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Kuraldal Festival and Bird-watching trip in Sasmuan, Lubao, Pampanga

Sasmuan, Pampanga, Philippines

Looking  for a Pampanga day tour? Read on. 

We all know that Lubao in Pampanga is home to the annual Philippine International Hot Air Balloon. What we don't know is that there are a lot more tourist spots to explore in Lubao and of course in the whole province of Pampanga. In this post, we'll focus particularly to the municipality of Sasmuan - a name that somehow had a very interesting history of how it got its name. 

History of Lubao in Pampanga 
Lubao (or Balen Baba, from the Spanish "lo bajo" and vernacular "baba", lying ground, a place easily flooded), was established  on September 14, 1571 as the pioneer town of the newly created and premiere La Provincia de Pampanga. Through the orders and then virtual leadership of conquistador Miguel Lopez de Legaspi, a military expedition of pacification was led by Maestro De Campo Martin de Goiti and that achieved conciliation with Datu Macabulus, the local chieftain of the already prosperous and thriving settlement of peace-loving natives engaged in trading, early rice cultivation and fishing at the Rio Grande and its tributaries. Lubao thus became the birthplace of the Spanish colonial rule in the island of Luzon.

In 1572, Lubao became the first ecclesial enclave north of Intramuros with the evangelizing journey of missionary-priests of the Orden de San Agustin (Order of Saint Agustin, OSA) under whose priestly supervision the province was asssigned, and in prior of the Convent of San Agustin in Lubao. Fray Gallegos helped establish and carry out the initial structural plans of the pueblo (township) of Lubao.

The first visita, or chapel, was created in Barangay Santa Catalina, and it became the site of the first conversions of the natives and inhabitants into the Catholic faith. Thirty years later, the need for a bigger church for the steadily growing number of faithful settling in or flocking the town yearlong, and because of the incessant flooding that ravaged the site, the parish and church, with its titular patron San Agustin (Saint Augustine, Bishop of Hippo), was moved to Barrio San Nicolas at the poblacion (town center) where it was constructed with stronger materials by P. Fray Antonio Herrera to become the largest in the province and where it is found to the present day.

In 1580, a school for Latin and Humanities was established for the locals and missionaries. By 1596, the Estudio de Gramatica (School of Grammar and Rhetoric) was transferred from Candaba to Lubao, with friar-teachers Fr. Francisco Osorio and printed and published many devotionals and prayer books in Spanish, Capampangan and Tagalog. Through the succeeding centuries, Lubao became the missionary center of Pampanga.

By 1850, the town held a distinct place as principal member of the "power centers in Pampanga." Lubao was the mission capital, Bacolor (Balen Baculud, established 1576), the executive & cultural capital, and Guagua (Balen Wawa, established 1590), the  commercial and trade capital of the Pampanga region.

  Introduction of Sasmuan
Originally, the town's name was "Sesmoan". When the Spanish colonizers came, they changed it to "Sexmoan" to adapt to how they alphabetize every local word in their own vocabulary and language. Obviously, it doesn't sound right so after the American colonization, the local government unit of Sesmuan filed an official directive to change the name to what it is known today.

Religious festival in Pampanga - Kuraldal Festival of Lubao
There are a lot of religious festivals honoring patron saints in the Philippines because the majority of the population are Roman Catholics. In Sasmuan, the locals have Apo Lucia who is believed to grant wishes such as healing sickness, conceiving a baby and a successful career. Kural" was derived from the Spanish word "curar" which means to cure.  While it remains as one of the lesser known festivals in the Philippines, it remains as one of the most treasured activities by the people of Sasmuan and Lubao in Pampanga.  Saint Lucy is a Catholic martyr who was persecuted because of her faith in Syracuse in 14th century.  

Kuraldal Festival Sasmuan Lubao Pampanga

People from all walks of life and converge in an open space all dancing and wanting to touch the statue of Apo Lucia, Jesus and Mary shown in an elevated platform on the stage. There's a live band that provides music to the people to keep on dancing while they make efforts to come near to kiss, touch these statues while then say a prayer. 

Kuraldal Festival in Lubao Pampanga

Kuraldal Festival in Pampanga is celebrated every January of the year - particularly during the Epiphany celebration which is 12 days after Christmas. That's why no wonder there are still Christmas lanterns and Christmas trees you'll see in the streets of Sasmuan when you go there to celebrate Kuraldal Festival. The festival of Kuraldal is officially observed on January 6th for five days though if we are to base it on the Catholic calendar, it should start as early as December 13th. 

Kuraldal Festival Pampanga

We've met some folks coming from other towns of Pampanga who have been joining the Kuraldal Festival for decades in honor and to give thanks to Apo Lucia for their granted wishes. Some even carry a printed photo of Saint Lucia and have it blessed by the priest. They don't mind squeezing in between the thick crowd just to be able to come near to Apo Lucia to ask for another year of blessing. We were told that the original statue of Apo Lucia in Sasmuan is already 400+ years old which is the same statue that is still shown in the public during the last evening called "Kawakasan" which is very rare in other towns in the Philippines. They keep the historical statue away from the public for security reasons.

Bird - watching trip in Pampanga: Sasmuan Bangkung Mapalad Critical Habitat & Ecotourism Area (SBMCHEA) in History of Lubao

Yes,  there's  a bird-watching adventure near Manila you can join soon! It is located in Bangkung Mapalad, an islet in Barangay Batak II which is a coastal community. Today, it is home to 16 types of mangroves and 100+ species of birds (local and migratory). A bird-watching tour here includes passing by the Pasak river. For me, this is actually where you'll get the best view and take the best photos because you'll see birds flying in groups above and some birds resting on the ropes made by locals for fishing purposes. Somehow the birds have made it as their temporary shelter at some point. We also saw birds walking near the shore and woodpeckers trying to catch a fish by plunging down swiftly to the river's surface.   

Bangkung Mapalad Sesmuan Lubao Pampanga

We don't have cameras with long lenses that's why we can't show the kinds of birds we have seen. We do not promise a gazillion of birds though because the tourism officer of Lubao admits that year by year there's a decrease in the number of birds hanging out in Bangkung Mapalad. They say because of the climate change issue so the number of birds you'll see when you book a bird watching tour package in Lubao varies according to the day, time or weather when you get there. It is best to consult the Tourism Office of Lubao to give you more information about this.

bird watching in lubao pampanga

The bamboo pathway leading to the main entrance of Bangkung Mapalad is also a sight to behold. If you're a certified Instagram addict, you'll love it. Some of the birds that are frequently seen here are heron, egret, yellow bittern, plover, wigeon, redshank, greenshank, sandpiper, black-winged stilt and a lot more.

You may check these photos that introduce the names of birds and mangroves that are found in Bangkung Mapalad, Sesmuan, Lubao in Pampanga:

bird watching tour in pampanga

Bangkung Mapalad in Sesmuan Lubao Pampanga

We have seen parts of Bangkung Mapalad is covered with middens of broken corals that were brought by waves to the shores. Studies show that hundreds of years from now this tiny island in Lubao Pampanga can turn to a beautiful white sand beach once! How I wish I am still alive at that time so I can see how this bird sanctuary in Pampanga can turn to a full-bloom tourist destination.   

More tourist spots in Pampanga to visit

San Guillermo Parish Church in Bacolor, Pampanga

San Guillermo Parish Church in Bacolor, Pampanga is a famous sunken church in this province. It literally sank when Mount Pinatubo erupted in 1991. Unlike the famous Cagsawa Ruins that suffered the same faith, it's the basement part of this church in Pampanga that sunk. The rest is fine. Many local tv programs has been filmed here including May Bukas Pa of ABSCBN.

Lubao Bambao Hub and Eco-Park pampanga

Lubao Bambao Hub and Eco-Park is a park that showcases tall, slender bamboo trees, bamboo-made furniture and bamboo-styled products.  This is also a place where people are thought about using bamboo products from plantation to even making floor parquets. They offer fish spa, boating, kayaking and biking.

diosdado macapagal museum and library pampanga

Diosdado Macapagal Museum and Library is one of the many museums built for the fifth president of the Philippines and the father of the only woman former president in the country - Gloria Arroyo. It's composed of a nipa hut - a replica of the first home of then-poor young Diosdado's life and a bigger house that reflects his life story when he has finished college.

How to go to Lubao, Pampanga from Manila

From Cubao or Pasay terminals, find the Genesis or Victory Liner bus companies.
All of these buses have stopovers in Lubao. Just tell the driver where do you want to be dropped off.

Private Transport
Take the San Fernando exit. Turn left at Jose Abad Santos Ave. then continue until you reach Lubao via GuaGua - Sta. Rita Intersection and Golangco Intersection. 
Take the Dinalupihan toll exit. Turn left at Jose Abad Santos Ave (formerly O

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