The municipality of Pulilan is just less than 50 kilometers from the center of Metro Manila and it seems, most visitors overlook this interesting municipality of Bulacan. Founded in 1796 as town, it was supposed to be named as San Isidro in honor of its patron saint but for many, the town was known as Pulo ng Ilan. Eventually contracted to Pulilan. And that name stuck to this day. Although not as popular with other bigger municipalities in Bulacan, I like its good mix of culture, arts, heritage and modern sites for the visitor to enjoy. So here are things to do in Pulilan.
1 Hunt for colorful street murals around the town of Pulilan
What makes Pulilan special in the arts scene is its yearly Mandala Arts Festival established in 2012 by local arts and culture organization, Jefarca Arts and Historical Society Inc. Originally supported by the NCCA, the National Commission for Culture and the Arts, this year, the local government has owned the funding. The festival is derived from the local term for haystack, the mandala which is commonly found during harvest time and this event is a celebration of the best of the harvest. One recurring activity are the mural painting with carabao themes. Done by invited artists from Central Luzon and Metro Manila, one can find gorgeous works displayed around town. From a wall near the municipal hall to McDonalds, to Robinsons Mall and other places.
If you love street art, you will surely love Pulilan for its streetside wall murals.
2 Museo de Pulilan
The former Gabaldon school building built in 1908 was supposed to be demolished by the local government in 2010. But because of pleas by Andrew de Guzman of Jefarca Arts and Historical Society Inc., this was saved and now is the municipal museum as well as the Municipal Trial Court. Pulilan has Central Luzon’s first museum, housed at the Pulilan Church Convent and with the restoration and adaptive reuse of the Gabaldon school, now its permanent home.
Although small, the Museo de Pulilan traces the history of the town, from its founding as part of the parish of Plaridel to its erection as an independent parish. It houses also artefacts of historical importance as well as development of the town to the present. One section also houses the works produced during the start of the Mandala Arts Festival with painted papier mache carabao heads, carabao sculptures and winning photos.
3 Visit heritage houses
Pulilan has a few ancestral houses still existing with the best preserved and open to the public, the Casa San Francisco (built in 1929) which is located at the back o the cemetery. It’s a beautiful heritage house that has been restored in 2016. The ground floor has been converted into an air conditioned Filipino restaurant while the second floor has become the art gallery of the owner. And mind you, the art collection is extensive with several works by Philippine National Artists.
4 Spanish colonial era church and cemetery
Pulilan is one of some of Bulacan’s municipalities and cities that still has its spanish colonial era church standing. The church was built around 1829 by Fray Juan Rico but was damaged in the earthquakes of 1863 and 1880. The edifice was subsequently repaired and rebuilt.
Wonder of wonders, its just one of five municipalities that has its spanish era cemetery beside the church. It’s brick and stone entrance gate still exists. In the 18th century, a royal decree was promulgated to transfer the cemetery about a kilometer from the church for sanitary reasons but it seems, these five towns didn’t heed the king. What makes Pulilan cemetery unique is that at the top of the gate is a niche for one of the prominent townsfolks, Don Catalino Castillo.
5 The North Polo Club (NPC)
Who would have thought that this seemingly sleepy town near Manila has a big polo field where politicians, businessmen, expatriates and celebrities play? In the Big Ben Farm owned by Pacifica ‘Jun’ Eusebio, Jr is the home of the North Polo Club established around three years ago. Consisting of three polo fields, it has played host to several tournaments including the German Ambassador’s Cup. It’s good and, they say cheaper alternative to the Manila Polo Club. Compared to the latter, the NPC has a more country environment to it.
6 Suman bulagta at iba pa
The first time I heard about suman bulagta, I was amused and kind of curious at the same time. The word bulagta in Tagalog means to fall down. When we ate at one of the municipal officer’s house during our visit, we were served this. Nothing really fancy. It’s not even about how its cooked or if it has a special ingredient. But this is why it’s called such: once you peel down the banana leaf wrapper, the suman has a tendency to droop down. This is best paired with a slice of sweet and ripe mango (which Pulilan is proud of). And it was also during this visit that creamy and delicious leche flan also goes well with the suman.
One other product of the municipality is bangus as it is where Fisherfarms have a presence. The company is the largest aquaculture company in the country providing different kinds of bangus products here and abroad. For the native sausage lover, Pulilan has its own garlicky longanisa. It’s narrower and longer than those found in Cagayan and Ilocos provinces with a great garlic taste.
7 Kneeling Carabao Festival & Street Dancing
May 14 and 15 are auspicious days in Pulilan as the town celebrate the feast of San Isidro the Laborer. Like other towns, this is a harvest festival. But what makes Pulilan unique is it has its decorated kneeling carabaos. After a slow procession, the carabaos with their carts kneel down when reaching the church. This happens on the eve of the feast. On the 15th, street dancing with pastoral themes with several participating groups happen. The dance showdown done at the plaza infront of the church. It’s a great time to visit the town for its color and rhythm.
8 Get wet in resort pools
Like other landlocked municipalities, most of the resorts in Pulilan are the swimming pool type. One, having a butterfly sanctuary and orchid garden (Pulilan Butterly Haven and Resort). These resorts may have one or two swimming pools with slides. Some have rooms for overnight stays while others have restaurants. Its a great way to cool during summer. Check this site for a list of these resorts.