50.00 apiece.
For fresh goods, one kilo of Dagupan's famous bangus is more or less than PHP 100.00. Meanwhile, dried fish can be bought at less than PHP 400.00. And if you want to buy some Alaminos longganisa, a dozen of them costs about PHP 90.00.
Accommodation: PHP 400.00 to PHP 3,000.00
From budget inns to luxury resorts, there is a wide selection of accommodations in Pangasinan. If you're traveling on a shoestring budget, there are inns and lodges that rent out nonaircon rooms for two guests at only PHP 400.00 per night.
Activities: PHP 20.00 to PHP 2,000.00
There is an entrance fee of PHP 20.00 if you want to visit Bolinao National Museum. If you want to swim or simply explore the Enchanted Cave, a PHP 150.00 entrance fee applies. On the other hand, the entrance fee at Dasoland Family Adventure Park is PHP 249.00
Meanwhile, for a Hundred Islands island hopping tour, boat rates for one to five people range from PHP 1,000.00 for a day tour to PHP 2,000.00 for an overnight tour. There is also a required PHP 40.00 environmental fee for the national park.
Day 1 (Bolinao Tour)
Day 2 (Island Hopping Day Tour at Hundred Islands)
||Start your day with a hearty breakfast at Adora's Restaurant.
||Visit the St. James the Great Parish Church. Afterwards, hire a tricycle to take you to Cape Bolinao Lighthouse.
||Arrive at Cape Bolinao Lighthouse. Snap a few pictures and admire the view from the top.
||Have an early lunch at Sungayan Grill.
||Visit the mysterious Enchanted Cave and take a dip in its cool spring waters.
||Head to Patar Beach. Frolic in its sandy shores and swim in its clear waters. You can also browse the items sold at the several souvenir shops there.
||Sit on the sand and watch the sunset from the beach.
||Have dinner at any of the carinderias around.
||Head back to your accommodation to get some good night's sleep for your adventure-packed day ahead.
||Grab some breakfast at a carinderia. Afterwards, prepare your things and check out from your accommodation.
||Hire a tricycle to take you to the bus terminals going to Alaminos. Once you’re there, hop on an Alaminos-bound bus.
||Arrive in Alaminos. Ride a tricycle to Lucap Wharf, the jumping-off point for the island hopping tour around Hundred Islands.
||Once you get to the wharf, approach a tour operator and arrange for an island hopping tour. Before you leave for your trip, make sure to buy some food from the stores around for your lunch.
||Start with your island hopping tour. Get to see some of the islands like Governor's Island, Quezon Island, Marcos Island, and Children's Island. Enjoy swimming and snorkeling at some of the spots along the way. There are also some caves that you can explore.
||Have a lunch break.
||Continue with your island hopping tour.
||Your island hopping tour is finished. Freshen up and get ready for your departure to Dagupan.
||Hire a tricycle to take you to the terminals for vans going to Dagupan.
||Hop on a Dagupan-bound van.
||Arrive in Dagupan. Have a quick trip to Dagupan Market to buy some pasalubong.
||Head to the bus terminal and hop on a Manila-bound bus.
The Philippines enjoy a tropical climate. It only has two seasons: the dry season which runs from December to May and the wet season which runs from June to November. It's best to visit during the dry season so your tours won't be uninterrupted by sudden downpours.
Don't forget to bring medicine, first aid kit supplies, and insect repellent whenever you travel. If you need medical attention, there are hospitals in clinics in Pangasinan that you can visit.
There is no standard when it comes to giving tips in the Philippines. Most people would just hand over small bills like PHP 20.00 or PHP 50.00. For restaurants that already include service charge in your bill, there's no need to give tips.
Safety and Security
While Pangasinan is generally a safe place, there's no harm in practicing vigilance everywhere you go. Make sure to survey your surroundings and keep your valuables in a secure place.