Tarlac is bordered by four provinces and is one of the first to revolt against the Spaniards during the Philippine Revolution. Because the province is landlocked, its terrains are mostly rough and mountainous. Visitors can experience a culture like no other in Tarlac—a combination of Ilocano, Tagalog, Kapampangan, and Pangasinense. Tarlac is also widely recognized as the hometown of the late senator Benigno "Ninoy" Aquino, the father of Philippine President Noynoy Aquino.
The Monasterio De Tarlac is visited by many pilgrims all over the country every year. Built only in 2000, the monastery is famous because of the 30-foot statue of Jesus Christ overlooking the whole town of San Jose. But the biggest tourist draw of the monastery is the relic of the cross where Jesus was said to be crucified. It was enshrined in a chapel in the area in 2007. Pilgrims are allowed to touch the relic after the 10:30 am masses and at 3:00 pm every Sunday.
The Aquino Center and Museum chronicles the life of Ninoy Aquino and his wife, Former President Cory Aquino, an icon of Philippine democracy. The museum showcases photographs and possessions of the late couple, a replica of Ninoy's cell when he was incarcerated in Fort Bonifacio, and artifacts including the blood-stained clothes that the former senator wore when he was assassinated. There is also a collection of artworks dedicated to the Aquino couple.
The town of Capas was the site of the internment camp where the Filipino and American soldiers were held at the end of the Bataan Death March. The area is now known as the Capas National Shrine, where a 70-meter obelisk now stands to remember the prisoners of war who died in the camp.
Tarlac is only two to three hours away from Metro Manila by land. Buses from First North Luzon, Dominion, Victory Liner, Baliwag Transit, Five Star, and Genesis ply the Manila-Tarlac route daily via the North Luzon Expressway (NLEX).
For those who opt to drive to Tarlac, it's just two hours away via the NLEX and the Subic-Clark-Tarlac Expressway (SCTEX).
How to Get Around
Jeepneys also abound in Tarlac. These vehicles ply the thoroughfares of the province and serve as the cheapest mode of transport. Fares start at PHP 7.00.
You can also ride a tricycle to get around; however, tricycles are more appropriate for short distances.
What to See
The Capas National Shrine is a monument in the shape of an obelisk, which was built in memory of the Filipino and American prisoners-of-war who died in Camp O'Donnell during World War II.
Tarlac is known as the hometown of the late Benigno "Ninoy" Aquino, the father of former President Noynoy Aquino and husband of the late President Cory Aquino. His family's ancestral house in the town of Concepcion is considered a landmark in the province and is a recommended place to visit for history buffs. The Aquino Center Museum is another destination that showcases the life of the Aquino family, particularly that of Ninoy and Cory. Inside, you will see some important items such as the bloodstained clothes that Ninoy wore when he was assassinated as well as several modern artworks dedicated to the former senator.
Monasterio de Tarlac is one of the most visited pilgrimage sites north of Metro Manila. Although it was only established in 2000, this monastery has become popular because of the Relic of the True Cross, which is said to be a piece of the cross where Jesus Christ was crucified. This relic is enshrined in the chapel of the monastery, and pilgrims are allowed to touch its reliquary after attending the Holy Mass. Another must-see attraction in the Monastery is the 30-foot statue of the Risen Christ.
Perhaps the most prominent natural wonder found in Tarlac is Mt. Pinatubo. It is well-known for its June 15, 1991 eruption which devastated several provinces in Region III and is considered as the second biggest volcanic eruption of the century. Nowadays, Mt. Pinatubo is a popular spot for trekking. Tourists endure the two-hour hike just to see its crater lake. Apart from Mt. Pinatubo, there are other mountains that may entice hikers like Mt. Tapulao, Mt. Damas, and Mt. Bungkol Baka.
Tourists who have a penchant for discovering hidden wonders may go on a trek to any of the numerous waterfalls found in Tarlac. San Clemente has several waterfalls where you can take a dip: Si-El Falls, Ubod Falls, Timangguyob Falls, and Canding Falls. Camiling's Pias Falls, Bamban's Sikwako Falls, and Mayantoc's Calao, Kayasan Falls, and Anzap Waterfalls are also worth a visit.
Tarlac is also a rising destination for white water kayaking because of the roaring rapids of Camaling River. Visit the town of San Jose to try out this thrilling water sport.
Tarlac Recreational Park is a haven for thrill-seekers. This adventure park is home to many exciting attractions such as ATV and dune buggy rides, kayaking, and biking. Other facilities include an Olympic-sized swimming pool and an airsoft field.
Kart City Tarlac also offers you an adrenaline boost with its go kart racing activity. You can also opt to go golfing at Hacienda Luisita's Luisita Golf & Country Club. But if you prefer a more laidback approach to your vacation, try visiting Tarlac Museum to immerse yourself in the culture and history of the province.
Events and Festivals
Tarlac's Melting Pot Festival is held every January to honor the Aetas, the province's native settlers. Formerly known as the Malatarlak Festival, the event is highlighted by float parades and various cultural street dances and performances.
Meanwhile, every December, the province holds its annual Belenismo sa Tarlac Festival. The feast solidifies Tarlac's image as the "Belen Capital of the Philippines" as it is the major manufacturer of the "belen" or the diorama sculpture of the nativity scene. Its highlight is the belen-making competition among the various cities and municipalities.
Where to Eat
Fast Food Chains
Jollibee, McDonald's, and other popular fast food chains have several branches in Tarlac.
Isdaan Floating Restaurant in Gerona is one of Tarlac's most prominent dining places. Not only is it a haven for seafood lovers, the restaurant is also an Instagram-worthy place, with its unique displays such as superhero statues. Another attraction is its Tacsiyapo Wall where diners get to release their anger and de-stress by throwing ceramics into a wall.
Nay's House Restaurant is also a favorite. This homey establishment offers sumptuous Kapampangan dishes. For those who are into healthy eating, the organic dishes at Good Earth Farms and Foods will truly satisfy your cravings. On the other hand, those who want to indulge can enjoy the buffet at Lola Bida's.
If you have a flair for burgers, make sure to visit King Burger for some affordable bites or Abuelo's Cafe for some gourmet burgers. You can also pair your sandwich with one of the cafe's delicious frappes.
Victor's is a popular hole-in-the-wall grill, offering lots of delicious Filipino dishes, but its litson manok or grilled chicken is what keeps patrons coming back for more.
Where to Shop
Shopaholics can get their fix at SM City Tarlac, Robinsons Luisita, CityMall Tarlac, and Metro Town Mall.
The baked goods of Urdu Bakeshop are great for pasalubong. Choose from their wide array of cakes and pastries to take home to your family, friends, and workmates.
If you're looking for local delicacies, then Betty's Native Cakes is perfect for you. Make sure to bring home some sapin-sapin or kalamay for your folks.
What to Buy
Tupig, one of Tarlac's native delicacies, is a popular pasalubong. Tourists need not look far for this treat as several vendors have set up shop along the MacArthur Hi-Way.
ATMs and Money Changers
Tarlac has many banks and ATMs should you need to withdraw some cash for your expenses.
Fare: PHP 200.00 to PHP 250.00
Bus fares range from PHP 200.00 to PHP 250.00 depending on your drop-off point in Tarlac.
Food: PHP 50.00 to PHP 300.00
Carinderia meals start at PHP 50.00. Meanwhile, restaurant dishes typically range from PHP 200.00 to PHP 300.00.
Shopping: PHP 100 ++
Tupig is the cheapest pasalubong as it sells for only PHP 10.00 apiece. Meanwhile, if you visit Urdu Bakeshop, the money you'll spend for pasalubong will range from PHP 150.00 to PHP 400.00 depending on what you will buy. A box of pastries cost cheaper than a whole cake.
Accommodation: PHP 500.00 to PHP 5,000.00
For PHP 500.00 to PHP 700.00, two people are already covered for an overnight stay at a cozy inn. Meanwhile, the rate for hotel stays is from PHP 1,700.00 to PHP 5,000.00.
Activities: PHP 100.00 to PHP 2,500.00
The entrance fee for Aquino Center Museum costs PHP 100.00. Meanwhile, the rate for go kart rentals at Kart City is PHP 250.00 for five minutes.
The activities at Tarlac Recreational Park range from PHP 50.00 to PHP 100.00, save for the ATV rental which costs PHP 500.00 per hour. Trekking packages to Mt. Pinatubo are from PHP 2,000.00 to PHP 2,500.00. White water kayaking in San Jose will also cost you PHP 2,500.00.
||Arrive in Tarlac City.
||Have breakfast at a fast food chain like Jollibee.
||See the displays at Aquino Center and Museum.
||Visit the Capas Shrine and pay tribute to the heroes who died in the Bataan Death March.
||Have lunch at Abuelo's Cafe.
||Visit the Aquino Ancestral House.
||Try go kart racing at Kart City.
||Enjoy the various activities at Tarlac Recreational Park.
||Check in at Alvin's Mt. Pinatubo Guesthouse in Sta. Juliana, Capas. Afterwards, have dinner at the restaurant there.
||Have breakfast at the restaurant. Afterwards, get ready for the trekking tour. Make sure to prepare your packed lunch and some light snacks for trail food.
||Ride 4x4 vehicle towards the jumping-off point for the trek.
||Start your trek towards Mt. Pinatubo's crater. Don't forget to take lots of photos.
||Arrive at the crater. Enjoy your packed lunch.
||Start your descent from the crater.
||Ride the 4x4 vehicle back to your accommodation.
||Check out from Alvin's Mt. Pinatubo Guesthouse.
||Arrive in Tarlac City. Check in at an accommodation.
||Have dinner at Nay's House Restaurant.
||Have breakfast at Isdaan Floating Restaurant.
||Travel to San Jose town.
||Hear mass at Monasterio de Tarlac's chapel.
||Have lunch at a carinderia.
||Arrange a white water rafting activity with a travel agency (arranging a tour prior to your arrival is more recommended).
||Head back to Tarlac City. Buy some cakes or pastries at Urdu for pasalubong. Make sure to also buy some tupig in any of the roadside stalls.
||Check out from your accommodation.
||Hop on a bus back to Metro Manila.
Tarlac, just like the rest of the Philippines, only has two seasons: the dry season which runs from December until May, and the wet season which runs from November until June.
Make sure to pack some medicine, first aid supplies, and insect repellent, especially if you'll be outdoors a lot during your trip to Tarlac.
Safety and Security
If you want to experience the Mt. Pinatubo trek, make sure to sign with an established tour agency. And although it is tempting to take a dip in the volcano's crater lake, the local government strongly prohibits the public to do so.