It’s well known that Nueva Ecija is home to many spectacular churches and rice field landscapes, however, there is this one hidden place, though I must say that it’s not anymore due to the increased number of visitors, called Minalungao National Park — from the words mina (mine) and lungao (cave). With a land area of 2,018 hectares, the mythical ecotourism destination is situated at the foot of Sierra Madre in the municipality of General Tinio, formerly known as Papaya. The 16-meter limestone walls and rock formations are not the tallest or grandest, but its vibrant colors, clear and refreshing waters of Sumacbao River and a great deal of activities combine to make Minalungao National Park an exceptional place.
How To Get To Minalungao National Park
Driving to Minalungao is quite easy, since it’s near from the city which is just about 3-5 hours travel time from Manila. As the National Park is also searchable through Waze, we managed to trust this app and it didn’t fail us! Go head north of NLEX and exit at Sta Rita. Go straight to the road of San Miguel until you reach Gapan. Otherwise, if you’re commuting, Minalungao National Park can be accessed via buses which are bound to Gapan or Cabanatuan, roughly 2-3 hours away from Manila. By then, you can rent a trike for 400-500 pesos for the 14-km distance to Minalungao. This will take you another hour and a half to reach the park. Due to its popularization and the desire of its local government to attract more visitors, road rehabilitation is ongoing. There are still some rough parts but as of now, it’s more complacent to visit the place than ever before.
Parking area at the entrance can accommodate several cars. I don’t think it will be a problem as the place is very spacious. We arrived at around 9 am but there were already a couple of cars outside. You need to walk 50 meters from the parking area to the cottages, unless you brought a lot of things. A trike for hire is also available at the parking area (if you do not want to do a lengthy walk) to assist you down to your cottage for just a hundred peso. Thankfully, given the crowd, we were able to find a cottage just beside the river, aside from being easy to dip into the water anytime, it also felt comfortable without being surrounded by people. Haha! We started to prepare for our lunch, rented a charcoal grill from one of the stores, and paid to cook for our rice.
After having our lunch, I went to check for an available bamboo raft but there was none and I was told to get back after 30 minutes. So while waiting for next available bamboo raft, I took the time to go around alone to discover what this place has to offer. First thing you’d notice was the hanging bridge; it offers a great birds-eye view of the Sumacbao River. With no one else around, this was perfect spot to reflect and capture the beauty of the river. There’s nothing like breathing fresh air. Then, I headed to the other side going to the cave by walking into the beautiful limestone. It’s just unfortunate to know that they need to cement some parts of the rock formations so it’s possible to walk in the side of river. It’s not that demanding to reach the end of the walkway, so I had plenty of time to stop and take in the nature I was surrounded by.
For the less fit and adventurous people, it’s better to get a bamboo raft instead, to enjoy the scenery of the Sumacbao River. A life vest will be provided for each person. Although this bamboo raft can only accommodate a maximum of 8 persons, extra people can still swim in the river by accessing the walkway to the cave provided you have your life vest with you. As of now, penalties fees are applicable for violators of swimming without life vest.
Activities Inside the Park
Mentioning the enormous size of the park, you can also do other activities inside other than bamboo rafting ride, such as kayaking, spelunking, diving, and of course swimming. The last thing we did, which was my most favorite, was the 500-meter long and 100-meter high zip line. You’ll definitely get the chance to have a one of a kind experience above pristine waters of Sumacbao river! (Check out the video below!)
I am just hoping that they would repair some of their facilities, like my most concern in every place I’d go, specifically the comfort rooms. Currently, they don’t have a decent cubicle door and enough clean water for the shower. But still maintain its calmness and simplicity.
I am not sure if it’s a good or bad thing having no signal inside the park, however, I take it as an acceptable reason for you to leave your social media activities aside and enjoy your stay instead with your family or friends.
List of fees
I listed down all the applicable fees inside the park.
- Entrance fee – 100 pesos (free for kids and senior citizens)
- Parking fee – 50 pesos for whole day
- Cottages – 300-500 pesos for whole day
- Bamboo raft – 600 pesos limited for 4 hour
- Charcoal grill rental – 50 pesos
- Life vest rental – 200 pesos
- Comfort room – 10 pesos
- Zip line – 100 pesos one way