December 2008 Ultimate Kapampangan Tour (3 of 3)


As I wrote here, we left Bale Dutung at 5:30 PM and headed back to San Fernando to watch the Giant Lantern Festival. Gladly, the tour organizers were able to get us VIP seats. Hence, it was a relief to be seated visually comfortable enough to appreciate more the lantern fest. I must say that these are literally giants that did beat the fancy lanterns I’m oriented to.

2008 Giant Lantern Festival
(Different faces of the entry from Barangay San Jose)

The (giant lantern) entries from each of the nine competing barangays were displayed by threes. The competition came into two phases, (a) that each lantern was showcased individually in its interpretation (lights synchronization) of own chosen music or set of songs (b) that three lanterns were showcased simultaneously using the same song. Being part of the audience, the second phase is visually more interesting (and challenging) since you will be comparing three interpretations at the same moment. While that would entail further strategy for the lantern makers since their very own have to stand out among the entries simultaneously played and adjudged.

del pilar entry

The creativity of the Kapampangans since this festival started in 1904 is overflowing. I remember I joined the audience in exclaiming, “wow!” in each particular surprising synchronization of lights with the tune. Here’s a sample video of giant lantern showcase.

Though there were stand outs, I found all the entries amazing. Amazement bigger than the lantern itself. Through time, it’s definitely getting grander (I’m thinking if the time will ever come for them to go back to basics). I assume that the cost is probably higher than the prize, or will just coincidentally break even. But it’s a treasured tradition that as Kapampangans claim, ‘we will continue, even if there’s no reward’. The mindset of the locals is amongst the many things that make San Fernando the Christmas Capital of the Philippines.



Bale Dutung

The five-way lechon that we had in Claude Tayag’s house is just half of the picture of our visit there. I didn’t expect there’s much justification to why Bale Dutung (Kapampangan term for House of Woods) in Angeles City is called as such.

Bale Dutung 1

As we walked towards the dining area, we were greeted by the gracious Mary Anne Tayag, Claude’s wife. (Here‘s an interesting story of how they met.) You would also find a banga, big almires, capiz curtain and vinegar display (with one aged 10 years already).


Before and in between the five-way lechon feast, we got to check the kitchen and the surrounds. These classic utensils are amongst my early favorites.

Bale Dutung 2

(L) Perfect for a siesta, (R) Would you know what is it?

suman demo

As I was organizing the photos that I took, I noticed that I almost dissected this spot. This was taken during the demo of suman making. Take note of the house at the background.

swing downstairs

In that same house in the preceding photo, you will notice the duyan (swing).

duyan at mga sili

As I checked the area further in between the feast, I took this one which I fondly called Duyan at Sili. Claude is famous for his chili sauce amongst the other stuff that he offers (e.g. inasal marinade, etc.)

wooden puppet guarding the house

Still around the same house, is a wooden puppet seemingly guarding the area.


Now, here’s an odd item on the other side of the house near the stairs.

house inside bale dutung

We were not able to get inside it though. I am still curious what’s in it.

Stairs in Bale Dutung

After finishing the dessert at past 5:00 PM, we were allowed to check the place’s (main structure) second level. The stairs at different sides of the residence reminded me of old movies, ancestral houses, and many others.


Aside from his hat collection, he also collects santos. Claude said,

“My santos are very small because they were the inexpensive ones. I never ambitioned to collect the ivory santos. I really wanted folk in terms of santos and textiles.”

Bale Dutung 3

While the house is aptly called (and known), here’s how it started. In one of the recent interviews with him, it was reported that:

People come to Bale Dutung and ask him if this was the Tayag ancestral home because it looks old. It’s not. “Eighty percent of the materials used were scrap and I built it from scratch,” he says.

He started collecting old lumber and adobe blocks as early as 1980. One day, he happened to pass by Mabalacat and saw the parish church being torn down. He negotiated with the priest to sell him all the wood, stone and iron grills instead of throwing them away, and in the end Claude paid more for the hauling than the materials themselves.

“It was still an empty lot and I would store them here,” he says. “At any given time, I knew what I had and what I lacked. Whenever I would have money I would buy materials. Even when I was in college, I already had a concept in mind. I wanted a barn house. I read Architectural Digest articles on successful actors who had houses and barns in upstate New York and I wanted one, too.”

claude tayag's artwork

Claude is an artist more than a chef. Here’s one of the paintings in the gallery which is being sold. See more here.

anthony bourdain
(When Chef Bourdain visited Claude in October 2008. He wrote in his column, Anthony Bourdain doesn’t need a reservation at Bale Dutung).

It’s more than satisfying to spend time in Bale Dutung. Great food + great place + accommodating house owners. We could not ask for more.

The next Ultimate Kapampangan Tour will be on 14th of February to coincide with the Hot Air Balloon Fiesta. Make your reservations now by sending an email to

For Bale Dutung experience alone, you may inquire from Mary Anne Tayag through and she can be reached at 0917-5359198 or (045) 888-5163. Strictly by reservation, minimum of 12 persons at P1,500 each.

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  27 comments for “December 2008 Ultimate Kapampangan Tour (3 of 3)

  1. bw
    January 19, 2009 at 6:47 pm

    Great night shots with the lanterns ! Lots of history in this place for sure.

    Woo.. Anthony Bourdain was there ? no doubt – the place needs to be visited :)

    bws last blog post..It Ain’t Over Till It’s Over

  2. January 19, 2009 at 9:24 pm

    I am also curious what’s inside the house. From the photos, it looks old, but looks can be deceiving. Are the kitchen utensils authentically old too? I was just wondering. The photos really give me a feeling of the old Philippines. Great photos!

  3. kg
    January 19, 2009 at 11:18 pm

    oh my! anthony bourdain visited that place? grabe, bigatin! and how nice to see him holding a glass of our own san miguel beer!

    i’ve gone to see the lantern festival maybe10 years ago, and it was a great experience! the lanterns were such fun to see. ganda!

  4. January 20, 2009 at 12:32 am

    Claude’s house is really something. To be able to preserve it that way. My officemates are already planning for the December tour already. hehehe.

  5. January 20, 2009 at 2:23 am

    grabe jo, nde matapos-tapos ang escapades mo ha, baka up to part 10 pa yan, heheh grabe. btw, E-heads are planning for a new reunion concert in March, sana matuloy na.

  6. January 20, 2009 at 3:36 am

    I love th presentation of this post, very authentic Jo. Grabe ang ganda talaga.

    shengs last blog post..A Doggy Post

  7. January 20, 2009 at 7:52 am

    i’m from Pampanga and i’ve never been to Bale Dutung! haha… and I missed the Ligligan Parul this year. just got to watch on TV. and i must say, i’m impressed this year. best batch of participants to date! :) i enjoyed this series of posts. :)

  8. January 20, 2009 at 9:11 am

    grabe ang ganda ng lanterns. and you’ve got great night shots.

    talagang sulit ang trip nyo ha. ano nga kaya ang nasa loob ng bahay na yon? uhmm… wala kayang mumu don? hehehe

    blue roses last blog post..What’s Your Inner Color?

  9. January 20, 2009 at 9:24 am

    I read somewhere that San Mig Light is his current favorite beer. Sobrang nagustuhan nya daw! Galing talaga ng Pinoy!

    Ricos last blog post..a new picture of me

  10. January 20, 2009 at 2:40 pm

    Wow! you had one great adventure, i never thought that Pampanga had so much treasures, I temted to plan the same trip for our next holiday in Manila.

    btw, wits i have an award waiting for you here

  11. January 21, 2009 at 10:19 am

    I admire the beautiful and creative lanterns from Pampanga. It must be great to witness them illuminate the evening. The House of Woods is very interesting. Thanks for sharing all these wonderful photos. It’s nice how you share your adventures with your readers.

    Rach (Heart of Rachel)s last blog post..A Godfather At Five

  12. January 22, 2009 at 5:40 am

    You’re welcome. I love scribbling about the travel I do, especially my food adventures. Heehee.

  13. February 2, 2009 at 1:15 am

    Hi Wits and Nuts,

    Thank you so much for the nice blog post series. It is nice to be on the receiving end of a blog post.

    We had fun and sorry for bailing out earlier than I expected.

    See you!


  14. January 20, 2009 at 6:10 am

    Yes, Claude had sisig (and beer) with Bourdain. :)

  15. January 20, 2009 at 6:13 am

    The house at the backyard is really old. I’m wondering if they actually regularly get inside it. I’m thinking of the maintenance of the whole place, too. I’ve ‘inspected’ the utensils. Those were indeed old. A rare find nowadays.

  16. ivana
    February 4, 2009 at 1:14 pm

    That house used to be his studio where he painted and did all his artworks.

  17. January 20, 2009 at 6:13 am

    Yay to your early planning. I’m excited what will they have then, probably something yummier than the 5-way lechon feast!

  18. January 20, 2009 at 6:16 am

    Heehee, this is the last of the Kapampangan-related posts. But there’d be more to blog about. :)

    I read about the Eheads final set concert presscon. I can’t be there in March. I’m so inggit. :(

  19. January 20, 2009 at 6:17 am

    That picture with Bourdain was displayed near the guestbook. Nakakatuwa ‘no? Parang endorsement for San Miguel. ;)

  20. January 20, 2009 at 6:20 am

    Thanks, Sheng. Bale Dutung is really an interesting place. :)

  21. January 21, 2009 at 3:03 am

    I hope you’ll be home in time for the December tour. =)

    Thanks for the award!

  22. January 21, 2009 at 3:13 am

    I understand how it feels. I’m from Laguna and would you believe I’ve never visited Rizal Shrine and other interesting places there? Dyahe, ‘no?

    Wow, best batch pala yung Ligligan last time. I forgot from which barangay that was, my most fave is the entry with real white doves. Ang galing!

  23. January 21, 2009 at 3:18 am

    Heehee, wala naman sigurong multo.

  24. January 21, 2009 at 3:25 am

    I remember reading from Anton’s blog that Bourdain actually got drunk with San Mig Light. ;)

  25. February 2, 2009 at 7:23 am

    Hello Anton, my pleasure. I’ll join in one of your tours again once I’m home for a vacation. :)

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