Sitting in the center of the popular tourist provinces of Bulacan, Pampanga, Tarlac, Pangasinan, and Aurora is Nueva Ecija. It’s perhaps the largest province of Central Luzon, and yet, when it comes to tourist activities, it’s never mentioned as much as its neighbors. We’re here to change that.
Nueva Ecija may be most known for its rice fields, but it is full of adventures and unique experiences, too. So pack your bags and get ahead of everyone else as you discover this little known gem of Region III.
Minalungao National Park
Minalungao National Park is perhaps what put Nueva Ecija on the tourism map a few years ago. Today, it’s one of the most visited sites in the province, drawing weekend crowds by the throngs. In spite of its natural wonder and beauty, it’s not really the kind of place you visit for an escape. Thanks to the influx of tourists. But don’t let that stop you. The river’s gorgeous blue water, especially in the summer months, is a sight to behold with or without people. The limestone cliffs standing tall on either side are simply majestic too. Come here to swim, to float on bamboo rafts along the river, to go hiking, or cliff diving. It’s also best to come now before all the planned commercial developments such as a hotel building and swimming pools are built. It’s certainly worth elbowing the crowds for.
The Pantabangan Dam was originally built to supply more electricity to Luzon while averting flooding and supporting irrigation. With its construction came the creation of man-made Pantabangan Lake. These days, these two spots are the most visited tourist attraction in Nueva Ecija. Get over here in the early morning and try your hand at sport fishing, a popular draw particularly to Koreans and other foreign nationals. Likewise, you can come at the end of the day and watch a serene sunset reflected on the lake’s mirror-like waters. You can also enjoy a boat ride care of the fishermen docked on the beach, or simply sit back and enjoy the view.
St. Nicholas of Tolentine Parish, Carranglan
The St. Nicholas of Tolentine Parish in Carranglan was originally established in 1701, but it wasn’t until 1765 that it was constructed to its current image. Despite several earthquakes, the church remains beautifully preserved and authentic. The all-brick exterior and boxy structure feels more akin to Mexican architecture than traditional Spanish colonial cathedrals we’re used to seeing, which adds to the unique charm of the church. It also features a church bell that was brought by the Spaniards in 1672. The St. Nicholas of Tolentine Parish is a great stop for architecture enthusiasts and history buffs.
Eat Puno’s Ice Cream
For over 5 decades, Puno’s Ice Cream and Sherbet have been the pride of Nueva Ecija, and rightly so. Their ice cream is famous for being perfectly creamy with real fruit bits and well-balanced flavors. Not only do these make great pasalubong (if they can survive the road trip!) but also an excellent way to beat the heat while doing your tours. Choose from 8 ice cream flavors: cheese cashew macapuno – the fan favorite, ube macapuno, fruit salad, cookies and cream, chocolate with cashew nuts, fruits in season, and two news additions of vanilla and peanut butter brownie; and 1 sherbet flavor: buko with lychees. You can visit their plant and flagship branch just along Maharlika Highway.
PMP Paradise Farm
This 250-hectare piece of land is an ideal respite for city folk looking for the old way of life. From fishing in the lake, rafting on bamboo floats, fruit picking, rice planting, horse-back riding, and learning about farming among many other activities, PMP Paradise Farm is a not only a learning experience but also a way to escape the stresses of the city. The farm aims to familiarize visitors with local fruit trees, harvests, and livestock in order for them to gain appreciation for the little things we love but often take for granted. After a day here, guests are sure to feel revitalized not only from the unique memories, but the new knowledge gained as well.
Once an abandoned house in Cabantuan City, Hapag Vicentico’s is now one of the most popular restaurants in all of the province. Thanks to its homey and old-timey Filipino atmosphere. It’s a laid-back and comfortable experience reminiscent of eating at home (if your home was filled with exquisite antiques and elegant nooks). Hapag Vicentico’s is best known for their Filipino fare, which they prepare with the highest standards. Among the favorites are their kare kareng baka, sinigang na hipon, bulalo and sisig.
Try Milka Krem products
Milka Krem is the flagship brand of Philippine Carabao Center’s dairy products. Their all carabao milk-made products are unique to Nueva Ecija. Some of their products include chocolate milk drinks, café lattes, mocha frappes, smoothies, yogurts, cakes, biscuits, different flavored milk drinks, cheeses, and perhaps their most famous, soft-serve ice cream. Apart from getting a taste of carabao milk’s awesomeness, this is also a way to support dairy farmers in the area and to help boost a crucial aspect of the local economy.