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JADSpirits Travel Log

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JADSpirits Travel Log

Daday's Kitchen

Daday's Kitchen
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Minalungao National Park, An Ecotourism Marvel in Nueva Ecija

Minalungao National Park Penaranda River with bamboo rafts
July 2, 2016…a Saturday. And our wandering feet strikes again. We embarked on a day trip to satisfy our wanderlust. We left our house with just a light breakfast, our swimwear, and a few clothes…nothing else. Oh, and the tent that never left the trunk of our car, ready to be pitched anytime, anywhere.

The previous night, Jonjie and I talked about a possible place to explore. But for those of you who are familiar with our road trips, our destination is never final until we reached the place.
There’s not much signage along the way, but I know that we are on the right track because of the most-often-than-not reliable Waze apps. Besides, there is no other way but onward.
Road in the middle of grassland leading to Minalungao National Park
DENR Welcome sign to Minalungao National Park

Minalungao National Park is being managed by the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR).
Office of DENR at Minalungao National Park

But before everything else, we have to satisfy Daniz penchant for heights and the nearest thing to flying…riding the zipline.
Our daughter, Daniz, all smile while enjoying the zipline at ‌Minalungao National Park
The joy on her face says it all...

Then it’s time to bask in the marvel of Minalungao National Park. This is the view that greeted us. Taken from the vantage point of the DENR Office. 
Penaranda River with Nipa Huts along its side at Minalungao National Park
The three persons waving below are: my husband Jonjie, my daughter Daniz and Kuya Bok,our part-time family member.
Minalungao National Park is a protected area of the Philippines located in the municipality of General Tinio, Nueva Ecija in Central Luzon. The park covers an area of 2,018 hectares centered along the scenic PeƱaranda River bordered on both sides by up to 16-meter high limestone walls in the foothills of the Sierra Madre mountain range. It was established in 1967 by virtue of Republic Act No. 5100.
The park is considered as one of the few remaining natural environments in this region north of Manila. It is promoted by the local government as an ecotourism destination offering breath-taking scenery of green pristine river and unique rock formations. A system of unexplored subterranean caverns have also been identified as potential attractions. Facilities for picnics, swimming, fishing, raft riding and cliff diving have likewise been put up to draw more visitors.
The park derived its name from “Mina” and “Lungao”, meaning gold mine in caves. Its spectacular karst forests and rock formations, and cool springs and flowing rivers can calm frayed nerves of urban thrill-seekers who long for peace and tranquility in a remote environment closest to nature.

Words are not enough to describe the beauty and wonder of Minalungao. Even the photos that we have taken and shared here did not do justice to what it can offer when you see it with your own eyes.
Looking down Penaranda River with bamboo rafts at Minalungao National Park

We choose to rent a bamboo raft instead of a nipa hut so we will be parked in the best area for swimming.
Our Raft Man preparing the bamboo raft to travel upstream at Minalungao National Park
Our raft man, Sherwin, preparing our bamboo raft for a short by tiring task to bring us upstream to the designated place for rafts. Ahead is the hanging bridge that leads to the “1000-steps” to the giant cross on top of the hill overlooking the ranges of Sierra Madre.
Our Raft Man and our Guide stirring the bamboo raft at Minalungao National Park
How taxing it is? Sherwin is helped by our guide, Raymond, in stirring the raft. But wait, there’s a third person helping them…the one on the limestone rock pulling the rope attached to the front of the raft.
The bamboo raft against the current of Penaranda River at Minalungao National Park
Another look on how they do it. Notice the effort that they are exerting just to bring the raft upstream. The current on this part of the river is already strong. Taken from our bamboo raft.

Here…our bamboo raft is already in place (lower portion, with the 3 person on and near the edge of the raft). We choose this side because we plan to go caving later in the afternoon, and we just have to climb the limestone rock to reach the path to the cave. While on the other side, with the limestone wall as backdrop, we still have to cross the river.
Rows of bamboo rafts traveling upstream of Penaranda River at Minalungao National Park
The four rafts in the middle of the river are still waiting to be parked…along the limestone wall

A closer look at our raft. That’s my “mermaid” daughter…she’s been in the water for almost an hour. And nothing can stop her from swimming downstream with the current…not even the incoming rafts.
Our daughter enjoying the water of Penaranda River at Minalungao National Park
Our Daughter swimming with the current of Penaranda River at Minalungao National Park
That's our "mermaid" daughter. Her love affair with water started when she was just a baby...it never waned up to this day.

The view of the hanging bridge from our bamboo raft...
The view of the hanging bridge taken from our raft at Minalungao National Park

After eating our lunch that we bought from a “karenderia” along the way, we tread the rocky path to the cave located at the foot of Minalungao Hill.
At the cave entrance of Minalungao National Park
We reached the mouth of the cave in about 20 minutes of slow-pace walking, stopping from time to time to take a “groufie” or to let a group to pass.
Entering the mouth of the cave at Minalungao National Park  Jonjie trying to fit in to the small oping inside the cave at Minalungao National Park  Just outside the cave exit at Minalungao National ParkGoing down from the cave at Minalungao National Park

And then, we’re back from where we started. But before going down towards our bamboo raft, I was able to take this photo of my husband…our official photographer. Taken using a smartphone…
Jonjie taking in the beauty and wonder of Penaranda River at Minalungao National Park
This is Daday Jonjie...quietly taking in the beauty and wonder of the Penaranda River down below made colorful by the clothes and belongings of the visitors
The Penaranda River with the limestone walls on each side at Minalungao National Park
This is one of his shots…
I borrowed the camera and these are some of the scenes that I captured...
A family enjoying quality time at Penaranda River, Minalungao National Park
A family enjoying their spot...
A family,a bamboo raft and the Penaranda River at Minalungao National Park
I assume they are the first to arrive...they have the best spot with their own swimming hole
Four friends relaxing in the water of Penaranda River at Minalungao National Park
Friends relaxing in the water...
A little farther from the raft area is a place for tents
Just ahead of the bamboo rafts area is also a good place to swim. Tents could be pitched on this part of the river.
An unnamed man leaning on the rock enjoying the view of the river
I couldn't help but took picture of this man...resting or just enjoying the view or both?

Tired after caving, I decided to lie down and just enjoy the cool breeze. While Jonjie is taking pictures and Daniz is still enjoying the water. It’s around 2:00pm…
Resting on the bench of the raft enjoying the afternoon breeze

After an hour of doing nothing, I have to be brave and conquer my fear of heights to cross the hanging bridge. And even with trembling knees, I have to pose for the camera…

And despite my fear of height, I was able to take pictures of the river, upstream and downstream, with one hand, while the other hand is holding tightly on the cable railing.
Me on the middle of the hanging bridge despite my fear of heights

The view from both sides of the hanging bridge…upstream and downstream.
Upstream view of the river from the hanging bridge

Downstream view of the river from the hanging bridge

After crossing the hanging bridge and 35 minutes of climbing the 1000-steps, with a few stops to take photos and to catch our breath, we have reach the top of Minalungao Hill. We are welcomed with the sight of the Giant Cross reflecting the color of the skies. Looking beyond, is the view of the Sierra Madre mountain ranges on the distant.
Te Giant Cross on topof the Minalungao Hill can be reached by climbing a stairs of 1000 steps
The Giant Cross on top of Minalungao Hill
The view of the Sierra Madre mountain ranges from the foot of the giant Cross
The view of Sierra Madre mountain ranges

Going down the Minalungao Hill I thought that our adventure is over. Our guide, mentioned another place with an awesome sight...on top of one of the limestone walls on the side of the Penaranda River. But it means climbing a steep stairs of 152 steps. Upon reaching the top, one cannot help but open both arms in appreciation of the wonder and beauty awaiting those who braved the climb.
Smiling Daniz standing on top of the world...no...on top of the limestone wall
Daniz is standing on top of the limestone wall.
What an awesome view of the Penaranda River from the top of the limestone wall
What a view! Taken form the top of the limestone wall.

All good things must come to an end. It’s time to head home…taking with us all the pictures of this marvelous place and keeping the memories of a day well-spent.
The full view of Hanging Bridge from our bamboo raft

Footnotes:

  • Entrance to Minalungao National Park is P50 per head. A parking fee of P50 per vehicle with the driver free of charge.
  • Bamboo raft rental is P500 and for nipa hut P300.
  • You can bring foods and drinks. And can even cook near the nipa hut or on the bamboo raft.
  • Local guides are ready to assist visitors...the fee depends on your generosity.
  • Please help to maintain the cleanliness of the place by disposing you garbage and leftover foods. There are disposal sacks located on each huts and rafts and in the strategic areas.
  • Always keep in mind the mantra "Leave nothing but footprints, take nothing but pictures and keep nothing but memories".