When it comes to Philippine tourist spots, the first places that come to most people’s minds are Boracay, Bohol, Palawan, and Baguio. But this does not mean that other provinces don’t have their own share of fantastic tourist spots which appeal to both foreign and local visitors. Actually, most Philippine provinces and towns have their own offerings and it’s just a matter of promoting them properly.
Nueva Ecija is one such place known to most Filipinos as a province that belongs to the Rice Granary of Central Luzon and a pass-through to reach famous spots like Sagada in Mountain Province and Baler in Aurora. But Nueva Ecija has its own hidden treasures to boast of, and you should make time to check them out this summer. (Special thanks to the North Philippines Visitors Bureau for touring us around Nueva Ecija.)
The Minalungao National Park
This park houses the Penaranda River in General Tinio, Nueva Ecija. The river itself is a venue for many fun activities, like rafting, swimming, and cliff diving. You will encounter interesting rock formations along the banks and spectacular scenery as you go rafting downriver. And for more thrills, try ziplining if you’re not acrophobic and feel yourself flying over the breathtaking horizon.
PMP Paradise Farm
Another great key spot in General Tinio is the PMP Paradise Farm which allows you to have close encounters with various familiar and not-so-familiar farm animals, such as sheep, carabaos, horses, and ostriches. You can feed the animals, harvest fruits and vegetables, ride on a carabao-drawn cart, or go on horseback. If you are the domestic type, you can engage in catching and cooking your own fish, and have a picnic outdoors. The farm people will even teach you how to make kakanin (rice pastry) like nilupak and palitaw. And the farm is a perfect spot for a nice long stroll and picture-taking among grazing sheep or carabaos.
Puno’s Ice Cream Plant
Ice cream is a must-have this summer, and is everyone’s guilty pleasure. If you are an ice cream aficionado, you should not fail to drop by this ice cream plant whose ice cream products have become iconic in the province for over six decades now. Aside from the main branch along Maharlika Highway, there are several other Puno’s Ice Cream branches within the city and other parts of the province.
People who have tried this ice cream claim that it’s even better than some leading brands in the country. Puno’s Ice Cream has many diverse flavors like buko sherbet with lychees, ube cheese, langka, corn queso, and their bestseller, cheese cashew macapuno. And the delightful part is that a cup costs only Php13. What a steal!
NFA Grains Industry Museum
Also, located along the Maharlika Highway is another landmark – an agricultural museum. This place highlights the evolution of this important agricultural product through various displays of artifacts about the whole process of producing, harvesting, milling, storage, and distribution of rice. Truly an educational experience!
Here’s another key spot in Nueva Ecija that puts focus on the province and the Central Luzon region’s main lifeblood – rice production. The place features experimental fields which apply new techniques in producing rice varieties. There are guided tours for visitors around the fields which showcases the center’s gene bank, plant breeding labs, and greenhouses. Be sure to check out the Future Rice Farm to see the various new technologies available for our farmers. A trip to PhilRice will make you appreciate more the hard work of our scientists and farmers to bring food to our table of the Filipinos.
Drop by Chanos Chanos from some delicious baked bangus. It’s perfectly made and an ideal baon as you explore Nueva Ecija. Also, their rice tea and ube juice are a must-try!
CLSU stands for Central Luzon State University. It was set up as the government’s agricultural school and tourists are welcome to visit the 658 hectare campus. CSLU houses several museums, each with particular focus on one main industry in the region.
There’s a museum which features implements for rice and vegetable planting, hunting and fishing implements, and indigenous household tools. These displays are meant to enhance awareness and appreciation of the Filipino cultural heritage, with special focus on agriculture as the region’s primary industry.
The Biodiversity Museum features replicas of different types of ecosystems – terrestrial, forest, and freshwater. There are exhibits of insect, macrofungi, invertebrate, and other bioresources. This place will truly spark interest in ecology.
The Living Fish Museum has collections of indigenous and tropical flora and fauna native to some provinces in Luzon, and will surely entertain as well as instruct visitors of all ages.
Other CLSU areas of interest are the mushroom and hydroponics centers which feature revolutionary gardening methods such as soil-less culture.
Caffe La Tea
And while you’re in this neck of the woods, take a light meal or snack at the Caffe La Tea in Cabanatuan City. This fast-growing and increasingly popular diner’s haven has been expanding into other regions including Metro Manila. Try their signature milk teas, smoothies, and coffees. Pair these off with their luscious cheesecakes, cakes, pies, and cupcakes. For a fuller meal, try their various rice, pasta, and sandwich entrees. They even serve shabu-shabu. Check their menu here. So much variety to suit all tastes!
Crystal Waves Hotel and Resort
Want to have all the exciting activities in just one place? Try the attractions at the Crystal Waves Hotel and Resort. You can swim at the huge Olympic-sized pool in the shape of Mickey Mouse’s head, swoosh down the five-storey slide into the pool, splash and sway at the wave pool, or slide through the air with a zipline. There are just so many fun things to do at Crystal Wave. The good news is that you can book a hotel room and dine at the restaurant here in case your fun activities run overtime. Better yet, book in advance and make this resort your primary accommodation as you enjoy the other attractions that Nueva Ecija has to offer.
Places to Stay
Aside from the Crystal Wave Resort, there are other comfortable and luxurious hotels to stay while visiting Nueva Ecija. There are budget hotels like Microtel, Hotel Consuelo, and Top Star which offer Internet access, flat-screen TVs, and luxurious bath toiletries at reasonable prices. For more fastidious travelers, there’s the Harvest Hotel with ultimately luxurious facilities. Your choices are not limited to these. You can look up other accommodations at hotel booking sites like Agoda.com and Airbnb.com.
So, make Nueva Ecija your next summer destination!
*Photos by Martin San Diego courtesy of North Philippines Visitors Bureau (NPVB)