We’ve been repeatedly told to enjoy something while it’s there, a variant of the cliche which goes, “You’ll never know the value of something until it’s gone”. The Nayong Pilipino was one example. It had been operating for around 30 years beside the Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA), adjacent to the former Mercure Hotel Philippine Village, yet we never got the chance to visit it. We thought it was gone and we’ll never get to see a showcase of Philippine landmarks and culture in one site.
We frequent the airport and sometimes go to the GrandAir ticket office found at the Mercure Hotel, but never got the chance to visit Nayong Pilipino before it was closed for good around 2002. Come to think of it, the now-defunct GrandAir used to be at the long-closed Mercure Hotel at the airport, where the old Nayong Pilipino was located. The property was sold to the airport authorities to give way to expansion projects and for safety reasons.
It “was” an example of enjoying something while available because it was “unlost”. Imagine our surprise when we learned that Nayong Pilipino had transferred somewhere else. So when a school requested Nayong Pilipino as part of its educational tour, we gladly went out on a standard ocular inspection for GoTravelBliss.
Nayong Pilipino transferred to Clarkfield, Pampanga, to be exact (see map and directions). Formally opened in November 2007, Nayong Pilipino sits on a 6-hectare (per Clark website) portion of the Clark Expo, formerly Expo Pilipino. The Clark Expo is a huge white tent construction that prominently stands on the flat landscape, at a major intersection from the Clark-North DMIA exit of the Subic-Clark-Tarlac Expressway (SCTEX). Take the right of the fork after the SCTEX tollgate (to the direction to Baguio, as the left of the fork goes straight to Subic), then take the first exit. Just follow the winding exit road and you’ll see the Clark Expo to the right. It’s hard to miss.
Go inside the Clark Expo complex and you’ll see the Nayong Pilipino. The simple entrance arch, with the “Mabuhay” greeting above “Nayong Pilipino”, faces the expansive paved parking area (in the remote chance that you missed it, that’s “expansive”, with lots of parking spaces, and not “expensive”). Trees and well-maintained landscaping provide a relaxing environment to an educational experience into the culture of the Philippines, past and present. It’s easy to get “lost” in the replicas and relics that are interspersed with clean open spaces and manicured greeneries. It’s easy to lose interest and energy with the humid and hot atmosphere. Looking back, we realize that the route we took around the park optimized our energy (and the children’s interest).
We started at the entrance, of course, to pay the requisite fees. P20 for children and P30 for adults. The admission price is not bad, really, except that mosquitoes made us pay more in blood than in money. Probably it’s the time of the year or probably we were wearing shorts, we received our fair share of mosquito bites at the entrance. Just the entrance, though, before stepping beyond the payment counter. We didn’t encounter any suckers once inside.
We veered left and proceeded to the nice nipa hut, the Mabini House, which turned out to be a mini-museum for Pampanga artifacts. The marker indicates that the hut is a replica of the Apolinario Mabini Shrine in Talaga, Tanauan, Batangas. We understand that the shrine in Tanauan houses the remains and personal belongings of the “Sublime Paralytic”, as we we’ve stumbled on the shrine in one of our forays. Maybe they’re referring to an old shrine because the existing Mabini Shrine, as featured here in VisitPinas, is concrete, not a nipa hut.
Anyway, the mini-museum provides a brief introduction through the Paleolithic Age, Neolithic Period and the Metal Period (the most prominent find for the era, we read in the museum, is the Manunggul Jar found in the Tabon Cave Complex, Palawan). On display are potteries and tradeware ceramics, together with some bone fragments. I was expecting, and half-looking, for famous Pampanga dishes (just the representation, even) and information bits (read: trivia) about them. Hopefully they’ll have it sometime in the future.
Opposite the mini-museum are the replicas of Jose Rizal’s house in Calamba, Laguna, and the shrine/mansion of President Emilio Aguinaldo in Kawit, Cavite, with artifacts and memorabilia inside. There’s a strange device in Gen. Aguinaldo’s mansion which, we figured, is a precursor of the bicycle, as can be seen in the photo below. We could be wrong, of course, so feel free to correct us if you know exactly what it is.
From the Colonial Plaza, where the impressive replica of the Barasoain church is also found, follow the trail to the featured villages and traditional houses. Tucked in a corner of the Heroes’ Plaza is the statue of Andres Bonifacio, defiantly raising his bolo and the KKK flag. True, Bonifacio’s pose in the Manila shrine looks more impressive, but the one in Nayong Pilipino serves its purpose.
That ended the leisurely walk and the “covered” tour. The heat made the rest of the walk on open spaces not-so leisurely. We had no idea what to expect so went to the Nayong Pilipino after lunch. Wrong decision. We should have gone in the early morning, as the park opens at 8:00 a.m., or late in the afternoon, as it closes at 6:00 p.m. Bring an extra shirt, you would need it. Bring an open mind and your sense of history, you would need them more.
At the back of the Spanish Culture & Religion Museum and Philippine Museum, two separate structures that look like fortresses, is the Lagoon, where guests could go boating and fishing. The replica of the Tabon Cave is just adjacent to the Torogan House. The Nayong Pilipino material states that the Torogan is the “typical house” of our Muslim brothers from Mindanao, yet it also says that the Torogan House is the ancestral home of the Sultan or Datu, the village chief in Maranao, Southern Philippines. Perhaps our fellow Pinoys from Mindanao could help us sort this out.
On to the Aeta Village and the Ifugao Village, complete with traditional huts, like the Tuwali House. We learned that the “Tuwali, one of the three Ifugao subgroups inhabits the municipalities of Hingyon, Hungduan, majority of Kiangan, and the western portion of Lagawe and Banaue.” It comes complete with an Ifugao wood carver under the huts, as these are elevated by four sturdy wooden posts. The carver, we should add, is a real person, not a statue, actually carving various wooden artifacts for souvenirs (you have to pay for it, of course).
At the other side is the Kalinga Village, near the Festival Outdoor Amphitheater, the replica of Mayon Volcano and Nayong Pilipino’s rendition of Malakas at Maganda. More of Malakas (“strong”) and Maganda (“beautiful”) later. We learned that the term “kalinga” literally means “enemy”, widely used during the Spanish period to refer to the mountain peoples adjacent to the lower and middle Cagayan Valley.
One thing in common with these traditional houses is being elevated (the rest of the non-elevated cottages could be rented). There should be a functional reason for this (feel free to share if you know the reason). At that moment, I recalled my scouting days, with our tents flat on the ground. It rained cats and dogs, unfortunately for us. No amount of canals surrounding the tent could save us from the onslaught of water and a cold, wet night, even if our tents were built on sliding slopes.
Then there’s the rendition of Malakas at Maganda. Philippine legend has it that at the time when the Philippines was still uninhabited, a mythical bird flew across the ocean and, tired and hungry from the long flight, rested in a group of islands that subsequently came to be known as the Philippines. It saw a gigantic bamboo shoot and, hoping to find food, pecked on the bamboo (if we may add, maybe the bird is vegetarian, as it chose to peck on a bamboo rather than scrounge around for worms and small animals, certainly not the Philippine eagle). With an earsplitting crack the bamboo split into half. The startled bird flew away, without seeing two creatures come out of the bamboo. From the one half came out Malakas (“strong”), a golden-skinned male, and from the other half emerged Maganda (“beautiful”). They were the first Filipinos, as the legend goes.
There’s a lot to explore and learn at Nayong Pilipino, certainly a great learning adventure for the young ones and the young-at-heart.