Towering limestone wall similar to El Nido in Palawan is one reason to go to Minalungao National Park. Read on and see more… Located in General Tiñio, Nueva Ecija, this national Park is slowly gaining popularity as a “must-see” Attraction which is not far from Manila making it perfect for a weekend getaway. Found on the foothills of the Sierra Madre Mountain Range and having a total land area of 2,018 hectares, the park is regarded as a one of the few remaining natural environments in the Philippines.
Minalungao National Park, Nueva Ecija
Far more than simply just the “Rice Bowl of the Philippines”, the province of Nueva Ecija is the home of one of our countries natural wonders : Minalungao National Park. The perfect way to escape the smog and pollution of the big city, this haven is only four hours out of Manila making it a great day trip or overnighter.
I had been here before on a weekend so this time we decided to go on a weekday. There is a massive difference between when you chose to go. The place transforms into a wet market like place during holidays and weekends, so plan ahead if you you are coming here on those days. There are a lot of things to do from spelunking, hiking on top of the hill cross and some cliff jumping just to mention a few.
Let’s Get This Trip Started
We woke early and was able to catch the first bus from Manila heading to Cabanatuan City. A little over two hours later we arrived in Gapan, Nueva Ecija were we then caught a tricycle to General Tiñio (or as the locals often call it “Papaya”). The tricycle ride cost P180 and took about 45 minutes.
From Papaya Mall we hired another tricycle to take us to Minalungao National Park. After a bit of negotiation we got the tricycle ride for P300 return trip, which we thought was a good deal. The trip from Papaya took almost an hour and the road was dusty and bumpy. According to the driver, the road had been improved and we did have stretches of concrete but it always went back to bare dirt and dust. The driver also told us we were lucky because it is worse when it rains… lol..
We Have Arrived At Minalungao National Park
We had heard how crowded the Park gets on the weekends so we decided to go during the week. There was still plenty of people there but it certainly wasn’t crowded. We were able to enjoy the beauty of the area without having to compete for space.
The Limestone rock formations on both sides of the river are truly an awesome sight. For this reason we headed straight for the steel hanging bridge which drapes from bank to bank. From there you can get a good view up and down the river. It is also a strange feeling looking through the bridge flooring and seeing the river below. Also the bridge would get a slight sway when the wind blows which made me jump a few times.
“I’m selfish, impatient and a little insecure. I make mistakes, I am out of control and at times hard to handle. But if you can’t handle me at my worst, then you sure as hell don’t deserve me at my best.” ― Marilyn Monroe
Should You Rent A Balsa?
One of the first things you see on the river are Balsas, or bamboo rafts. You can rent a Balsa out with a covered table for P500 per day and it is good to hold 5 – 8 people. They really prefer you to only have 5 people per Balso as they do capsize if not balanced correctly or overloaded.
They take you from the main area and float you about 100 meters up river where they tie the Balsa and leave you. From here you can have lunch and swim from the Balsa. previously you were allowed to grill food on the Balsa but recently they have been stopping this so better to bring prepared food.
If you don’t have food , a group of friends or want to swim then renting a Balsa might not be the best decision for you. Once they leave you in the river it can get boring rather quickly out there once you have taken a few photos. They come back when you are ready and take you back to the main area.
If you are going to rent one, make sure you make good use of it but be careful, they do sink if overloaded and capsize if unbalanced.
Swim In The Peñaranda River
The word Minalungao comes from the two words “Mina” which means mine and Lungao, a local word for cave. Minalungao National Park was established in 1967 by Republic Act No. 5100 and now stands waiting for all to enjoy.
The Peñaranda River originates from the Sierra Madre Mountains and flows peacefully through the natural gorge it has created. A great place to take your barkada (friends) or relatives. The color of the water is definitely eye-catching with a lovely opaque quality about it. Not as clear or pellucid as the waters of Palawan but still has it’s charm.
A little further up the river near the end of the gorge walls you will find a massive limestone boulder in the center of the river. The locals all know this rock as “Princesa” and us it as a great place for rock-diving. The water is deep in this area making it safe to do so.
Try Ziplining At Minalungao National Park
For only P100 one way, you can zipline across the gorge. I love ziplines and whenever I see one, I just have to try it. The zipline was great, the views amazing but the people have vandalized some of the rocks near the zipline and it is easy to see from above. Come on guys, why destroy the wonderful things we have????
Explore the cave
After spending a few hours swimming, relaxing, ziplining and jumping – Why not explore a cave for something different… There are caves that lay beneath the limestone footholds just waiting to be explored.
Hire a tour guideso you don’t miss anything. All the tour guides we saw were young kids. The one we hired was only 12 years old but he sure knew what he was doing. Most of these kids are working as tour guides to pay for tuition so tip them fairly
Also remember that these caves can get pretty dark so be prepared and bring a flashlight to improve the experience. And don’t forget, you may not be the only thing in the cave. Bats often call the cave home. Please, when inside the cave, don’t look up with your mouth open. The bats love to hang from the cave roof and will often let go of a few droppings (POO)
Test You Fitness Level
If you feel you are up to a challenge and are feeling energetic, try climbing the 1000 steps to the man-made glass cross and a spectacular view of the surrounding countryside.The stairs are not steep and even though 1000 seems like an awful lot of steps to clime, it is actually not that hard at all.Just take your time, enjoy the comp[any of friends, conversation and the ever increasing view.
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Minalungao National Park
How To Get There
Ride buses bound for Cabanatuan City, Nueva Ecija (ES, Five Star and Baliwag Bus Lines in Cubao, Quezon City) and alight in Gapan (with one stopover). You can also take the Five Star Bus direct to Gapan City. Travel time is around 2.5 to 3 hours, depending on traffic.
From Gapan, you can go the cheaper way by hailing a jeepney going to Gen. Tiñio, then ride a tricycle to take you to the park. You can also hire a tricycle from Gapan to take you directly to Minalungao.
Things You Need To Know
Please be advised that there is no mobile signal at the park. There are a few small stores but best to buy what you will need beforehand since the prices are bit more expensive (you can stop by General Tiñio public market to do your shopping). There are locally maintained toilets and baths but please do not expect much.
Minalungao National Park is a unique place. And just like what most conscious travelers will tell you, we must be responsible for all of our actions. The park is a protected area and is only one of the few remaining natural environments accessible from the metro. Be sure to exercise the famous traveling mantra, “Leave nothing but footprints, take nothing but pictures, kill nothing but time.”
Estimated Minalungao National Park Rates and Fees
|₱200||Bus from Cubao to Gapan City and vice versa|
|₱100||Entrance fee per person|
|₱10||Tricycle entrance fee (parking fee)|
|₱50||Car entrance fee (parking fee)|
|₱800||Bamboo raft (balsa) rental fee, whole day (negotiable)|
|₱23||Jeepney fare: Gapan City to Gen. Tiñio|
|₱150||Tricycle fare: Gapan City to Gen. Tiñio|
|₱400||Tricycle fare: Gen. Tiñio to Park*|
|₱800||Tricycle fare: Gapan City to Park*|
|₱200||Guide tip (negotiable)|
*Prices may change from posting date. These are based on the author’s personal visit. Those with the asterisk sign are for roundtrip fare for a whole day tour. Tricycle drivers can also wait for you depending on your arrangement.