San Carlos: Pangasinan

Hey there, ready to take a deep dive into the heart of The Philippines? Buckle up as we zoom into San Carlos City, Pangasinan – a gem tucked in the northern region. Can you feel the gentle breeze of the city whispering tales of its rich history, culture, and charm?

This isn’t your usual city. It’s got a vibe that will make your heart sing – the harmonious blend of urban and rural life is like a melody you’d want to play on repeat. Ever heard of the “Mango-Bamboo Festival”? It’s a riot of colors, music, and mouth-watering mangoes celebrating the city’s agricultural bounty. Do you know a city that throws a party for fruits and plants? I bet not!

San Carlos City, PangasinanPangasinan Provincial Hospital
By Ramon FVelasquez – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0

History of San Carlos, Pangasinan

Firstly, the city’s history took off during the Spanish regime when the town, then called Binalatongan, served as the capital of Pangasinan from 1660 to 1750. Notably, Binalatongan was the richest and most populous town in the province. Spanish friars established the town church, which later developed into the center of the town.

In the mid-18th century, an important event occurred. The capital of Pangasinan moved from Binalatongan to Lingayen. Consequently, the town’s significance declined, and it underwent a period of stagnation.

However, in 1868, the city experienced a significant change. It adopted the name “San Carlos” to honor King Charles III of Spain. Following that, in the early 20th century, during the American regime, the provincial high school of Pangasinan moved to San Carlos, leading to an increase in the city’s prominence.

Later, during World War II, San Carlos became a notable location. Japanese forces occupied the city, and it became the center of guerilla resistance. The bravery of the local guerillas was well-known, contributing to the city’s reputation.

Finally, on January 1, 1966, San Carlos transformed from a town to a city after the ratification of Republic Act No. 4487. This act, signed by President Diosdado Macapagal on June 19, 1965, officially converted San Carlos into a city. Since then, San Carlos City has continued to grow and develop, becoming a key economic and cultural hub in the province of Pangasinan.

Immerse Yourself in the Cultural Tapestry of San Carlos

San Carlos City boasts a vibrant cultural heritage, which is evident in its festivals, historic landmarks, and warm-hearted locals. Here are some highlights of the city’s captivating culture:

  1. Festivals:
    San Carlos City is renowned for its festive spirit, and one of the most anticipated celebrations is the Bangus Festival. Held annually in April, this lively event pays homage to the city’s thriving bangus (milkfish) industry. Visitors can indulge in delectable seafood dishes, witness colorful street parades, and enjoy various cultural performances.
  2. Historic Landmarks:
    Explore the city’s rich history by visiting its notable landmarks. The San Carlos Borromeo Church, a centuries-old Spanish colonial church, stands as an architectural gem and a testament to the city’s Catholic heritage. The Balay na Bato, a well-preserved ancestral house turned museum, offers a glimpse into the city’s past through its collection of artifacts and memorabilia.

Food Cuisine in San Carlos, Pangasinan

Firstly, let’s dive into the world of San Carlos City’s seafood cuisine. The city’s geographic location, situated near the coast, has fostered a rich seafood culture. Freshly caught fish, crabs, prawns, and shellfish are daily staples, prepared in a variety of succulent dishes. Notably, dinuguan at puto, a savory pork stew served with rice cakes, exemplifies the city’s love for combining diverse flavors.

Transitioning from the sea to the land, San Carlos also excels in its meat dishes. Pork and chicken are pivotal ingredients in many traditional recipes. Lechon, a whole roasted pig, is a common sight at celebrations and a testament to the city’s meat-loving culture. Moreover, the city’s take on adobo, a classic Filipino dish of meat stewed in vinegar, soy sauce, and spices, is also worth trying.

Next, let’s explore the city’s sweet tooth. San Carlos City doesn’t shy away from dessert, offering a wide selection of sweet treats. Puto Calasiao, a type of steamed rice cake, is a popular dessert and snack option. Kutsinta, another traditional Filipino sweet made from rice flour and lye water, is equally cherished.

Finally, let’s not forget the city’s famous tropical fruits. Ranging from mangoes to bananas, the city’s tropical climate yields a bounty of fresh fruits that feature prominently in local cuisine.

Tourist Spots in San Carlos, Pangasinan

Begin your journey at the St. Dominic Cathedral. This church, constructed in the 18th century, stands as a testament to the city’s rich cultural and religious heritage. You will undoubtedly appreciate its Spanish colonial architecture, and the serene atmosphere within its hallowed halls provides a peaceful retreat.

Just a stone’s throw away from the Cathedral is the San Carlos City Plaza. This bustling hub is the city’s heart, where locals and tourists alike gather. It features a beautiful dancing fountain that lights up at night, creating a mesmerizing display of water and colors. It’s the perfect place to take a leisurely stroll and immerse yourself in the local scene.

Next, venture to the San Juan Mini-Park and Baley Park. These parks, although small in size, offer a great place to relax and enjoy nature. You’ll find the sight of families picnicking and children playing quite charming. Furthermore, Baley Park also hosts a local market where you can taste some of the city’s delicious delicacies.

Following the parks, make your way to the Pangasinan Organic Honey Bee Farm. Here, you can learn about the fascinating process of beekeeping and honey production. Don’t forget to taste the sweet, organic honey and perhaps bring some home as a delightful souvenir.

Lastly, don’t miss out on visiting the Agdao Falls located in Barangay Coliling. The trek to the waterfall may be a bit challenging, but the sight of the cascading waters against the lush, green backdrop makes it worthwhile. It’s the perfect spot for those seeking a bit of adventure.

Festivals and Events in San Carlos

One of the most popular festivals in San Carlos City is the “Lingayen Gulf Landing Anniversary” which is celebrated every January 9th. This festival commemorates the landing of General Douglas MacArthur and his troops in Lingayen Gulf during World War II. Locals and visitors alike gather to witness a grand parade, cultural presentations, and a fireworks display.

Another notable event in San Carlos City is the “Bagoong Festival” held every March. This festival pays homage to the city’s thriving bagoong industry, which is a popular condiment made from fermented fish or shrimp. The festival features a street dance competition, a bagoong cooking contest, and a trade fair showcasing various bagoong products.

In April, the city celebrates the “Pista’y Dayat” or Sea Festival, which highlights the importance of the sea in the lives of the locals. The festival features a grand parade of colorful boats and floats, a street dance competition, and a beauty pageant.

During the month of May, the “Sunduan ha Cararayan” is celebrated, which is a reenactment of the historic meeting between two native chiefs, Datu Macabulos and Datu Balacbac, who signed a peace treaty in the Cararayan River. The festival features a boat race, a cultural presentation, and a trade fair.

In addition to these festivals, San Carlos City also holds various cultural and religious events throughout the year, such as the Feast of St. Charles Borromeo in November, and the Christmas celebrations in December.


Exciting Adventures Await in San Carlos City

  1. Nature Escapes:
    San Carlos City is blessed with natural wonders that cater to outdoor enthusiasts. Take a refreshing dip in the pristine beaches of Bonuan Blue Beach, where azure waters and fine sand create a tranquil oasis. For nature lovers, a visit to the Canday-ong Falls, with its cascading waters and lush surroundings, promises a rejuvenating experience.
  2. Culinary Delights:
    Indulge in the gastronomic delights that San Carlos City has to offer. Sample the city’s famous bangus dishes, such as sinigang sa bangus (milkfish sour soup) and daing na bangus (marinated milkfish). Don’t miss the chance to savor the delectable local delicacies, including tupig (sticky rice cake) and puto calasiao (rice cake).

How to Get There

Convenient Ways to Reach San Carlos City

  1. By Air:
    The nearest airport to San Carlos City is the Lingayen Airport, which serves domestic flights. From there, you can take a private vehicle or hire a taxi to reach the city center, approximately a one-hour drive away.
  2. By Land:
    San Carlos City is well-connected by land transportation. Buses and vans regularly ply the route from major cities, such as Manila and Baguio. If you prefer a more personalized journey, renting a car is a convenient option.

People Also Read: Tourist Spots in San Fernando, La Union


So, we’ve wandered through the fascinating alleys of San Carlos City, marveled at its vibrant culture, tasted its sweet mangoes, and felt the rhythm of its unique bamboo music. Exciting, isn’t it? This city’s got a beat of its own, a rhythm you can’t ignore, and a charm that keeps drawing you in. But remember, the real essence of San Carlos City isn’t just in its streets or its festivals, it’s in the warm smiles and welcoming hearts of its people.

Before we wrap up, here’s a question for you: If you could spend a day in San Carlos City, what would be the first thing you’d do? Would you run to the mango orchards or dance to the tunes of the bamboo music? Drop your comments below, and let’s keep the San Carlos City love going! Remember, every city has a tale, but San Carlos City doesn’t just tell you its story, it makes you a part of it. Now, isn’t that something?

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