NUEVA ECIJA | Rainy Season at the Minalungao National Park | Lakad Pilipinas

Minalungao National Park

We watched from the shade of a craggy white rock as a makeshift bamboo raft effortlessly glides across the calm, coffee brown waters of PeƱaranda River. We were at a the limestone gorge in the town of Gen. Tinio and we missed the sparkling green waters of the Minalungao National Park by a single day.

Minalungao National Park
NO GREEN WATERS FOR US

It rained the previous night, a sentry along the road told our van driver as we shelled out a few hundred pesos to enter the road leading to Nueva Ecija’s only Natural Park. We pushed on despite the warning. After almost an hour of driving, we were almost at Minalungao, it seemed such a waste to turn back now.

Minalungao National Park
A KID HAULING IN RENTABLE FLOATERS

And indeed, as we were forewarned, the water was nowhere near the deep emerald we usually see on photographs. Its waters were still as serene, but it was brown in color, latte brown to be precise. But that didn’t seem to dampen the weekend crowd that has gathered along the flat banks of the river.

Minalungao National Park
THE WEEKEND CROWD AT MINALUNGAO NATIONAL PARK

Along makeshift huts, people cooked from pots, set their barbecues and opened coolers filled with softdrinks and even possibly, alcohol. Where it was once known only to a few, mostly locals, the Minalungao National Park has now gotten its fair share of attention, thanks to the power of social media.

Minalungao National Park
IF YOU DIDN’T BRING FOOD, YOU CAN BUY THEM HERE

People now come here in droves. I can only imagine the lament of a few locals who still remember the days when the PeƱaranda River, the waterway that runs across the colossal limestone karsts of the park, only got filled to brimming during Sabado de Gloria, a time when they would go to the river to have their annual family picnic. It’s a tradition I clearly remember during my summers in Cabanatuan City.

Minalungao National Park
STILL SERENE EVEN WITH THE WATER’S MUDDY COLOR

With Minalungao’s relative proximity to Metro Manila and with its out of this world beauty, who really could blame the people for trooping here. It is indeed a perfect weekend getaway; one can marvel at the towering limestones, some as high as fifty feet up, the cave available for exploration, the rafts one could relaxingly ride on, and now, a zipline. Yes, a zipline. A place can’t get any more touristy than with a zipline installed.

Minalungao National Park
KID GUIDES WITH PORTABLE LAMPS FOR CAVING

The previously untouched sharp boulders lining the banks of the gorge has now been paved. It used to be that visitors would need to hop and balance from one rock to the next to access the cave at the far end of the Minalungao Park. Now, one could walk without fear of breaking one’s neck by slipping and falling to the chasm below.

Minalungao National Park
ROCK CLIMBING, ANYONE?

And this is one of those parks where accidents do happen. As of last count, at least seventy people have already died in the park, mostly from drowning. The river giveth and the river taketh, as they say, even as dutiful signs dot the pathways as warnings for touristy bravados.

Minalungao National Park
RENTABLE RAFTS WHERE YOU CAN ACTUALLY HAVE YOUR LUNCH IN TOO

The name of the National Park came from the hollows beyond the walls of Minalungao; mina meaning mine, and lungao, the local term for a cave. And it didn’t get its name for nothing.

The park has a total of eight known caves, some of which are home to balinsasayaw (swallow) birds whose nest are deeply sought after for they are used as the main ingredient for the highly expensive bird’s nest soup. These caves have also been a refuge to our Katipuneros during the struggle for independence with Spain and some even claim that a few broken artifacts have also been found inside their dark chambers.

Minalungao National Park
THE ONLY CAVE OPEN TO TOURISTS AT MINALUNGAO ~ PHOTO BY KIRKANATOMY.COM

Only one of these is open to the public though. And as is the case with most tourist spots, that cave has its shares of love declarations on its walls, but more seriously, even breakage of stalactites for souvenirs to bring back home. A ghastly memento telling I’ve been there (and I helped wreck the place).

Minalungao National Park
CROSSING A RICKETY BAMBOO BRIDGE TO THE CAVE AREA

Cross the river via one of the rafts in the area and you’ll find a seemingly never-ending concrete stairs besides the skeleton of a multi-story concrete structure which I think would be turned into a hotel soon. The steps lead to a grotto. After exactly a thousand steps, on the top, you’ll find a cross and almost nothing else. Well, according to those who actually reached it, I surely didn’t.

Minalungao National Park
AS RUGGED AS YOU CAN IMAGINE IT TO BE

Still, there’s no denying the beauty of Minalungao National Park; brown waters, heavy crowd, cemented pathways and all. The sheer massiveness of its rock walls contrasting with the placid water running in between them is a feast for the senses. You literally shrink to insignificance when confronted by such spectacle of nature.

Minalungao National Park
BRAVE SOULS DOING THE ROCK HOP AT THE OTHER SIDE OF THE GORGE

But a better way to appreciate it is by respecting the place. That means no scrawling on its walls, taking your trash with you, knowing when to jump from its cliff by consulting your guides and not your inner machismo, and making as little human imprint as possible.

Minalungao National Park
MINALUNGAO WOULD MAKE YOU FEE MINISCULE

As for us, it would probably be a better idea to visit it when it doesn’t rain that much, there isn’t that much crowd (so weekdays it is) and with no hangover from a previous night’s drinking session.

~ You can book a tour of the Minalungao National Park if you’re staying at Microtel Cabanatuan (0927) 804-2929


Minalungao National Park Location Map

Minalungao National Park
Address: Brgy. Minalungao, Gen. Tinio, Nueva Ecija
Entrance Fee: Php20.00 + Php20.00 tricycle / car fee
Guide Fee: By Donation
Cottage Rental: Php200.00 to Php300.00
Raft Rental: Php800.00 to Php1,500.00 (8-10 Pax)
Zipline Fee: Php100.00

GPS Coordinates Map: 15.298281, 121.121852


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Posted by Christian Sangoyo on Saturday, August 1, 2015

12 comments:

  1. sir tama ba yung nakita ko sa pang 7 na photo na may dalwang bata sinemento yung bato na dinadaanan? kc parang may ginawang daanan kc.

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    1. Tama yung nakita mo sir, they cemented a pathway across the boulders. It could've been done another way, like using less destructive wooden pathways, pero...

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  2. nakaka lungkot naman haist dati may challenge pa yung pagdaan sa mga bato, sayang nasira yung natural... ang sabi ng guide nagtext sa akin pinasemento daw yan dahil iwas aksidente at para din daw sa matatanda... sabi ko sa guide hinolma yan ng thousand/hundred years ng kalikasan tapos sinemento lang para sa mga sa mga tourista... hindi nman yan ginawa para sa mga tourista :(

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    1. That's the hefty price of commercializing a place for tourism. Although a balance can be had, it usually is a lot more expensive than doing the "pwede na yan" route. Which is a sad reality in our country, really.

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  3. Sir Renante and Sir Christian, meron po ba kayo contact number ng tour guide sa Minalungao, kasi we are planning po sana na pumunta kami this Sept 19. Salamat po

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    1. Hi Roy, you can simply head over to Minalungao and madami na lalapit sayo na kids dun to guide you. :)

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  4. plan ko magpunta magisa, okay lang po ba to go there na commute lang, as in wala kang dalang car? accessible po ba sya?

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    1. You can commute to Minalungao National Park, but it might be too expensive for a single individual.

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  5. Hi I just want to ask if an overnight is allowed here?
    Thanks!

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    1. Yes, campers with tents can stay overnight at Minalungao National Park. :)

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  6. Hello sir! Open po kaya ito ng nov 2?

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  7. Mas maganda pag June July kasi kulay green ung water

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