Discover Minalungao National Park in Nueva Ecija
Every time I go to Cabanatuan, Nueva Ecija, I usually tease a friend that there’s nothing to see in her province except for vast rice fields and thousands of tricycles. This province is the tricycle capital of the Philippines with around 30,000 registered tricycle in 2009! One day I was teasing her again during my visit in the area, so she proudly told me that there’s a local tourist destination in Gen. Tonio called Minalungao National Park.
Minalungao National Park is a protected area located in the municipality of General Tinio, Nueva Ecija in Central Luzon and it covers an area of 2,018 hectares centered along the Peñaranda River bordered by up to 16-meter high limestone walls in both sides of the Sierra Madre mountain range. The park was established in 1967 and considered as one of the few remaining natural environments in this region north of Manila. Its name was derived from the term “Mina and “Lungao” meaning “mine of gold in caves”.
Since it is promoted by the local government as an ecotourism destination offering breath-taking scenery of green pristine river (during summer) and unique rock formations, I decided to explore the park. They offer different activities like spelunking, hiking and zip lining and facilities for picnics, swimming, fishing, raft riding and cliff diving.
If coming from Manila it is faster and easier to pass by Gapan, though I came from Cabanatuan city, so it’s a bit of long drive not to mention traffic. You won’t get lost because you’ll see this huge roundabout installation.
We didn’t eat proper breakfast coming from Cabanatuan and we were told that there are no restaurants in the park so we decided to eat heavy brunch in one of the towns on our way to Gen. Tinio. We tried Nueva Ecija’s specialty, Adobong Itlog ng Manok. It’s delicious and cholesterol rich haha…
A closeup of Adobong Itlog ng Manok…(the round yellow thing is the chiçken’s egg), if you are curious like me and wondering how it was harvested…use your imagination 😉
At the entrance of the park, we paid Php50.00 for who.eday parking and Php40.00 entrance fee per head.
Rafts for rent…
Floating rafts were all rented when we came..
First thing we did, is hike and explore the river bordered by limestones, it rained the previous night so water is creamy however during summer this is green!!!! Water came from Aurora mountains..its clean.
Paved steps were created to make the hike easier and faster.
I strongly recommend to get a guide if you intend to explore the cave, it’s safer because he knows where to go and what to do. We paid our guide Php300.00 for half day activity. This is one of the cave openings, which provides natural lighting.
Halfway through we asked our guide the way out, he told us that there are two ways, one in the opening where we entered or second another opening at the roof if the cave…here he showed us the exit…well it’s a bit high…
We rappeled our way to the exit..
We were so hot and sweaty that we decided to take dip in the river… the water was so cold!!!!
Actually the rapid is quite strong so again, safety first if you decide to go deeper a life vest is necessary, we didn’t wear one because we just stayed in the shallow area
No rangers or lifeguards here so swim at your own risk, oh well this dog is the guard, I suppose he will bark if he sees someone drowning 😂
After the swim, we opted to climb the limestones and reached one of the highest peak
Our guide and my friend relaxing while I shoot a mini-movie
Our guide Roderick, encouraged us to hike and visit the glass cross at the other side of the mountain. We had to cross this hanging bridge to reach the other side though.
I had the bridge for myself, no obstruction for another look-up selfie
Crossing the bridge was fun, I was However worried on our way back because the traffic in the bridge was too heavy, there was no information regarding its capacity, we cannot count how many people were in the bridge, so we had to wait for it to clear before crossing..
1,000 paved steps towards the glass cross
Lovely flowers abound
The road leading to Minalungao
After the hike, we took a bath in a paid toilet before going home, it was disgusting though. There were so many trash in the shower area, guests just throw their used shampoo sachet and other trash everywhere…trash bins are limited too. I noticed that Filipino tourists lack discipline and are irresponsible.. if the park will not be managed properly, few years from now it will become a sanitary landfill..
We left at around 3pm ahead of everyone to get away from traffic. It was a long drive and we got hungry, so we stopped by a small baranggay to eat Lomi.
Lastly we passed by San Leonardo and bought “pasalubong”, the municipality is famous for its Smoked Fish.
It was an adventure filled day though I was tired driving. My friend was happy and vindicated, I can no longer tease her that there’s nothing to see in her province. LOL