Minalungao National Park in Nueva Ecija used to be a well-kept secret but is now gaining popularity. Its close proximity to the metro makes it a weekend destination for city-dwellers. One of the few remaining natural attractions in Central Luzon, this natural wonder is also a protected landscape by virtue of Republic Act No. 5100 in 1967. Its name “Minalungao” translates to mine of gold in caves, although gold panning has long been a restricted activity here. The landscape here boasts of sea-green waters of the Penaranda river. And towering limestone formations reminiscent of Palawan’s Twin Lagoon in Coron.
The initial plan started out as a trip down south. But due to unforeseen circumstances, the plan changed with the blink of an eye. As it almost always happens when you travel with your friends. In most cases, the unplanned meet-ups are the ones that happen. 😀
A trip to the Rice Granary Capital of the Philippines won out. Finally, we can see this treasured gem of Nueva Ecija that we have been hearing more and more about. We were also excited to try out all the activities that the park offers.
Activities as of April 2015 along the river include swimming, bamboo rafting, river cruise, picnic, zipline, cliff diving, and spelunking in dimly-lighted caves. There’s also a cross you can climb that offers you a view of the Sierra Madre range.
*Update 2016: Hanging bridge
**Note: Day tours only.
San Antonio to Minalungao
We left our friend’s house (in San Antonio, Nueva Ecija) around 9:30 AM. And plotted Minalungao National Park in Google Maps. After a bit of stop at Gapan, we drove as per Google’s directions until we reached a small town. Still seeing houses along the way, we felt assured that there would still be people to ask for directions, in case we got lost. After a few kilometers, we decided to ask a passerby if we were going in the right direction. The guy then told us that we missed the turn and we should go back and take the next street on the right after doing the U-turn. Things then went downhill from there.
Taking the car vs public transportation
Google Maps vs instinct
Immediately, we made our way to the river to rent our bamboo raft. Since we already used up most of the day getting lost, we had to choose wisely how we’re going to spend our remaining time in the park. Rafting, swimming and zipline won out. Our rented raft came with a kid guide who also was the one navigating the bamboo cottage along the river. Since the river was quite narrow, a guide is really handy to keep you from colliding with another raft, the rocks or a swimmer. The river was shallow in some parts, with the water reaching only knee-deep. Still there are spots that can allow swimmers to dive from the rocks near the end of the river.
Be advised though, that the emerald waters turn to murky brown during the rainy season so this is best to be visited during the summer months or from November.
Quick Guide to Minalungao National Park
Location: Sitio Minalungao, Barangay Pias, General Tinio, Nueva Ecija
Coordinates: 15.5167° N, 121.2333° E
Fees: Gate Entrance Php 30
Comfort Room Php 10
Minalungao Cave Php 10
Small Bangka Php 250
Big Bangka Php 500
Cottage Php 200
Guide (by donation)
If you choose the “via San Miguel/Bulacan” route, tell the conductor to drop you off at Tinio Street junction in Gapan and wait for a Papaya- or Gen Tinio-bound PUJs. From Gen Tinio market, you can ask for a tricycle that’ll bring you to Minalungao. Reference:www.visitmyphilippines.com
Food: there are small stores near the river bank but best to bring your own food
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