It’s Thursday!!! That means it’s time for a Throwback Thursday post!
In this blog, my throwback thursday posts will be mostly about my travel experiences. Monetarily speaking, I don’t actually have much but I always make sure that I set aside some of my moolah for travel. I am blessed to be born in a country with thousands of islands teeming with beautiful treasures and I am thankful for travelers who have inspired and shared their experiences and useful tips making these treasures accessible for enthusiasts like me. Just to be VERY clear, the treasures I am talking about are the rivers, falls, beaches (white, black, rocky, or pink), lakes, springs (hot or cold), mountains, volcanoes, caves, lagoons, forests, and yes — various man-made attractions or places of fun such as parks, bars, old buildings – whatever that tickles your fancy. “It’s more fun in the Philippines!”, as the country’s Department of Tourism say. If gold, silver, tons of money, luxury cars, and the like are the kinds of treasures you have in mind, go find the Philippines’ pork barrel holders and big-time thieves (We have the worlds’ smartest and most deceptive variety by the way) and you will be astounded. However, if you do not want go through so much hassle in searching, you can always go to our museums OR ask your super rich Filipino friends to show you their own display of fancy and extravagant possessions. 😉
But this post is about a national park located in Nueva Ecija. I owe my discovery of Minalungao National Park to various bloggers who shared their knowledge on what the place is; what to do there; how to get there; and how much money we should take. There is so much information that had been useful to me and my co-travelers in those blogs that I felt I should also make travel posts to do some sort of “paying-it-forward” posts to people who are also planning to travel. Therefore, this would be the beginning of the many throwback travel blog entries in this site. Please understand if I seem to forget telling you some details though as some posts may have happened a long time ago. My travel experience in Minalungao was the most recent gala I did with my classmate in my master’s degree and a schoolmate from college.
How did we get there?
We went to Cubao and looked for a bus terminal which have routes to Gapan, Nueva Ecija. We found a Baliwag bus but the available one was non-airconditioned so we transferred to the Golden Bee bus stationed near the Baliwag buses. There is no need for you to get in line to purchase bus tickets (unlike Victory Liner). You just have to get in the Golden Bee bus and sit in your desired places. The fare from Cubao to Gapan is P150 (SP). I think the travel time was a little more than two hours.
As soon as we dropped off at Bucana, Gapan, Nueva Ecija, there were tricycle drivers asking us if we were going to Minalungao. In our research, there are two options to get to Minalungao. First, there is the Gapan to Papaya (Gen. Tinio) to Minalungao route. Second, there is the Gapan to Minalungao route. Gapan is quite far from the Minalungao National Park and since we arrived there at about 11:00 am, we decided to choose the second option to save more time. It was agreed that we would pay the two-way trip including the driver’s waiting time for P700.
A little side-trip
There are no stores that sell meals in the national park so the driver drove us to Jollibee so that my schoolmate could buy lunch. My classmate and I were talking about the old face and current face of Jollibee on our way there and as soon as I entered the fast food, the cheerful mascot of Jollibee greeted me with its big twinkling eyes, gleeful smile, and a high-five! What an earnest way to greet tourists! Way to go Nueva Ecija!
We arrived at Minalungao around lunch time. Entrance fee is P20/person and P30 for the tricycle. We immediately looked for a cottage and we were offered a P150 cottage where we took our lunch. There, we met our young tour guides who later accompanied us in our limestone trekking, spelunking, swimming, raft riding, and more than 2000-step hiking adventure.
The limestone trek is definitely not a walk in the park but any functional person can do it. You just have to be mindful of your steps.
Travelers who plan to visit Minalungao should bring flashlights so you can explore the cave without having to rely on other groups of tourists who were able to bring their own light. 🙂 After spelunking, we just went swimming under the scorching heat of the August sun. Then, we decided to experience riding a raft through the river by paying P100 to a rafter.
The limestone trek is fun but a raft ride is also a must as it gives you different perspectives of the park.
The energy-and-fat-burning thousand-step hike
The great thing about young tourist guides is that they are energetic and fun to be with. Our guides are relatively easy to be with and we had no problem exchanging jokes with them. The other group of tourists were also a cool bunch so even though the walk was incredibly tiring (partly because of our previous activities), the experience had been wonderful.
We were all sweaty after the hike and needed a bath so we paid P20/person for that. After that, we again took a seemingly infinite number of steps to the entrance of the national park since the tricycle could not make it there while we were in that vehicle. We were supposed to go straight to Manila but the driver told us that it was Tsinelas Festival in Gapan the next day. Did we stay in Gapan for the festival or decided to head home that day? Find out in my next post!