Bulacan: The Bustling Province north of Manila

Because of my campaign of church visits in the Philippines, I felt that I also need to take a glimpse of municipal halls, taste local delicacies and tourist spots they have to offer so I can share to my friends what I’ve been to and not only to believe on hearsays and stereotypes. Hence, I take one province at a time. After Laguna, Cavite, Rizal and Batangas provinces (Metro Manila on separate post), I want to embark more going north. Thus, Bulacan province is what comes to my mind since it’s the gateway to Central Luzon. This province is so vast, that one day isn’t enough to visit most of heritage churches. Because of this, I visited them in different dates.

Central Luzon (Kapampangan: Kalibudtarang Luzon, Pangasinan: Pegley na Luzon, Tagalog: Gitnang Luzon, Ilocano: Tengnga ti Luzon), designated as Region III, is an administrative region in the Philippines, primarily serving to organize the 7 provinces of the vast central plains of the island of Luzon (the largest island), for administrative convenience. The region contains the largest plain in the country and produces most of the country’s rice supply, earning itself the nickname “Rice Granary of the Philippines”. Its provinces are: AuroraBataanBulacanNueva EcijaPampanga, Tarlac and Zambales.
Bulacan, officially the Province of Bulacan (Tagalog: Lalawigan ng Bulacan), is a province in the Philippines located in the Central Luzon region. Its capital is the city of Malolos. Bulacan was established on August 15, 1578, and part of the Metro Luzon Urban Beltway Super Region. Bulacan is located immediately north of Metro Manila. Bordering Bulacan are the provinces of Pampanga to the west, Nueva Ecija to the north, Aurora and Quezon to the east, and Metro Manila and Rizal to the south. Bulacan also lies on the north-eastern shore of Manila Bay. It is the most populous in Central Luzon and the third most populous in the Philippines, after Cebu and Cavite.  Bulacan’s most populated city is San Jose del Monte, the most populated municipality is Santa Maria while the least populated is Doña Remedios Trinidad.
My 5th Province!
It is believed that flowers bloomed in the region when the Spaniards came. Because of these sprawling green orchards, vegetables and profusely flowering plants, as well as attractive women, this land had come to be called Bulacan as sort of shortened term for “bulak-lakan” and/or a derivative of the word “bulak” (kapok or cotton) which abounded in the province before the Spaniards came.
Some historians disagree on where the name Bulacan came from: some say from the word burak, because the place was swampy and muddy, while others say from the word bulak, since the road to the capital town was once upon a time lined with rows of cotton trees.

In this post, I’ll show some tourist destinations I visited in Bulacan thru infographics per municipality/city. I’ll post here in my #project81 the articles related to each province.

Bulacan is subdivided into 21 municipalities and 3 cities (Malolos, Meycauayan, San Jose del Monte). So far, I haven’t visited only 3 municipalities highlighted and I’ll update this post soon.

My Bulacan Travel Map Day 1: Obando-Meycauayan City-Marilao-Bocaue-Guiguinto-Bulakan-Malolos City-Paombong-Hagonoy

Obando, officially the Municipality of Obando (Tagalog: Bayan ng Obando), is a 2nd class municipality in the province of Bulacan, Philippines. According to the 2020 census, it has a population of 59,978 people.  It is 16 kilometers (9.9 mi) away from the Philippine capital Manila and is part of Manila’s conurbation. OBANDO was named after Governor General José Francisco de Obando y Solis, Marquis de Brindisi, who issued a decree on May 14, 1753 creating the town of Obando. The Obando Fertility Rites are a dance ritual, initially an Anitist ritual, and later also became a Catholic festival celebrated every May in Obando, Bulacan, Philippines. Locals and pilgrims, sometimes dressed in traditional costume, dance and sing in the town’s streets to honour and beseech Obando’s three patron saints: San Pascual (Paschal Baylon), Santa Clara (Clare of Assisi) and Nuestra Señora de Salambáo (Our Lady of Salambao). The Obando Church was declared a National Shrine last 2021.
Meycauayan, officially known as the City of Meycauayan (Tagalog: Lungsod ng Meycauayan), is a 3rd class component city in the province of Bulacan, Philippines. It is one of the oldest towns in the province, founded on October 4, 1578. Meycauayan got its name came from the words “may kawayan”, translated to English as “with bamboo”. It is formerly called as Mecabayan. The City of Meycauayan is the economic, industrial, commercial, financial and educational center of southern Bulacan. The city is known for its jewelry and leather industries. For years, Meycauayan has been the hub of jewelry production in the Philippines and in Asia. It is known for its low-priced jewelries. The locality also produces leather goods. Shoes, bags and every kind of leather product has been traditionally manufactured here. A number of leather tanneries still operate in Meycauayan, which over the years have converted the city into a hub for leather goods.
Marilao, officially the Municipality of Marilao (Tagalog: Bayan ng Marilao), is a 1st class municipality in the province of Bulacan, Philippines. The name of the town was derived from a plant called ‘Dilaw‘, a type of shrub that can be found within the town. The origin of the Municipality of Marilao is closely linked with the political and cultural history of Meycauayan City. In fact, Marilao was just one of the barrios surrounding the Municipality of Meycauayan established by the Franciscans in 1578. Due to Meycauayan’s high rate of population growth and rapid pace of its economic advancement, one by one, the large barrios separated from the mother town and became individual municipalities. Among these barrios is the duly constituted Municipality of Marilao established on April 21, 1796. Marilao is home of the The National Shrine of the Divine Mercy.
Bocaue, officially the Municipality of Bocaue (Tagalog: Bayan ng Bocaue), is a 1st class municipality in the province of Bulacan, Philippines. The town’s name comes from the Old Tagalog word “Bukawe“, which refers to a type of long bamboo (Schyzostachyum lima). The town’s major industry is fireworks-making, which has earned it the tag “Fireworks Capital of the Philippines”. 
Guiguinto, officially the Municipality of Guiguinto (Tagalog: Bayan ng Guiguinto), is a 1st class municipality in the province of Bulacan, Philippines. Guiguinto began as a barrio of Bulakan, the former provincial capital of Bulacan. It is said that Spaniards set up an army post in the barrio to serve as a resting place for forces going to Northern Luzon. In those days, travel throughout Guiguinto was difficult and slow down to cross single file over a narrow bamboo bridge. Their Filipino guides would cry out, Hinto (stop). The Spaniards thought this was the name “Hihinto”. The Spaniards substituted “Gui” (with hard “g”) for the Tagalog “Hi”. The place has since been called Guiguinto. On the other hand, old timers say that on moonlight nights, a golden bull emerges from the church and goes down to the nearby river to quench his thirst. It then returns to the church, ascends at the altar and disappears. The elders’ aid that there are buried jars of gold in town, as indicated by the bull, and that is why the town was called Guiguinto.
Established in 1999 by Mayor Ambrosio Cruz, Jr., the Halamanan Festival has since become the brand of the Municipality of Guiguinto. It was conducted in gratitude and recognition Guiguinto’s dear patron, St. Ildephonsus (San Ildefonso), who held every 23 January. Besides the celebration for the feast of San Ildefonso was also a means to further pitting and display capabilities and “galing” of Guiguinteño in various fields of horticulture as landscaping, PROPAGATION seedling, plant growing, flower cutting, arranging and interior decorating.
Bulakan, officially the Municipality of Bulakan (Tagalog: Bayan ng Bulakan), is a 1st class municipality in the province of Bulacan, Philippines. Bulakan, which is one of the oldest towns in the Philippines, became the encomienda or capital of the Provincia de la Pampanga, and later became the first capital of the Province of Bulacan before it was moved to Malolos shortly after the American occupation.
With regards to whether to use the letters “c” or “k” to refer to the municipality of Bulakan, the New Provincial Administrative Code of Bulacan (Ordinance no. C-004) of 2007 states on Chapter 2, Section 15 that the word “Bulakan” stands for the municipality and first capital of the province while “Bulacan” refers to the province itself.The name “Bulakan” is derived from the Tagalog word “bulak”, which means “cotton”. The town was named Bulacan due to the abundance of cotton plants growing in the region.
Malolos, officially known as the City of Malolos (Tagalog: Lungsod ng Malolos), is a 3rd class component city and capital of the province of Bulacan, Philippines. It is the capital city of the province of Bulacan as the seat of the provincial government.
Malolos was the site of the constitutional convention of 1898, known as the Malolos Convention, that led to the establishment of the First Philippine Republic, at the sanctuary of the Barasoain Church.
The convent of the Malolos Cathedral served as the presidential palace at that time. Malolos gave birth to the first constitutional republic in Asia. Malolos is hailed as the Premiere Heritage City of Bulacan. Many ancestral houses from the Spanish and American periods, Spanish colonial churches and chapels, historical sites and landmarks, and even structures such as walls and bridges with heritage and historical value are found around the city.
The Casa Presidencia de Malolos was converted as the new Casa Real of Bulacan (became Casa Real Shrine) making it as the new Official Office and Residence of Governor until 1930 when the new Provincial Capitol Building in Barrio Guinhawa, also in Malolos was built.
The name of Malolos was presumably derived from the Tagalog word “Paluslos”, meaning ” downwards”. The name resulted from a misunderstanding among the first Spanish missionaries who reached the place. Searching for inhabited places along the Calumpit River, these priests came upon some natives of a riverside barrio (now Kanalate). They asked for the name of the place. The natives, not knowing the Spanish tongue, answered that the flow of the river in that part was downstream -“paluslos”-, which the Spaniards pronounced “Malolos”. Corruption of the word through the years led to present “Malolos”.
Paombong, officially the Municipality of Paombong (Tagalog: Bayan ng Paombong), is a 3rd class municipality in the province of Bulacan, Philippines.
Dubbed as the “Vinegar Capital of the Philippines”, Paombong is famous for its vinegar extracted from the sap of sasa (nipa), thus the term “Sukang Paombong” (Paombong vinegar) became known in Luzon and other parts of the Philippines.
Local legend has it that the name “Paombong” was taken from the long bamboo tube called “bumbong” or “tukil” which is used for collecting nipa sap. The practice of extracting nipa sap with bumbongs made the town known as the town with many bumbongs.
The local people claimed that the Spaniards who first visited the place were so amused with the bumbong that, after learning its name from the natives, they named the town after the container, a name which later evolved to Paombong.
Hagonoy, officially the Municipality of Hagonoy (Tagalog: Bayan ng Hagonoy), is a 1st class municipality in the province of Bulacan, Philippines. The town was named after the “hagunoy” (Chromolaena odorata), a medicinal plant that used to be abundant in its river banks and along the seashores. The original populace used its leaves as their herbal remedy of choice for common illnesses and as food ingredients. Because of the medicinal value of the plant, the news of its effectiveness spread leading the people to call the place “Hagonoy”.
Hagonoy is mainly a fishing municipality with about three-fourths of its total land area devoted to fish farming. It is home to about 1,423 fishpond operators and 55 registered consignacions – a venue for trading aquaculture products. The town offers a variety of harvests which includes prawns, shrimps, milkfish, tilapia, crabs, mussels and oysters. With its abundant water resources and the coastal nature of the town, the majority of the population is dependent on the fishing industry. The National Shrine and Parish of Saint Anne, commonly known as the Santa Ana Shrine or Hagonoy Church, is an 18th-century, Baroque church located at Brgy. Santo Niño, Hagonoy, Bulacan, Philippines.

My Bulacan Travel Map Day 2: Calumpit-Pulilan-Plaridel-Baliwag City-Bustos-San Rafael-Angat-Norzagaray-Sta. Maria-San Jose del Monte City

Calumpit, officially the Municipality of Calumpit (Tagalog: Bayan ng Calumpit), is a 1st class municipality in the province of Bulacan, Philippines. The name “Calumpit” comes from the tree “Kalumpít“, an indigenous hardwood species similar to apalit and narra, which grows abundantly in front of the St. John the Baptist Parish Church in the Población-Sucol area.
The stretch of waterway where two great rivers traversing through Calumpit, the Angat River and the Pampanga River is referred to as the Calumpit River. This river has shaped the lives of Bulakeños since time immemorial. With the longest river system in Bulacan, Calumpit River traverses the towns of Calumpit, Pulilan and Plaridel on the east, Paombong and Hagonoy in the West and winds up through Apalit, Macabebe and Masantol, Pampanga.
Pulilan, officially the Municipality of Pulilan (Tagalog: Bayan ng Pulilan), is a 1st class municipality in the province of Bulacan, Philippines. The town is famous for its Carabao Festival where carabaos are paraded and kneel as they pass through San Isidro Labrador Parish Church, in honor to the town’s patron saint, San Isidro Labrador. On January 20, 1796, it was called Pulilan. There are no written records how the place is named Pulilan. But legend has it that is derived from Pulo ng Ilan, literally, clusters of small communities or isles.
Plaridel, officially the Municipality of Plaridel (Tagalog: Bayan ng Plaridel), is a 1st class municipality in the province of Bulacan, Philippines. On December 29, 1936, a bill was passed and approved changing the town’s name from Quingua to ‘Plaridel’, in honor of the great hero of Bulacan, Marcelo H. del Pilar.
Salubong Festival celebrated annually every December 29. It’s called salubong or welcome because they welcome the St. James the Greater’s equestrian replica from Sipat. It’s also called Horse festival because they paraded calesas, tiburins (non-roofed calesa) and an only riding on the horse (equestrian) and holding a horse racing in the afternoon.
Baliwag or Baliuag, officially the City of Baliwag (Filipino: Lungsod ng Baliwag), is a 1st class component city in the province of Bulacan, Philippines.  Baliuag was founded in 1732 by Augustinian friars and was incorporated by the Spanish Governor-General on May 26, 1733. The town was a part of Quingua (now Plaridel) before. Buntal hat weaving in Baliuag together with silk weaving popularly known in the world as Thai silk; the manufacturer of cigar cases, piña fibers, petates (mats), and Sillas de Bejucos (cane chairs) all of the fine quality became known in many parts of the world.  Baliuag is the major commerce, transportation, entertainment, and educational center of Northern Bulacan. On December 17, 2022, a plebiscite was held making Baliwag the Bulacan’s fourth component city and the country’s 148th.
With the Christianization of the Philippines, the Spaniards built many Catholic churches. One of these churches was established in Quingua (now Plaridel), of which Baliuag was still a “cabecerria” or barangay with no definite name. (Cabecerria or barangay is the modern-day barrio).
Because they had no other decent means transportation, the people either had to walk or had to ride a banca all the way to Quingua, a distance of nine kilometers to hear masses on Sundays and feast days. As a consequence, the churchgoers from Baliuag often came late for mass.
This habitual tardiness eventually became the butt of jokes among the people of Quingua, so much so that whenever they saw a group of Baliuag folk coming, they would mockingly say; “Eto na ang maliliwag“. (Here come the slow-folks). Or, if the later comer was all alone, “Eto na si Ba Liwag”. (“Ba” is a provincial title of respect for a man).
Unfortunately, for the local folk, the uncomplimentary term “maliwag” (or Baliwag) stuck like glue. Even the Spanish “cura” was announcing it from the pulpit in reference to them. Through the years the name Baliuag evolved from it and by this name or appellation the town became known. Baliuag was the 10th town founded by the Augustinians in the province of Bulacan. Baliwag is the home of the first self-supporting clock tower in Bulacan, which is a heritage attraction in the town.
The Baliuag Municipal Library and Museum (also referred to as the Tahanan ng Kasaysayan at Kalinangan ng Baliuag) which is currently housed at the Lumang Munisipyo (Old Municipal Town Hall) is the town’s center for historical and cultural heritage.
Bustos, officially the Municipality of Bustos (Tagalog: Bayan ng Bustos), is a 2nd class municipality in the province of Bulacan, Philippines. The town got its name from Jose Pedro Perez de Busto (1729-1772), a mining engineer from Villaviciosa, Asturias, Spain, served as the right-hand of Simón de Anda y Salazar, and was appointed teniente general alcalde (Provincial Governor) of Bulacan.
Bustos has its own trademark product, the finger food ‘minasa‘. Minasa refers to “cassava cookies“, made from cassava flour, egg yolk, yeast, butter, and coco milk. It is often compared to the uraro, another local delicacy. Minasa is one of the famous treats from the province of Bulacan traded in the local and global market of Filipino pasalubong products.
San Rafael, officially the Municipality of San Rafael (Tagalog: Bayan ng San Rafael), is a 1st class municipality in the province of Bulacan, Philippines. San Juan de Dios Parish Church, also San Rafael Church, is an 18th-century Roman Catholic church situated in Brgy. Poblacion where the Battle of San Rafael took place, wherein hundreds of retreating Filipino soldiers and civilians lost their lives during a battle with the Spanish on November 30, 1896.
Every year, the town celebrates its Angel Festival in honor of their 2nd patron saint, Saint Raphael, together their town’s pride, the Angel Festival, which attracts many tourists every year. It is a colorful celebration in honor of the Seven Archangels. This is held every 29 September.
Angat, officially the Municipality of Angat (Tagalog: Bayan ng Angat), is a 1st class municipality in the province of Bulacan, Philippines. The Town of Angat got its name after the Tagalog word Angat (A-ngat), meaning ‘elevated‘ or ‘a high piece of land’.
The municipality of Angat has hilly and mountainous landscape that nestles Angat River – (Bulacan River) which snakes around eleven provinces in the Central Luzon Region. Angat River’s main basin of water resource is from Sierra Madre Mountain Range (the longest mountain range in the Philippines) in Luzon island.
Norzagaray, officially the Municipality of Norzagaray (Tagalog: Bayan ng Norzagaray), is a 1st class municipality in the province of Bulacan, Philippines. Governor-General Fernándo Norzagaray y Escudero (1857-1860) issued a Real Cedula declaring barrio Casay together with barrio Matictic to be constituted as a new independent town from Angat. Political boundaries of Angat and Pueblo de Casay y Matictic were demarcated and the newly created town was renamed as “Norzagaray” in honor of the said Governor-General.
It is the location of Angat Dam which sits on the lower realms of the Sierra Madre mountain range, the Dam is notable for being a major water and power supply for the National Capital Region.
Santa Maria, officially the Municipality of Santa Maria (Tagalog: Bayan ng Santa Maria), is a 1st class municipality in the province of Bulacan, Philippines. Located on the banks of the Santa Maria River, it was founded as a barrio of Bocaue in the early 17th century until it was established as an independent municipality on November 26, 1793, by the Spanish friar Francisco Dominguez Javier OFM.
Known before as Santa Maria de Pandi, it is named under the patronage of the Immaculate Conception (also known as La Purisima Concepcion) housed in The Minor Basilica of La Purísima Concepción, locally known as Santa Maria Church.
Santa Maria remains by a significant margin the most populous municipality in Central Luzon, as well as the 5th most populous municipality in the Philippines. It is also known as Chicharon capital of the Philippines for its booming chicharon industry.
San Jose del Monte, officially known as the City of San Jose del Monte (abbreviated as SJDM or CSJDM; Filipino: Lungsod ng San Jose del Monte), is a 1st class component city in the province of Bulacan, Philippines. It the largest local government unit within the province of Bulacan and Central Luzon and the 18th most populated city in the Philippines. The city is home to some of the biggest resettlement areas in the Philippines like the Sapang Palay resettlement area.
The town reportedly got its name from Saint Joseph whose statue was found in a veritable forest; the hunters called it “San Jose del Monte” (lit. “Saint Joseph of the Mountain”). In all probability, the hunters reported their find to the parish priest of Meycauayan. It was said that the priest built a stone church at the site where the town proper is now located. The statue was installed in the new church. Extant Catholic Church records reveal that the first parish priest was Father Antonio de Moral. He took charge of the parish in 1845.

Spinoff from Baliuag: San Ildefonso-San Miguel-(cities of Nueva Ecija northwards)

San Ildefonso, officially the Municipality of San Ildefonso (Tagalog: Bayan ng San Ildefonso) is a 1st class municipality in the province of Bulacan, Philippines. The early inhabitants called this town Bulak because of the abundant ‘kapok’ trees (‘bulak’ in vernacular) growing on the hill where the town is now. As the population grew, a chapel was constructed under the parochial jurisdiction of San Rafael. In 1809, Father Juan dela Rosa was named the first Filipino priest of the town. He held the position until 1811. He was responsible for changing the name Bulak to San Ildefonso in honor of Alfonso XII, then the king of Spain, and San Ildefonso, its patron saint.
San Miguel, officially the Municipality of San Miguel (Tagalog: Bayan ng San Miguel), is a 1st class municipality in the province of Bulacan, Philippines. It is the third largest municipality by area in the province after Doña Remedios Trinidad and Norzagaray. There are two accounts on the origin of the town’s name: According to the 1953 journal History of Bulacan, the town was originally named Mayumo from the Kapampangan term for “sweets”.
The name San Miguel was added by the Augustinian missionaries who selected Michael the Archangel as the patron saint of the town. An account tells that the two leaders decided to form a town named Miguel De Mayumo after the name of Miguel Pineda and Mayumo, from the Kapampangan term and for the goodwill and generosity of Mariano Puno. The Diocesan Shrine of San Miguel Arcangel, is a 19th-century, Baroque church and the only Spanish-era church in Bulacan with the belfry attached atop the façade pediment.

For detailed posts about visita iglesia and foodtrip in Bulacan, click on below links:

Visita Iglesia in Bulacan

BULACAN: Food trip and pasalubong

#BulacanBabalikBalikan 😁🏖️ (n_n)


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