Minalungao National Park, Nueva Ecija

The majestic rock formations at Minalungao
I was born and raised in Nueva Ecija, the "rice granary of the Philippines" and the home of arguably one of the best longganisas in the country. My mom is from San Antonio and my dad, from Cabanatuan. This makes me, as far as I know, 100% Novo Ecijano. I lived in this province almost all my life until I transferred to Manila to start a new journey.

I traveled a lot, was able to see beautiful sights here and there, indulge in an array of cuisine from all over. Yet, I haven't explored my own hometown. I was guilty as charged. Having realized this, I started to ask around and do my research about the province. It was only then that I learned that besides vast rice fields, Nueva Ecija has beautiful eco-tourism and historical sites, too. Among these, Minalungao National Park is the most popular.

A 2,018-hectare protected area in the town of General Tinio, Minalungao National Park features towering limestone cliffs (that can rival those of Palawan and Caramoan) border the narrow but deep Penaranda River.

How to go to Minalungao National Park:
Surrounded by the provinces of Bulacan, Pampanga, Tarlac, Pangasinan, Nueva Vizcaya, and Aurora, Nueva Ecija is easily accessible via a two-hour drive from Manila.

To go to Minalungao National Park, one must ride a bus bound for Cabanatuan (via Gapan, not via SCTEx). Alight at Gapan city center and from there you can rent a tricycle to the park. Note though that Minalungao is about an hour away from Gapan, so expect to shell out a bit more than ordinary tricycle fare. Take also into consideration that the tricycle will have to wait for you to bring you back to the city as there are no public transportation going inside Minalungao.

As for us, we came from the town of San Antonio and we rented a jeepney for Php 1,400.

What to do?
-Picnic by the river banks
-Bamboo rafting
-Zip line

There are cottages for rent along the river banks and a restaurant (under renovation when we went there) should you decide not to bring your own food. Otherwise, you are free to bring food, grill by the huts and have some booze.

Bamboo rafting
His duty? To drag the bamboo raft.

While we weren't blessed with turquoise waters during our visit to Minalungao National Park (we were there a few weeks after typhoon Lando had drowned the entire province), the limestone formations alone compensated for it. Each towering cliff was like an arm embracing the calm waters in between. Add to that, the vibrant foliage that completes the postcard-perfect view.

The trail to the cave
Hmm, a sprouting eyesore?

Beautiful in its own right, Minalungao National Park is a perfect refuge for those seeking a quick escape from the bustling metro and for those whose main intention is to reflect and reunite with nature.


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