When it comes to Nueva Ecija, what comes to mind? I’m sure you’ll be thinking about it as the area where Minalungao National Park is located. But aside from that, what else is there to see in the province? These were just some of my thoughts before my scheduled trip to Central Luzon’s biggest rice producer.
I had imagined that it would be a boring visit given our itinerary. But I was wrong. Going to Nueva Ecija and learning about the notable towns of Muñoz (home of the Tilapia Ice Cream), Palayan (where the Aquino-Diokno Memorial is located) and Cabanatuan was an eye-opener for me. It was then that I realized that the “Rice Bowl of the Philippines” is a Philippine destination worth seeing.
What to see in Muñoz City
Explore the Philippine Carabao Center
Exploring the Science City of Muñoz felt like I was on a school field trip–an educational tour worthy of recognition. Here, you’ll find Water Buffalos being raised at the Philippine Carabao Center, as well as different kinds of Tilapia being monitored and cultured at Central Luzon State University. It’s where you’ll also find Umart CLSU’s delicious and one-of-a-kind Tilapia ice cream.
Don’t you sometimes wonder where your food comes from? Well, you can find out some of the processes by going to the Philippine Carabao Center. Founded in 1993, the center was established as a result of the Carabao Development Program (an attached agency of the Department of Agriculture). By exploring the grounds, we were able to witness how water buffalos were nourished, washed and prepared for milking. We were also educated on how Carabao genetic improvement works, and what types of technologies were used for development and dissemination.
Visit the Central Luzon State University
There’s plenty to see and learn when you visit the Central Luzon State University. Interestingly enough, CLSU offers a fisheries course in college, which I never knew existed until our visit to Nueva Ecija. The people behind the Freshwater Aquaculture Center (a multi-disciplinary unit of the university) also walked us through their research and development program, which is concerned with aquaculture and fisheries.
During our short tour of the school, we were taken to an experimental facility. They contained a cluster of Tilapia hatcheries that were observed and cultured, some of which had different colors, breeds, and sizes. Tilapia, a food staple in the province, is a freshwater fish that thrives in ponds, shallow streams, lakes, and rivers.
Not too far from the hatcheries is a Living Fish Museum, which you can access for just ₱5. Here, you will find aquariums filled with different fish species, with corresponding visual aids.
Another interesting location that is just a short distance from CLSU is the Hydroponics Park. The park exhibits different kinds of plants that are produced using a ‘soil-less technique’. I found this particular method quite interesting, especially when growing vegetables, as it’s something that can already be done almost anywhere and at any period (no more ‘on and off-season farming’). By utilizing this system, you get to plant using only a mixture of nutrients that are dissolved in water (under controlled conditions).
What to see in Palayan
Visit the Aquino-Diokno Memorial at Fort Magsaysay
Are you familiar with the Aquino-Diokno Memorial at Fort Magsaysay? While I learned about Martial Law in school, I wasn’t fully aware of the infamous Fort in Palayan, and how it affected the lives of Senator Benigno “Ninoy” S. Aquino Jr. and Jose “Pepe” W. Diokno. Both Ninoy and Pepe, who were taken against their will (blindfolded and handcuffed), were transported from Fort Bonifacio to a detention facility in Fort Magsaysay. They were thrown into solitary confinement (complete isolation from their loved ones for four weeks) just after the declaration of Martial Law.
While it can be depressing to go around the halls of the Aquino-Diokno Memorial, you’ll still find hope in the stories of these brave men who helped uplift each other’s spirits despite being captives in separate rooms (they would sing Bayan Ko and Lupang Hinirang by turns). Their wax figures will show you how they spent their days, and how they endured the daily struggles of being imprisoned in Fort Magsaysay.
What to see in Cabanatuan City
Cabanatuan has plenty of places to offer to any wandering guest. There are a lot of historical sites that you can pay homage to like the Camp Pangatian Shrine, or the Heneral Luna Monument in Plaza Lucero. Now, if you’re the adventurous type, you can head out to Minalungao National Park for some exciting outdoor activities (e.g. spelunking, hiking, cliff-diving, rafting).
Where to eat
Sample Daerrys’ Tilapia Ice Cream
One of the things that you should do when you visit Nueva Ecija is to sample Daerrys’ Tilapia Ice Cream at UMart CLSU. The Central Luzon State University has helped create and develop several innovations for many years, and the Tilapia ice cream is just one of those successful creations. Made with only all-natural ingredients (cultured Tilapia fillets, cheese, nuts and fresh cow’s milk), Daerrys’ Tilapia Praline Crunch is quite comparable to Salted Caramel-flavored ice cream. It’s that good.
Delight in some of Puno’s Ice Cream and Sherbet
For a province that is known to be one of the hottest in the Philippines, you’ll begin to understand why the locals love eating ice cream. You’ll surely crave for a cold treat after a day of exploring Nueva Ecija, and what better way to quench your craving than to get some of Puno’s Ice Cream Sherbet. Not only do they sell one of the cheapest ice creams in town (a small cup costs ₱12), they also offer the creamiest and tastiest local flavors.
Dine at Bistro 360 at Microtel Cabanatuan
One of the things that I loved about Bistro 360 is their food and service. The waiters were commendable (all smiles and very accommodating), and the food was superb. We were able to sample a few selections from their menu, which did not disappoint. Should you decide to try their dishes, make sure to order their Roast Beef with Mashed Potatoes, Oriental Chicken Salad, Panizzas (5 Cheese and Joaquin), and Oriental Chicken Salad. These dishes definitely topped our list.
Buy your pasalubong at Milka Krem, Dairy Box or DVF Dairy Farm
If you like eating local products made from Carabao’s milk, then head to Milka Krem, Dairy Box or DVF Dairy Farm. Milka Krem offers bottled farm fresh Carabao milk, while DVF Dairy Farm has creamy pastillas. But other than milk products, you can also buy the best flavored Carabao Chicharon from Dairy Box. Their bestsellers are garlic and hot and spicy.
How to reach Nueva Ecija thru Cabanatuan City
Nueva Ecija, thru Cabanatuan City, is just 3 to 3.5 hours away by private vehicle from Manila. You can reach the province via the North Luzon Expressway (NLEX), and the Subic-Clark-Tarlac Expressway (SCTEX). Most buses also take this route and stop at Cabanatuan City’s central bus terminal.
Where to stay
Cabanatuan, Nueva Ecija
+63 44 464 7777