Every time we heard about Nueva Ecija, I am sure that boundless rice fields will first pop out of our minds. Being dubbed as the “Rice Granary of the Philippines”, it is the number one producer of rice yield in our country. But this silent province of Nueva Ecija is more than just their rice fields. It has one of our country’s best-kept secrets. Located on one of its towns, General Tinio, is the Minalungao National Park which is being promoted by our government as an ecotourism destination.
Knowing Minalungao National Park:
Minalungao National Park is located in General Tinio (formerly known as Papaya), Nueva Ecija. The park covers an area of more than 2,000 hectares along the scenic Peñaranda river and high limestones skirted on both sides. It is just around 4 hour ride north of Manila and it is said that during summer is the best time to visit the park to see the emerald-green river at its best. But regardless of the day or season, you can’t deny the beauty of the place has to offer.
How to get to Minalungao National Park:
- From Manila, ride a bus going to Cabanatuan/Gapan. On our case, we took a Five Star bus route directly to Gapan. Fare is P163 and travel time may take around 2-3 hours depends on the flow of traffic.
- Upon reaching Gapan, charter a tricycle that will take you directly to Minalungao. (We read about jeepneys from Gapan to Gen. Tinio but upon reaching Gapan, we were told by the locals that there are jeepneys and bus that heads to Gen. Tinio but there’s no specified time of departure and most of the time it only departs later in the evening). We hire a tricycle to Minalungao for P800 (two way). There is no standard fare as of this moment but it may cost you around P500-P800 (two way) and travel time may took around 1-1.5 hours (per way).
What to do in Minalungao?
Upon reaching the park, you need to pay the standard entrance fee of P100/person. Once settled, you are now free to do activities you wish to try. Due to the rain that occurs the day before we visited Minalungao, we didn’t witness the river on its full grandeur. Regardless of the color of its waters, it is still a beauty that needs to be seen and adored.
One of the best way to see the beauty of the river is to ride a bamboo raft. The raft will tour you around the river and will take you to its swimming areas. The bamboo rafts also have a built-in cottage perfect for your picnics and lunch.
If you won’t be taking any bamboo rafts, you can trek a bit on the sides of the river to reach some of its cliff diving spots and viewpoints. With this, you can have a chance to walk through its scenic rock formations and have a hands-on experience with its 16m high limestone walls. Just be careful walking as some of the spots are slippery. Please take note that if you wish to swim, a life vest is required that you can rent for P20 each within the area.
There is also a hanging bridge that you can cross for free. Standing in the middle of the bridge can give you the best spot to take a high angle photo of the river.
Upon crossing the hanging bridge, you can start your trek going to the other must-see spot of the park, the grotto with a glass cross. You have to take a 1000-step journey to reach the top. This activity can be tiring but you will be rewarded with a panoramic view and you can enjoy the solemnity of the place from above.
Another activity you can try is riding a zipline (P100) and buy souvenirs in various stores in the park. These souvenir stores sell T-shirts, ref magnets, keychains and many more.
After all the tiring activities that you can try in the park, it is best to reward yourself with a sumptuous meal to end the day right. Families and “barkadas” usually rent a cottage and bring their own foods to eat but if you don’t have and food with you, you don’t have to worry as the place has food stalls that offer foods in affordable prices. We had our lunch at Minalungao Cafe and Restaurant with an overlooking view of the river.
Other things to know:
- Minalungao can be crowded especially during weekends so if you will be given a chance, it is better to visit during weekdays to have a better experience in the park.
- Don’t expect an emerald-green or clear water during the rainy season. It is said that summer is the best time to visit the park.
- Comfort rooms take additional charges.
- There are no phone signals within the park’s vicinity.