San Fernando City Photo: France Cheska S.

San Fernando City

Christmas never ends in the city of San Fernando, Pampanga. The city is 67 kilometers (42 miles) north of Metro Manila and lies in the heart of Central Luzon. It will take you about 3 hours from Manila to San Fernando, which locals call the “Christmas Capital of the Philippines.”

Never leave the city without getting a Parul Sampernandu, a brightly colored Christmas lantern that will light up your home during any season. San Fernando locals are known throughout the country to be excellent parol makers, using materials like capiz (windowpane oyster), vinyl plastic, or homemade paper to decorate their lanterns. Newer and more modern designs make use of fiberglass to keep the lanterns sturdy and lasting through bad weather.

Every third week of December, San Fernando City holds the Giant Lantern Festival (Ligligan Parul in Kapampangan). Local parol-makers showcase their giant lanterns in this city-wide competition. Walk the city streets at night to really enjoy the beauty of every parol on display.

The Christmas spirit was kept alive in the Paskuhan Village, which sold Christmas-themed souvenirs and handicrafts. The village is now called the Hilaga Cultural Village and exhibits the culture and traditions of indigenous groups in the Northern Philippines.

Pampanga is known for being the birthplace of classic Filipino dishes like sisig (pork head and innards served on a sizzling plate), lichun bulaklak (pork intestines roasted until crispy), and tocino (sweet cured bacon). Lesser known but equally unique dishes include pako (fiddlehead fern) salad and buru keng mustasa (fermented rice with mustard).

San Fernando has more interesting dishes for the truly adventurous foodie. Try crunchy kamaru (crickets) that can also be cooked adobo-style (simmered in soy sauce and vinegar), or stuff yourself with betute tugak (stuffed frog).

If you haven’t had your fill of frogs, visit San Fernando during the Fiestang Tugak, the city’s frog-catching festival. The abundance of frogs in the area made frog-catching a popular sport among kids and adults.

Another festival to visit is the Sinukwan Festival. This is a province-wide and week-long celebration of Aring Sinukwan, the god of ancient Kapampangans. The festival features locals in colorful costumes dancing on the street to the song “Atin Cu Pung Singsing,” which means “I have a ring.”

Citizens of San Fernando are a very religious people, and they prove it every Good Friday during Maleldo (Holy Week). Hordes of people from all over would gather to see citizens stage a reenactment of the Passion of Christ. Local men and even foreigners would volunteer to be crucified, though the Catholic Church now strongly discourages it. Weird souvenirs sold during the festival include a whip that you can get for ₱150 (about $3).

Visit the San Fernando Heritage District and hop on a kalesa (horse-drawn carriage) for a ride in the historic downtown San Fernando. View heritage homes, churches, schools and government buildings that have been standing since the Spanish times. Drop by the San Fernando Train Station, where you’ll see a stone marking the endpoint of the Bataan Death March in 1942.

Top Rated Restaurants in San Fernando City Browse All

  1. Mila's Tokwa't Baboy
    4.5 Stars
    Filipino
    31 Reviews View
  2. LA Bakeshop & Deli
    4.5 Stars
    Bakery
    24 Reviews View
  3. à La CrèMe Cafe Bistro Cakeshop
    4.5 Stars
    Café
    16 Reviews View
  4. S&R Food Service
    5.0 Stars
    American
    11 Reviews View
  5. Nathaniel's
    4.5 Stars
    Bakery
    25 Reviews View
  6. Dairy Queen
    5.0 Stars
    Ice Cream
    8 Reviews View
  7. McDonald's
    5.0 Stars
    Fast Food
    8 Reviews View
  8. Everybody's Cafe
    4.0 Stars
    Filipino
    25 Reviews View
  9. Cafe Noelle
    4.5 Stars
    Café
    11 Reviews View
  10. The Souq
    4.5 Stars
    International
    14 Reviews View

Top Rated Hotels in San Fernando City Browse All

  1. Villa Antonina Resort
    4.5 Stars
    Hotel
    3 Reviews View
  2. Lakeshore
    4.5 Stars
    Hotel
    4 Reviews View
  3. Hotel Gracelane
    4.5 Stars
    Hotel
    3 Reviews View
  4. Villa Alfredo's Resort
    3.5 Stars
    Hotel
    7 Reviews View
  5. City Heights Hotel
    5.0 Stars
    Hotel
    1 Review View
  6. Days Hotel Pampanga
    4.0 Stars
    Hotel
    1 Review View

Top Rated Places in San Fernando City Browse All

  1. Mila's Tokwa't Baboy
    4.5 Stars
    Filipino
    31 Reviews View
  2. LA Bakeshop & Deli
    4.5 Stars
    Bakery
    24 Reviews View
  3. à La CrèMe Cafe Bistro Cakeshop
    4.5 Stars
    Café
    16 Reviews View
  4. S&R Food Service
    5.0 Stars
    American
    11 Reviews View
  5. Nathaniel's
    4.5 Stars
    Bakery
    25 Reviews View
  6. Dairy Queen
    5.0 Stars
    Ice Cream
    8 Reviews View
  7. McDonald's
    5.0 Stars
    Fast Food
    8 Reviews View
  8. Everybody's Cafe
    4.0 Stars
    Filipino
    25 Reviews View
  9. Cafe Noelle
    4.5 Stars
    Café
    11 Reviews View
  10. Starbucks Coffee
    5.0 Stars
    Coffee
    8 Reviews View

Popular Areas in San Fernando City

  1. SM City Pampanga

    SM City Pampanga

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  2. Robinsons Starmills

    Robinsons Starmills

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  3. Dolores

    Dolores

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