062912 - The Urban Tracker (In Pampanga) : Local Blends in Sto. Nino Tabuan

The boundary marker of Pampanga and Nueva Ecija in Mapalad and Cabiao
ike any communities at the foot of a mountain, life is typically subdued and with fewer troubles for the residents around Mt. Arayat.  


After all, it has blessed them with rich harvest and vegetation within reach providing necessities and comforts to go about in simple daily kind of life. 

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A local chapel in Mapalad radiant in blue.
Searching that scenario, I started from the border point in Mapalad, eventually settling with the arch boundary of Pampanga to Cabiao, Nueva Ecija with the statue of a farmer trailing a carabao in closer look just below the arch. Pampanga borders with the provinces of Tarlac and Nueva Ecija going North. Bulacan, Bataan, and Zambales on South and West.

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Cable guys fixing the posts and cables in McArthur Highway
For us strangers in strange land, paying a courtesy call in barangay hall with the officers-in-charge is necessary to secure our presence in this area. Having that ease gave it less apprehension and more thrill to explore the corners of this promising rural venture.

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Yummy in a bite, lumpia with bullets of kamote
While the rains were at a pause, we did a double time of coverage passing the local chapel along McArthur Highway in Mapalad that was well painted in blue along with other nicely arranged neighborhood's houses. While watching the catch-up works by local cable guys taking advantage the absence of rains, we caught a local peddler selling this lumpia made yummier with bullets of kamote strips and mongo sprouts. When I tried one, the rest of the cable guys followed.

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Chunks of wood, typical fuel for the locals
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Mt Arayat crowned by fog via Bamban River
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A local worker chopping off wood for fuel supplies.
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Small makeshift shelters in nearby Bamban River
Our next spot to check was San Mateo, another barangay on the edge of the Bamban River. It's a sprawling community of mostly farmers. Locals here built a makeshift shelter to conduct their farm activities. The abundance of woods made this rural side active with some chunks being transported to the market. By the time I reached the edge of the river, the elusive mountain that was glazed in haze bespectacled me.

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Tokwa't Baboy Sto. Niño Tabuan's drier version
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Soupy dinuguan enriched with local pork
It's time to go to the adjacent  Sto Nino Tabuan. Along the road, I sampled a popular dish with a local twist - the tokwa't baboy and the dinuguan. The tokwa't baboy was diced with less sauce that gave it a twist in taste. In contrast. the non-thick version of dinuguan here was oozing and thumbs up with its local blend of taste.

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A typical hanging in one tienda in Sto Nino Tabuan
Recollecting images while in that small barrio with the given warmth reception of the people made it more meaningful even for the fleeting moment. It's more about the simplicity of things and the inspiring contentment of residents with their way of life. Prying into one barrio tienda or little store with typical snacks hanging on display in Sto Niño Tabuan was perhaps the enduring image reminding me that life is beautiful in the barrio at the foot of the mountain.