As over 30 percent of the Philippine population becomes fully vaccinated, more provinces in Northern Luzon are reopening their doors to visitors. One of them is Nueva Ecija, a landlocked province whose vast and rich lands offer a wide range of fun adventures for travel-hungry wanderers.
Members of the media had a sampler of what Nueva Ecija has to offer as NLEX Corporation, in an effort to reintroduce and promote travel destinations, treated them to a thrilling two-day tour of the province in this edition of NLEX Lakbay Norte. A media familiarization trip aimed at boosting tourism in North and Central Luzon, Lakbay Norte introduces travelers to hidden gems and provincial favorites that can be accessed via the North Luzon Expressway and Subic-Clark-Tarlac Expressway (NLEX-SCTEX), the premier gateways to northern destinations.
“We are delighted that our expressway network serves as a channel to spur economic recovery as it serves as a vital link to the provinces that are now reopening for tourism,” said NLEX Corporation President and General Manager J. Luigi L. Bautista.
Because safe fun is best, this edition of NLEX Lakbay Norte edition began with a health, safety, and traffic briefing at the NLEX corporate offices, before participants were whisked away some 179 kilometers northeast of Metro Manila to the “Rice Granary of the Philippines”.
After a comfy three-hour drive, they were welcomed with the relaxing sight of green, rolling prominences in Colosboa Hills in the municipality of Cuyapo. The undulating hills are the perfect playground for bike rides. For the Lakbay Norte team, it was a great spot to delight in a hearty local breakfast while enjoying a fresh breeze with a view of Mt. Bangcay.
Hills aside, Nueva Ecija also boasts of beautiful lakes. One of them is Libsung Lake, which hugs the five-hectare property of Argamosa Farm. While admiring the lake from Balinese-style floating huts and villas, the guests partook of dishes made from freshly picked produce.
“We appreciate ang inyong pagdalaw sa amin dahil kahit paano nabigyang pansin at napagtuunan ng atensyon ang bayan namin. Hosting the Lakbay Norte participants is one way of exposing and promoting our town. Ito rin ay makakatulong sa ekonomiya ng aming bayan lalo na’t maraming bumibisita at magkakaroon ng iba pang development, kaakibat ng turismo dito sa bayan ng Cuyapo,” said Cuyapo Mayor Florida Paguio-Esteban.
From farm-to-table fare to fresh fruits, one wouldn’t run out of options in Nueva Ecija. In the town of Guimba, for instance, there’s Myriad Farms, a DOT-accredited agricultural learning site where one can go on carabao rides, pick fresh vegetables, and sleep in rustic accommodations. For a laid-back weekend retreat, The Natividad Farmhouse also offers a pool, a koi pond, friendly sheep, and homey rooms for small groups.
Another town that is perfect for the ‘gram is Pantabangan. With the awe-inspiring Pantabangan Dam as its centerpiece and the majestic Sierra Madre Mountain Range spanning the horizon, visitors are guaranteed dreamy views and a breezy, comfortable sleep.
Unique accommodations in the area include the cozy ridge-side wooden cabins at the Farm Ridge by Desmond Farm that overlook the mountains, and the well-appointed Balinese-themed villas at the Highland Bali Villas, Resort and Spa. A welcome retreat after a long journey, the resort rejuvenates with a slew of soothing spa treatments, and pulse-quickening water sports including jet ski and banana boat rides.
Apart from gorgeous sunsets, Pantabangan is known for its refreshing sunrise views, too. Early risers can take advantage of this by heading to Forest Garden, an agritourism site that features artsy viewpoints, where a sea of clouds emerge from the mountains.
During the trip, Pantabangan Mayor Roberto Agdipa shared how the media familiarization tour benefits local livelihood and economy. “Our local tourist destinations and our community as a whole reaped and will continue to reap a huge amount of benefits from NLEX Lakbay Norte. Through this project, target markets were given visual information on what our community has to offer which could influence them to visit our place.”
Cabanatuan City, known as the Nueva Ecija’s trade center, shows that the provincial slogan, “Never-ending Fun”, can also be experienced through food. Putok batok fantasies came true at all-Pinoy resto Hapag Vicenticos, as participants devoured mouthwatering Filipino eats like the signature Putok Batok—a collection of sinful meats like crispy pata, lechon kawali, chicharon bulaklak, and adobong aligue.
It is not a truly fun food tour without dessert, and for that, one can always rely on Puno’s Ice Cream and Sherbet. This beloved homegrown brand known brings you back to your childhood with fresh, heartwarming flavors like lychee, chocolate, macapuno, and cheese.
Another area where one can stroll is the Freedom Park. This public park offers tree-lined spaces and a memorial dedicated to General Antonio Luna who is renowned for his role in the Philippine-American War. A short walk from the park, you’ll also find the Cabanatuan Cathedral and Plaza Lucero, where the fiery general’s bloody assassination took place.
Before heading back to Manila, the participants got their fill of freshly baked pizzas, pastas, rice meals, and caffeinated beverages at OQuadro Café. A favorite hangout among the hip and young, OQuadro Cafe’s specialties are the ideal fuel for your drive home. Sponsored by Wanderskye, Kurin, and Locally, this year’s second installment of NLEX Lakbay Norte proves Nueva Ecija is truly the seat of never-ending fun up North. Experience all that the province has to offer today. Download the Nueva Ecija Tourist Application (NETA) app and explore the provincial brochure and directory for tips on where to go, eat, and sleep. The app is available on Google Playstore.