Monday, December 25, 2017

Monday, December 25, 2017

One December weekend, I was aboard a tricycle on the General Alejo Santos Bridge when I noticed how beautiful the scenery of Bulacan was from up there. The bridge was aptly renamed as such in 1989 after the Bustos-born World War II hero and it connects the two towns of Bustos and Baliuag over Angat River. A mesmerizing view of the province's riverside grasslands can easily disarm travelers of any listlessness once they're up there, especially during sunset.

A nearby junction slowed down our tricycle which also let me view just how the two towns are not exactly the same. With both banks looking equally pleasant and still a bit bucolic, it was surprising to see that one side -- that of Baliuag -- reeked of trash while the other -- the Bustos side -- distinctly had any. I was coming from the latter that day after an overnight stay with friends at a newly-opened resort and we were about to ride a bus back for Manila via the former. If anything, that moment in travel can be a clear indication of how two towns can be next to each other and yet look so different.

Bustos is yet to construct its own waste-to-energy facility, but the way its residents treat trash already proves just how forward-thinking they are compared to their neighbors.

The General Alejo Santos Bridge
Bustos Heritage Park
Bulacan Military Area Monument (BMA)
Overnight stay at La Florentina Resort
Lunch at Cafe Apolonio
How To Get There

If you're planning of visiting this town in Bulacan by private car, it's accessible via the new Plaridel Bypass Road from Metro Manila for only 30 minutes or less. Or you can take the bus commute via Baliuag for roughly two hours which will entail riding a tricycle from the BuToda terminal near the Saint Augustine Parish Church for an additional 15 minutes or so.

Check out the following reasons why such a visit can turn out to be a quick vacation that's worth your weekend:

Minasa (left); Las Minasas Gigantes (right)
1. Experience The Annual Minasa Festival

Should you really want to have an authentic whiff of what Bustos is about, the town's Minasa Festival can best show it. The annual revelry celebrates the Minasa, a special pastry that's considered a local favorite snack. It's also a special pasalubong by tourists who visit the area, especially during the start of every year whenever the festival is held.

Made from cassava flour, butter, coconut milk, egg yolk and sugar, the creamy cassava cookies serve as a reminder of the town's Spanish colonial past when the treat was reserved for the elite's esteemed guests.

Bulacan Military Area Monument
This 2018, the festival will be held from January 12 to 21 and it will kick off in the first day with a film showing of Fiesta Pelicula finalists at the BMA Park. It will proceed with a Kick Off Ride and a Centennial Film Premier Night of "Bayang Dakila" the next day. One of the highlights of the festival will be the Street Dance and Lights and Sounds event on the 19th. There will also be a concert on the 20th and finally a closing presentation on the 21st.

La Florentina Resort
La Florentina Resort
La Florentina Resort
2. Stay At La Florentina Resort

La Florentina Resort just opened last March of 2017 which means that you can expect that all of its amenities are still in great condition. From its Olympic-sized swimming pool for adults, the row of 12 modern-style villas to its 100 nipa-roofed open cottages, the whole property is relatively brand new and shiny. Families with kids can even enjoy the two kiddie pools, with one being an aqua park which younger kids can appreciate. Bringing in of food is allowed and guests can also grill their own treats.

The resort is quite new that a secluded portion of it is currently under construction to accommodate more villas and swimming pool amenities as of this writing. There is even a plan to open a fully-operational hotel and a special events venue. As for other amenities, guests can rent an air-conditioned conference room for meetings and seminars while everyone is booked for the night.

Read more about La Florentina Resort.

Mercado House
Mercado House
Mercado House
3. See The Enduring Mercado House

Home to celebrated contemporary artist, Conrado Mercado, the Mercado House is one of the grandest ones in the town where not all ancestral houses were built like a fortress. The impressive structure found in Brgy. Bonga menor was built in the 1850s and has carved stones for its corner pillars.

According to a local tricycle driver whom I had the chance to briefly chat with during my vacation in Bustos, the house used to display an old photo of Jose Rizal which had long been stolen. He used to see it there on a wall inside the house where he used to play as a kid. It was said that it also served as a fort for Katipuneros.

Designed with an all-stone exterior, it reflects its unique location in old Bulacan where the terrain used to be highly vegetated. These days, though, the road where its gates open to -- General Alejo Santos Highway -- is one of the busiest in Bustos. 

Cafe Apolonio
Pork Sinigang by Cafe Apolonio
Cafe Apolonio
4. Dine At The Old Cafe Apolonio Sa Bahay Na Bato

Just next to the Mercado House is another ancestral home that's now operating as a cafe. Called Cafe Apolonio Sa Bahay Na Bato, the restaurant is also steeped in history as I later on found out after having my lunch there with friends.

As with most old houses that practice adaptive reuse in the Philippines, the cafe's major lure is not just its delicious food. Its arco or storage room-style dining area is a crowd-drawer with its exposed stonework. The tunnel-like feature of the restaurant now serves as secluded dining arteries of the main hall that was once the structure's old zaguan. Inside the narrow and windowless space that was once used for storing seasonal harvests, air-conditioning seemed unnecessary. As a matter of fact, it didn't feel claustrophobic at all during our visit even with dim lighting.

Read more about Cafe Apolonio.

Bustos Heritage Park
Letras y Figuras de Bustos
Conrado Mercado Metal Sculpture Garden
5. Unwind At The Bustos Heritage Park

The Bustos Heritage Park is located across the municipal hall where what can also be spotted is a tourist-friendly signage called the Letras y Figuras de Bustos which spells out the town name. The latter is where most tourists make the usual stopover for photo opportunities, but it's the park where the gist of the town can be seen. As a matter of fact, it's here where a giant Minasa sculpture called the Las Minasas Gigantes can be found right after the park entrance. The park itself is quite child-friendly as it has a variety of playground installations, including a nifty skate path. It's also here where visitors can still see age-old trees that reflect the town's love for nature.

Strategically mounted in different parts of the area at the Conrado Mercado Metal Sculpture Garden are creative sculptures that give visitors a sense that it's also an outdoor museum. The cluster of displays promotes geometric abstraction and abstract expressionism, the very art movements that its creator, Conrado Mercado, specialized in when he was still alive.

Booked at La Florentina Resort
With Bulacan being next to Metro Manila, it's easy to realize why Bustos is fast-becoming an attractive vacation spot by those in the NCR. Make it yours soon!

Special thanks to La Florentina Resort for being my home during my visit of Bustos

Visit Project Gora and Rizanoia for updates about Bustos.

Check out my Bustos-related blog posts:
La Florentina Resort
Cafe Apolonio Sa Bahay Na Bato


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