BALANGA, PHILIPPINES: Seeking a modernized city with a touch of nature as its surroundings isn’t hard to do, especially if you’re in Balanga City. It is a residential-agricultural city situated at the eastern part of the province of Bataan in the Philippines. The word “Balanga” was derived from the word “banga” (clay pot); a product used to be produced by the city and was considered as one of the best in the country.
Balanga today. From being a mere a hearth of the province, Balanga City has been transformed into a high-tech city and a commercial haven for investors. It is now the center for trade, commerce, and education in the province in line with its vision to be “A World Class University Town by 2020”.
Living in the city. Balanga City is a combination of modernized and countryside living. At the heart of the city lie all the amenities from banks, restaurants and shopping malls to hotels, inland resorts and even hospitals. Pollution and traffic is not a problem when you visit the City of Balanga. Though there are still a huge number of motorcycles as a mean of transportation, traffic is not bumper-to-bumper unlike the busier streets of Manila. Balanga City is also surrounded by fields and bodies of water that’s why fresh fruits, vegetables, and seafood are abundant at the public market.
Peace and order. When it comes to security, the government of Balanga City takes peace and order seriously. CCTVs are installed everywhere and police patrol units are always present in the busiest parts of the city but of course, it would still be better to take caution when you go around at night, especially if you’re alone.
The people. One of the most important things we remember when we travel is the people we meet and how they treat you. The locals of Balanga City are very nice and more than hospitable to local tourists and even to foreign visitors. And most important of all, the people of Balanga always wear a smile on their faces.
Getting there. Balanga City is located about 124 kilometers from Manila. It is only a two to three hour ride by car or by bus depending on the time of the day you travel. To reach Balanga you may choose two major roads, the National Road or the Roman Superhighway.
If you’re traveling from Bataan’s neighboring provinces and cities such as Olongapo, Pampanga, Bulacan, or even from Manila, you may utilize the newly established Subic-Clark-Tarlac Expressway (SCTEX) to get to Balanga City faster.
Do. Like any other city in the Philippines, Balanga City offers the basic services you can enjoy and all of it can be found at the heart of the city, the Plaza Mayor de Balanga (Balanga City Plaza). You may simply sit at the benches around the plaza where you can have a nice view of the buildings and other establishments or you may just stare at the giant LED television and the colorful and dancing fountains that lights the city at night that is one of the main attractions in the plaza. You may also let your kids play around the plaza and take pictures of them while enjoying the clean, wide, and peaceful Plaza Mayor de Balanga.
Aside from the plaza, the most notable establishment at Balanga City today is the Galleria Victoria Mall. Galleria Victoria is not only a shopping mall but it becomes more of a recreation center for families and teenagers who are looking for a quality time together while staying at the center of the city. Meanwhile, if you prefer to have a movie date, you may opt to watch at the big screen inside the former Center Plaza Mall that is adjacent to Galleria Victoria.
When traveling into a new place, we also search for a place to feeding our souls and with that, you may visit the Saint Joseph Cathedral just across the Plaza Mayor de Balanga. You may take a rest, relax, and pray inside the cathedral.
During nightfall, Balanga City is more peaceful but lively. There are live bands and performers that entertain people at the plaza. But if you’re looking to party and drink then try Razz Bar, one of the favorites when it comes to night gigs in the City of Balanga.
Eat. Balanga City has a bunch of local and internationally recognized food chains such McDonalds, Jollibee, Greenwich, Chowking, Max’s, and Pizza Hut where you can hang out with your friends or have a healthy dinner with your family. But if you prefer a coffee break, you may visit The Beanery, and the newly built Starbucks that can be both found at Capitol Drive. Around the same area, you may also taste a fine dining experience at Louis Restaurant and at the Fortune Hongkong Seafood Restaurant. But if you’re craving for stake or other foods off the grill, then you may take a hop at Nico’s Terrace Grill.
Stay. Balanga City showcases a handful of hotels where you can check in and stay as long as you want. Two of its widely known hotels are the Crown Royale Hotel and Gap Plaza Hotel, both have large facilities that often cater a large group of people for different kinds of events. They can be reached via a ten-minute ride from the city plaza. You may also stay at Elison Hotel near Galleria Victoria. If you’re on a budget, plenty of small lodges can also be rented in the City of Balanga such as Buenavista Lodge or the D’ Samat Lodge.
Go. The newest tourist destination in Balanga City is the Wetland and Nature Park located at Barangay Tortugas. It is the first park in the Philippines that features nature as its outdoor recreational museum. It was also recognized by the Department of Tourism as one of the newest birdwatching sites in the country. The park features two viewing decks and floating Nippa Huts where you can have a fun picnic with your friends or your family. The City of Balanga also celebrates the annual “Ibong Dayo Festival” (Migratory Birds Festival) every December at the said park.
Aside from birdwatching, there are also a lot of activities to be enjoyed inside the park such as boat riding, biking, kite flying, mangrove planting and coastal clean-up.
Balanga City Wetland and Nature Park is open daily from 5:00 AM to 11:00 PM. A Conservation Fee is also collected when you visit the park.
Students from Bataan – Php 5
Residents of Bataan – Php 10
Visitors Outside Bataan – Php 20
Foreigners – Php 50
If you are looking for an inland resort, try La Vista Resort just behind Crown Royale Hotel.
Balanga City along with its mother province Bataan, are also known for their rich history. And inside the city, you may take a peek at the Fall of Batan Marker at front of the Bataan Provincial Capitol that was a testament to the gallant Filipinos and Americans who fought for democracy against the Japanese forces during World War II.
Outside Balanga City, you can find plenty of beach resorts to visit. You may also have a trek on the way up to the famous Shrine of Valor in the town of Pilar or cherish the beauty of mountains at Bataan National Park.
Final words. Traveling to Balanga City is a one-of-a-kind experience you’ll surely remember. It doesn’t have the characteristics of Manila but what it has to offer is already enough to fulfill your needs and satisfy your desires. If you’re a tourist planning on a trip to the Philippines, then Balanga City should definitely be at the top of your list.