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Nueva Ecija is Next

Take a journey through one of Luzon’s most underrated provinces While nicknamed the “Rice Bowl of the Philippines” – being one of the largest sources of agricultural products in the country – Nueva Ecija is so

Take a journey through one of Luzon’s most underrated provinces

While nicknamed the “Rice Bowl of the Philippines” – being one of the largest sources of agricultural products in the country – Nueva Ecija is so much more than just fields and pasturelands. Considering its varied landscapes of plains, mountains, and rivers, there are treasures hidden in its shrouds waiting for anyone intrepid enough to explore it.

 

 

What to do

Be a farmer for a day

Get right back to the basics, disconnect from the modern world, and learn more about farm life at PMP Farm in the town of General Tinio. This expansive property allows guests to try their hands at organic farming – from planting seedlings, all the way to picking bounties. Activities like horseback riding, sheep herding, and fishing can also be experienced. Plus, you’ll get to feast on freshly made local rice cakes such as palitaw.

PMP Farm is located Barangay Nazareth, General Tinio, Nueva Ecija. For more information, contact +63 942 9714-903.

Learn more about modern farming techniques

There’s no better place to learn about agriculture than Nueva Ecija, as the province is home to some of the best research facilities in the country. There’s the Philippine Rice Institute with its “Future Rice” program, which aims to make agriculture more appealing to the youth by incorporating technology – like mobile apps and drones – as farming tools. There’s also the Philippine Carabao Institute where carabao (water buffalo) breeding techniques are being studied. At the Central Luzon State University (CLSU), demo facilities for tilapia breeding as well as hydro- and aquaponics are maintained for those looking to start their own farms.

Visits to these institutes are free. You only need to coordinate beforehand. Book a tour at Central Luzon State University by calling +63 44 456 0107. You may also visit www.philrice.gov.ph for more information about the Future Rice program.

Take a lesson from the past

In the town of Laur lies a significant piece of history: the Aquino-Diokno Memorial inside Fort Magsaysay. Housed within a 35,000-hectare military reservation, the memorial consists of a museum as well as the actual cells that held senators Benigno “Ninoy” Aquino, Jr., and Jose W. Diokno for exactly 30 days during Martial Law. A visit here begins with viewing of a short documentary followed by a guided tour of the museum. The tour is usually facilitated by Basilisa Ollero – or “Nanay Cely” as she is fondly called. Hers are firsthand accounts, as she used to be the cook when the two men were incarcerated. It may be a bit morose, but a trip here would afford important insights into the country’s political landscape.

The memorial accepts donations and is open from Monday to Friday, 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Come to dairy heaven

In this writer’s humble opinion, the best reason to visit Nueva Ecija is Puno’s Ice Cream and Sherbet. This beloved homegrown brand has been serving delectable creamy, cold treats to Novo Ecijanos for more than six decades. It’s baffling how it hasn’t yet made a crossover to the national ice cream scene, what with its unique flavors like the best-selling Cheese Cashew Macapuno. Its dairy concoctions are not only delicious, but are also dirt-cheap – only PhP13 for a cup! Non dairy fans shouldn’t feel left out because Puno also offers sherbets – the Buko Lychee is an absolute must-try!

Puno stores are scattered across the province. When in doubt, ask a local to point you in the nearest store.

Visit a limestone runnel

A trip to Nueva Ecija won’t be complete without a visit to the Minalungao National Park. This portion of the Papaya River dons a characteristic emerald sheen during summer, made even more vibrant by the white limestone precipices flanking it. The place is a popular bathing spot for locals, complete with floating cottages and bamboo rafts. There’s also a suspension bridge leading to the other side of the river. Here, there is a path to a grotto that provides a view of the surrounding mountains and forest expanse.

An entrance fee of PhP40 per person is collected in Minalungao. Cottages can be rented for PhP500. The zip line ride is priced at PhP50.

Beat the heat with some water fun

A trip to a water park has never sounded so good now that summer’s upon us. Just when you’re starting to think Nueva Ecija’s lacking in this department, here comes Crystal Wave Resort. The place has a zip line rig, wide spaces perfect for camping and teambuilding activities, and, of course, huge pools and waterslides.

Crystal Wave Resort is located AH26, Dinarayat, Talavera, Nueva Ecija. Call +63 44 411 0834 for more information.

 

Where to eat

UMART Cafe

Fresh food is in no short supply in Nueva Ecija, and one of the best places to sample local produce is at CLSU’s UMART Cafe. Short for University Multipurpose Center for Agriculture, Research, and Technology Products, the cafe serves all-day buffets and a daily themed dining experience called Gastronomic Journey. The dishes here are made with ingredients grown in CLSU’s facilities and partner farms. The place also houses products developed by the University’s research centers as well as from local entrepreneurs. Oh, and you may also sample the legendary tilapia ice cream here!

The cafe is located at DHM Building, Central Luzon State University, Science City of Muñoz, Nueva Ecija. It’s open on Mondays to Saturdays from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m., and on Sundays from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. Call +63 44 940 9395 for more information.

Bistro 360

A popular dining space for locals, Bistro 360 whips up a menu of fusion Oriental and Western dishes. Sizzling rib fingers, lechon kawali with laing (taro leaves braised in coconut milk), and panizzas (flat pizzas) are some of the dishes served here.

Bistro 360 is located at General Tinio Street, Cabanatuan City, Nueva Ecija. It’s open daily from 11 a.m. to 11 p.m.

 

Where to stay

Microtel Cabanatuan

The perfect base in Nueva Ecija is Microtel Cabanatuan. It has top-notch amenities like a swimming pool that stays comfortably warm even at night. The vibe here is easy-going, plus the hotel can help you arrange tours to all the destinations mentioned here. It’s always a guaranteed hassle-free stay whenever in Microtel!

Microtel Cabanatuan is located at Brgy. Sta. Arcadia Cabanatuan City, Nueva Ecija. For rates and other inquiries, call +63 44 958 7777 or visit www.microtel-cabanatuan.com.

 

 

By CELINE MURILLO