Sunday, April 28, 2013
Minalungao to put Nueva Ecija on Philippine Tourism Map
Nueva Ecija is a landlocked province in Central Luzon. With its vast flatlands, Nueva Ecija is the biggest producer of rice in the region, giving it the nickname Ricebowl of the Philippines. It is unsurprising that most Filipinos, even the Nueva-Ecijanos themselves, think that there is nothing else to see in the province than ricefields and more ricefields.
So what is there to see in Nueva Ecija other than ricefields?
Located far beyond the countryside of Nueva Ecija, close to the foothills of the Sierra Madre mountain range, is the sitio of Minalungao in the town of Papaya (officially called Municipality of General Tinio). The entire area has been named Minalungao National Park and features the clear emerald waters of the Peñaranda River. On both sides of the river stand limestone walls towering to up to 16 meters.
One may choose to trek along the limestone formations or rent a raft to reach the other end of the river where a shallow portion awaits visitors for a refreshing swim. Favorite activity of the locals is cliff diving. If you wish to try it, we suggest that you hire a local guide who can direct you to the areas where it is safe for cliff diving. The best time to visit Minalungao is during the dry season as the limestones can get very slippery and the river may turn murky.
Tourism Potentials of Minalungao National Park
Minalungao is one of the very few remaining natural environments in Central Luzon and it is the relative uniqueness of this park that can finally place the province of Nueva Ecija in the Philippine tourism map. With proper care, development and management, the Minalungao National Park will be able to compete with other eco-tourism destinations in Luzon and perhaps across the country. It is not far from now that Minalungao will be fully accessible to visitors. Concreting of the local road connecting the downtown area of Papaya to the park is already 50% complete. Facilities such as cottages and boats are already in place. Ultimately, it is the local community of Minalungao who will benefit from the livelihood that would be created by this development.
How to get to Minalungao National Park
From Manila, take a bus bound for Cabanatuan City passing through Gapan City (Cubao: ES Transport or Baliwag Transport). At Gapan City center, hire a tricycle along the national highway that would take you to Minalungao. We highly recommend Kuya Erning (0909-997-2393). We paid P600.00 for a special round trip rate (three passengers). Please add a little tip for the driver's waiting time. Travel time from Gapan City to Minalungao is roughly 1 hour 20 minutes.