In Two Days in Nueva Ecija
What to see in Nueva Ecija? Nueva Ecija is a landlocked province located in the central region of Luzon Island. Often times, we only passed by this province when we go to our favorite tourist spots in Luzon. But little did we know that this place is also a destination itself.
Our group had a chance to explore the province one weekend of May. We spent two days visiting the different tourist attractions that this province has. I was fortunate to be part of the tour because I’ve never really been to Nueva Ecija. I passed by this province before but never really got the chance to stop by and see what this province has.
Nueva Ecija is now becoming a favorite tourist destination in Central Luzon because of its several interesting attractions. The province has a vast land to explore. It is a destination for gastronomy, worship, history, ancestry, ecotourism and some natural sites. In two days, we were able to visit different places in Cabanatuan City, Gapan and General Tinio. We were able to get back in time and understand history. We were able to savor what the province has in terms of food. We were able to see the popular natural park that this destination is boasting about. It was just two days but we were able to see a lot of places in this province.
A Tour inside Fort Ramon Magsaysay
We started our tour by visiting Fort Ramon Magsaysay, the largest Military Reservation in the country. The military base is located in Palayan, which is 30-minutes’ drive from Cabanatuan City.
Fort Magsaysay is one of the significant training areas in the Philippine Army. The military base has several facilities. Some of which includes airfield, station hospital, firing ranges, officer’s club, army store and AFP transient facilities. There’s also a chapel inside the military base.
At Fort Magsaysay, you’ll also find the Aquino-Diokno Memorial.
The Aquino-Diokno Memorial is a historical place in the country that pays tribute to two great patriots during Martial Law. It took witness to a plenty of memories during the 30-day solitary confinement of Senator Benigno Aquino and Senator Jose Diokno. The facility now shows the museum-replica of the 1973 detention facility of Ninoy (codename: Alpha) and Diokno (codename: Delta).
The facility stood in the heart of an Army camp in Fort Magsaysay. The place also includes the Armed Forces of the Philippines Center for Human Rights Dialogue.
Another good place to visit inside Fort Magsaysay is the Pahingahan Complex. This place is a rest and recreation facility. It has a man-made lake that is really interesting to visit because of its calming and soothing effect.
This R&R facility was built for soldiers as well as to tourists to enjoy kayaking and hiking in the nearby trails.
Before we ended our tour inside the Fort Magsaysay, we paid a visit at the headquarters and met some of the officials of AFP.
Great Lunch at Hapag Vicenticos
There’s only one thing we wanted after a tiring but fun trip inside Fort Magsaysay, good lunch. However, Hapag Vicenticos gave us more than that.
It was around noontime when our group arrived at this classic restaurant located at Del Pilar Street in Cabanatuan City. The officers of Microtel Cabanatuan took care of ordering our lunch while the rest of us roved around the restaurant’s vicinity. It was mesmerizing to see the elegance and grace of this local favorite food place in Cabanatuan City. The structure of the restaurant itself presented us a homey and comfy atmosphere that felt like we were home going to have our favorite home-cooked meals.
When the starters arrived, the group instantly gathered around. It looked like we were all already hungry. Chicharon Bulaklak (PHP 180.00) and Rellenong Alimasag (PHP 190.00) were served first.
Then the main dishes arrived one by one. Our table was then swiftly filled with great Filipino dishes including Crispy Pata (PHP 450.00), Sinigang na Hipon (PHP 265.00), Pork Sisig (PHP 215.00), Kilawing Sugba (PHP 275.00), Pinakbet (PHP 140.00) and Kare-Kare (PHP 250). Everything was delectable and satisfying in taste but what was really a hit to the group was the Karioka (PHP 85.00).
True to its tagline as “Ang Hapag Kainan ng bawat Novo Ecijano”, Hapag Vicenticos provided us a comprehensive experience of Filipino way of dining in. We only wanted a good lunch but the restaurant served us great and savoring dishes to satisfy our palate and cravings for Filipino food. Absolutely, we really had a great dining experience at Hapag Vicenticos.
Back in Time at Camp Pangatian Shrine
We dropped by at Camp Pangatian Shrine in Cabanatuan City after lunch. The camp was originally a military training camp during the American occupation, but it was converted into a concentration camp for the Allied Prisoners of War during the Japanese occupation twenty years later. The Japanese held about 9,000 American Prisoner of Wars here. US Army Rangers freed the prisoners near the end of World War II.
The site is now a popular World War II tourist destination for the veterans and their families. The camp presently has monuments of the event that happened during that time. There are also memorial walls, murals and markers. Written on the memorial walls are the names and ranks of the American servicemen imprisoned in the camp. Above the circular platform are two matching markers from the National Historical Institute, one in English, the other in Filipino. There’s also a sundial in the area.
The Pangatian Shrine is being maintained and managed by the American Battle sites and Monument Commission while the Pangatian Heroes Hall is being owned and upheld by the provincial government of Nueva Ecija.
The National Shrine of Virgen La Divina Pastora
Virgen La Divina Pastora Church was our first stop when our group went to Gapan, a city located in the southern part of the province. Gapan is an hour drive from Cabanatuan City.
The city is home to several religious attractions, some dating back to the 16th century making this place as top pilgrimage site in Central Luzon.
In 1986, the Parish Church of the Three Kings in Gapan was declared as the National Shrine of Virgen La Divina Pastora. It is considered the oldest and biggest colonial church in Nueva Ecija.
This church was said to be erected on the spot cleared by Augustinian friars Contreras, Tendilla, Caballo and Salazar in 1595. The church is markedly Byzantine in structure and is built from blocks of limestone and bricks.
Seeing the Ancestral Houses in Gapan
From the church, we walked across the street and there we found the ancestral houses of Gapan. We were told that some of these houses are owned by prominent personalities like Eula Valdez, Joe Taruc and Nida Blanca.
Sweet Treats at NYOrk Cafe
After visiting some of the significant attractions in Gapan, we headed back to Cabanatuan City and rewarded ourselves with sweet and fulfilling drinks and desserts at NYOrk Café. NYOrK is a coffee shop in Cabanatuan City offering a variety of coffee, non-coffee blends, cakes, pastries, and pasta and rice meals. We found the coffee shop as a perfect place to delight ourselves with food after a whole day of getting around Nueva Ecija.
We intended to just have a few snacks to sample the menu but we were greatly surprised with several drinks and food served to us. We started the food sampling with coffee. Then they started to serve meals, pasta, other coffee and non-coffee blends and desserts. They come in to our tables so quickly. The simple snack turned out to be a complete meal experience at NYOrk Café.
Dinner at Rosenda’s Restaurant
Before we ended our night we had our dinner first at Rosenda’s Restaurant, which is located along Maharlika Highway in Cabanatuan City. The restaurant serves Filipino-Chinese favorites.
Without waiting so much longer, our food arrived in our tables. Our table suddenly became a feast. It was filled with the restaurant’s specialties like Gising-gising (PHP 145), Sweet and Sour Fish Fillet (PHP 160), Seafood Casserole (PHP 235), Pork Sisig (PHP 155) and Seafood Pancit Canton (PHP 300). Each serving were pretty hefty. It was ideal for a group who wanted to share a meal.
Though I was still already feeling full, I still made a room to taste each food served to us. Each tasted delectable but what was really a hit for me were the Gising-Gising and the Seafood Pancit Canton.
A Visit to Minalungao National Park
Still feeling sleepy after a night till dawn drinking session happened at the Liquid Bar in Microtel Cabanatuan, we prepared ourselves for another day of tour. This time we were going to visit the famous Minalungao National Park.
Minalungao National Park is a protected area located in the municipality of General Tinio. From Cabanatuan City, the park can be reached by 2-hours’ drive.
The park covers an area of 2,018 hectares centered along the scenic Peñaranda River bordered on both sides by up to 16-meter high limestone walls in the foothills of the Sierra Madre mountain range.
Minalungao National Park is considered as one of the few remaining natural environments in Central Luzon. It is being promoted by the local government of Nueva Ecija as an ecotourism destination offering wonderful scenery of green pristine river and unique rock formations.
That setting was all over in my mind. I was expecting to see that breath-taking scenery but a coffee brown water of Peñaranda River greeted us when we arrived at the site. We were told that it was due to the heavy rain happened the previous night. I was hoping to the deep emerald water that we usually see in photos but the river won’t be on its normal state until a week.
We rented out one of the huts situated in the riverside.
Because the water wasn’t that inviting anymore to take a swim, we had just enjoyed our day by exploring the park. We walked along the paved path beside the huge rock formations. We were told that there’s also a system of caverns nearby. Hence, we went inside one of those caves. We had an instants and short spelunking experience.
After our small stint of exploring the river park, we went back to our hut and had our lunch prepared by Microtel people for us.
In two days of touring around Nueva Ecija, I found this province as an interesting destination. Though it lacks the favorite place that people usually go to, which is the beach area, this province is still a great destination for people to visit because of the different interesting tourist sites, great dine in spots, places for history and pilgrimage and natural attractions that are worth exploring.
1077 Del Pilar Street
Cabanatuan City, Nueva Ecija
Phone: (044) 600-3237
Thank you so much for featuring Minalungao National Park in your wonderful blog. Although our province is landlocked, there are other interesting places to visit and many things to experience in Nueva Ecija. Ecotourism, Religious Tourism and Farm Tourism can all be enjoyed in Nueva Ecija. There are also historical sites, cozy homegrown restaurants and beautiful resorts in Nueva Ecija. Mt. Bulaylay (has the longest zipline in the province) in the town of Cuyapo, Pantabangan Dam (one of the biggest is Southeast Asia) and Mt. Kaanducian in Pantabangan town, Mt. 387 (a.k.a. as the Chocolate Hills of the North) in the town of Carranglan, Mt. Sawi and Gabaldon Falls in Gabaldon town, Silangan and Deesap Falls in the town of Bongabon (a.k.a. the Onion Basket of the Philippines) and so on are some of the favorite ecotourism destinations in Nueva Ecija. The Shrine of Virgen La Divina Pastora in Gapan City (a.k.a. the Footwear Capital of the North), Shrine of the Holy Face of Jesus in the town of Nampicuan, St. Joseph Cathedral in San Jose City are some of the Roman Catholic churches in the province that are worth visiting. The Science City of Munoz is where several national headquarters for research and development are located such as the Philippine Rice Research Institute, Philippine Carabao Center, National Freshwater Fisheries Technology Center, etc.. The city of Cabanatuan, the biggest city among the 5 cities in Nueva Ecija, is the death place of General Antonio Luna. His monument is located in front of the cathedral (Plaza Lucero) where he was assassinated. Another historical site in Cabanatuan City is the Camp Pangatian War Memorial where hundreds of prisoners of World War II where detained and liberated after a successful rescue mission by American soldiers and Filipino guerillas (immortalized in the Hollywood movie, The Great Raid). Cabanatuan is also known for its delicious native sausages (Longganisa). “Batutay” of beef Longganisa, garlic pork Longganisa, Hamonado pork Longganisa, etc. are some of the delectable flavors to savor. Hapag Vicenticos is a famous Filipino restaurant in Cabantuan that has been featured in and travel shows (Biyahe Ni Drew, Kris TV, etc.) and travel blogs. Puno’s Ice Cream and Sherbet, which has also been featured in travel shows and blogs is the best homegrown ice cream brand in Nueva Ecija. Its plant is located in Cabanatuan City. The capital city of Nueva Ecija, Palayan City, which houses the largest military reservation and training ground of Philippine Army in the country (Fort Ramon Magsaysay) is where the Aquino-Diokno Memorial is located. Benigno Aquino and Senator Jose Diokno were imprisoned. The progressive town of Talavera is where the biggest and most colorful branch of Isdaan Floating Restaurant is located. Talavera also boasts of the first wavepool resort in the province, the Crystal Waves Resort and Hotel. Nueva Ecija is also regarded as the Milk Capital of the Philippines. Milka Krem in Science City of Munoz, DVF Dairy Farm and Nueva Ecija Federation of Dairy Carabao Cooperative in Talavera town are some of the producers of dairy products made from fresh Carabao milk such as cheese, ice cream, flavored milk drinks and milk candies. This month, another tourist destination in Nueva Ecija will soon be available. Highland Bali Villas, Resort and Spa located in the town of Pantabangan overlooking the stunning Pantabangan Lake, will be the most prestigious resort in the entire province. Our unique festivals are the Taong Putik Festival in Aliaga town and Araquio in the town of Penaranda. Fun is never-ending in Nueva Ecija as almost all the municipalities and cities in the province has its own festival. Get to know Nueva Ecija, explore Nueva Ecija! 🙂
Weekend getaway in the Philippines is the best experience ever! Love your story. The Philippines is indeed a paradise.
Weekend getaway in the Philippines is the best experience ever! Love your story. Philippines is indeed a paradise.