The earliest settlers of this province already called their thriving communities Pampanga, after the river (that the Spanish colonizers only later named as the Rio Grande de la Pampanga) on the banks (pampang literally means “river bank”) of which the first Kapampangans (pioneering Malays and Indonesians) established and nurtured their way of life, industry, government— in short, civilization. During the Spanish regime Pampanga was already considered as one of the richest Philippine provinces. Even Manila and surrounding regions were then very much dependent on Pampanga’s agricultural, fishery, and forestry products as well as on the supply of skilled workers and breed of courageous, intelligent, spiritual, and artistic nation builders. Up to this day, Pampanga—the place, its people, and their passions—continue to make an indelible mark on the country’s unfolding social, cultural, and economic tapestry. Pampanga is best known for its cuisine— a rich blending of many racial influences (Malay, Chinese, Spanish) adapted to indigenous resources of land and water— and for the culinary expertise that its people proudly exhibit, earning for the province the appellation, “The Culinary Center of the Philippines.” No other people in this country are so palatably profuse in serving the fruits of their labor in celebration of not only the positive events in their lives (such as marriages, births, reunions, good harvests, and victories) but even life-challenging episodes (to honor the dead or to recall the lessons of defeat or calamity).
The religiosity of the Kapampangan is a feat to match. Town churches still retain much of their original magnificence because of the people’s dedication to preserve these over the centuries or rebuild them from the ravages of wars or natural catastrophes. The expression of faith in the province peaks in surreal proportions during the lenten season— when streets teem with flagellants, barangays are filled with the strains of the puni (venue of the pabasa, the singing or chanting of the Biblical passion of Christ), and the capital City of San Fernando is thronged by devotees and tourists to witness the annual re-enactment of the crucifixion of Jesus Christ.
The Kapampangans’ innate good nature, patience, and fine sensibilities easily show in their crafts and trade. A lot of skill and soul goes into the execution and completion of the giant Christmas lanterns of the capital City of San Fernando, the potteries and jars of Sto. Tomas, the knives and bolos of Apalit, the wood carvings and furniture of Betis, the rattan-woven products of Angeles City, the religious sculptures of Macabebe, and so on.
Because of its fertile land, Pampanga produces the best and biggest yield of rice, corn, sugar cane, vegetables, and fruit crops in these parts. While its waters (creeks, swamps, springs, fishponds) are a prolific source of tilapia, milkfish, mudfish, and prawn. Complementing such bounty are its vast natural resources (forestlands and clay, sand, and gravel deposits), from which are drawn ideal raw materials for most of the province’s and the country’s vital building and infrastructure needs.
While the picturesque landscape and clean environment attract local and foreign vacationers and tourists year-round to the province’s many nature and recreation parks, such as the Arayat National Park and its picnic and swimming facilities, the Candaba swamps for migratory birdwatching, the rugged natural terrains of Porac, and the breathtaking hotspring scenery in Sapangbato, Angeles City.
This is not to say, though, that Pampanga is not without modern recreational amenities, for it houses a booming night life and cosmopolitan haunts like world-class hotels, resorts, casinos, duty free shopping, and golf courses.
Finally, blessed with a strategic location right at the heart of growing markets in the Asia Pacific-Region—a given advantage in today’s global trade and industrialization— Pampanga is up to the challenge of becoming one of the centers of industrial and economic activities in the Philippines. With the presence of an educated, skilled and highly trainable English speaking manpower at competitive rates, excellent infrastructure support, peaceful environment, and a development growth propelled by the strong performance of traditional manufacturing sectors of furniture, ceramics, garments, and handicrafts in the export market, the province is without a doubt a viable investment and business area.