The landlocked province of Nueva Ecija isn’t really the first thing that would come to mind when one plans for an out of town trip. Heck, what can you even do there? That’s the usual thing I get when asked about my home province. And to be fair, I can’t really give a big-ass concrete answer. My mom’s home province is so laid back that until you really try and probe its farm-filled landscapes, you’d be hard-pressed to come up with any interesting things to do.
But yes, I just found out that there are more remarkable places to visit at Nueva Ecija besides those I’ve already listed on my Nueva Ecija Travel Guide. The next time you pass by the province en route to popular tourist places like Baler, Banaue, Sagada and Tuguegarao City, try to stop, spend a night and see what this quiet pastoral province is all about.
MINALUNGAO NATIONAL PARK IN GENERAL TINIO
OPEN HOURS: ALWAYS OPEN • ENTRANCE FEE: PHP20.00 • GPS COORDINATES MAP: 15.298281, 121.121852
The Minalungao National Park in the town of Gen. Tinio is arguably Nueva Ecija’s biggest draw. The park features towering limestone karsts divided by the Peñaranda River. Similar to the Dupinga River in Gabaldon, the area is a haven for family picnics during weekends as evidenced by the numerous makeshift huts lining its soft clay banks. There are a couple of restaurants in the area and a newly opened hotel right beside the river.
The waters of Minalungao are usually emerald in color but takes in a brownish hue during rainy months. Besides swimming and cliff jumping, other popular activities include bamboo rafting, hiking the thousand steps towards a grotto, riding the zipline and exploring its rock cliffs.
|BAMBOO RAFTS USED FOR CRUISING ALONG THE MINALUNGAO NATIONAL PARK|
|VIEW OF THE PENARADA RIVER FROM A RAFT|
|HANGING BRIDGE CONNECTING TWO SIDES OF THE PENARADA RIVER|
|CLIFF JUMPERS AT MINALUNGAO|
|RAFTING AT MINALUNGAO NATIONAL PARK|
PMP PARADISE FARM & RESORT IN GENERAL TINIO
Ever thought of herding sheeps? It’s not something you usually associate with the Philippines but at PMP Paradise Farm & Resort, you can do just that and more. The farm, which is now slowly opening to tourists, sprawls for 250 hectares at the town of Gen. Tinio. Here, visitors can experience farm life first hand.
From the visitor center, ride a carabao-drawn carriage to a pond where you can fish. If that’s not enough, you can board a raft, sit on its bamboo seats, and fish right in the middle of the water. You can grill your catch right after, or if fishes are not your thing, you can head over to the nipa hut beside the small lake and feast on local delicacies made from glutinous rice like nilupak and palitaw.
Walk some meters and you’ll find a hilly area dotted by a mob of cute furry sheep. Herd them on foot as you sing through the intro of The Sound of Music or ride a horse and fulfill your haciendero dreams sans the whip.
|SHEEP HERDING AND HORSEBACK RIDING AT THE PMP PARADISE FARM|
|FISHING IN STYLE ON A POND INSIDE THE MASSIVE COMPOUND|
|MAKING NILUPAK AND PALITAW|
|TOURING THE FARM ABOARD A CARABAO-DRAWN CARRIAGE|
|FRUIT PICKING ACTIVITY AT THE FARM|
NFA GRAINS INDUSTRY MUSEUM IN CABANATUAN
OPEN HOURS: 8:00AM - 5:00PM • ENTRANCE FEE: BY DONATION • CONTACT: (044) 463-1233 • GPS COORDINATES MAP: 15.479617, 120.960259
A museum about rice farming implements isn’t really the most exciting of destinations. Still, since the NFA Grains Industry Museum is just right across the highway traversing Cabanatuan City, might as well drop by and spend a few minutes inside, there’s no entrance fee anyways.
Besides the tools used by farmers across Nueva Ecija, the museum boasts of intricately done dioramas depicting traditional rice planting scenes—from a depiction of Fernando Amorsolo’s Harvest Time—apparently taken about five minutes after the painting since it doesn’t sync with the original (lol), to a Twilight Zone-ish one where an Imelda Marcos look-alike is planting rice hand in hand with a bespectacled Ninoy Aquino.
Before leaving, be sure to check out the museum’s Last Supper mosaic which uses painted rice grains as medium.
|THE NFA GRAINS INDUSTRY MUSEUM IN CABANATUAN CITY|
|QUAINT FARM IMPLEMENTS ON DISPLAY|
|YAKAN RICE PLANTING RITUAL DIORAMA|
|IMELDA AND NINOY?|
|THE LAST SUPPER, MADE FROM PAINTED RICE|
CRYSTAL WAVES HOTEL & RESORT IN TALAVERA
OPEN HOURS: 7:00AM - 10:PM • ENTRANCE FEE: PHP230.00 • CONTACT: (0932) 867-5855 • GPS COORDINATES MAP: 15.559729, 120.926380
Being a landlocked province, Nueva Ecija really doesn’t have any beaches to boast of. What it lacks in the sand and sea departments, it makes up for in swimming resorts. And one of its biggest is the Crystal Waves Hotel & Resort in Talavera.
With swimming and wave pools, a zipline and a stomach-churning giant slide, this place is a popular weekend getaway for families wanting to swim and cool off. The resort has numerous gazebos, perfect for picnics and gatherings, and well-appointed rooms for overnighters.
|CRYSTAL WAVES RESORT IN TALAVERA|
|THE RESORT IS A FAVORITE FOR FAMILIES DURING WEEKENDS|
|ZIPLINE AT THE RESORT ~ PHOTO BY MARTIN SAN DIEGO FOR NPVB|
|DARE YOU RIDE THEIR GIANT SLIDE? ~ PHOTO BY MARTIN SAN DIEGO FOR NPVB|
|THE RESORT HAVE ROOMS AVAILABLE FOR OVERNIGHT GUESTS|
PHILIPPINE RICE RESEARCH INSTITUTE IN MUNOZ
OPEN HOURS: 8:00AM - 5:00PM • ENTRANCE FEE: FREE • CONTACT: (044) 456-0394 • GPS COORDINATES MAP: 15.671288, 120.891067
Sprawling on hectares upon hectares of land, visiting Science City of Munoz’s Philippine Rice Research Institute or PhilRice is like a crash course in modern farming in the country. After a quick introductory video and talk, you’d see that the folks here are pushing the limits on agriculture, using modern one-man Blade Runner-esque machines and even apps to monitor their fields.
Take a visit at their mini-museum before riding their open-aired farm-tractor truck for a tour of their verdant rice fields and take in the Nuevo Ecijano’s version of what a landscape is. And oh yes, you can definitely stop, go right in the middle of the lush fields and take a moment for that unique Nueva Ecija selfie.
|OUR RIDE TO THE FIELDS|
|PHILRICE’S SPRAWLING RICE FIELDS|
|OUR LAKBAY NORTE BUS|
|MODERN WAYS OF FARMING|
|NUEVA ECIJA’S RICE FIELDS BORDERED BY THE SIERRA MADRE|
THIS TRIP IS PART OF NORTH PHILIPPINE VISITOR’S BUREAU’S (NPVB)LAKBAY NORTE 6 TOUR,
A FOUR-DAY MEDIA FAMILIARIZATION TRIP AIMED AT PROMOTING NORTHERN DESTINATIONS IN THE PHILIPPINES.