Sunday, July 26, 2015

Cabanatuan City and its Neighboring Towns

What To Do In Cabanatuan

I could recall only one time when I got to see the beauty of Nueva Ecija. It was a fleeting moment as our bus heading to Baler, Aurora passed by the bucolic sceneries of rural landscape that dominated the area. Apparently, there’s more to Cabanatuan City than rice fields.

Our home on this side of the country, Microtel by Wyndham – Cabanatuan,   assisted us during our three-day tour around Nueva Ecija.

Fort Magsaysay

The tormenting heat welcomed us on our very first day of exploration, but as I always say, it’s better to have the sun on our side than being drenched in rainwater. We were headed to the 35,000-hectare property of Fort Magsaysay which is the largest existing military reservation in the Philippines (located at the towns of Laur and Palayan City).

Aquino Diokno Memorial Fort Magsaysay Nueva Ecija
Aquino - Diokno Memorial
First stop was the Aquino–Diokno Memorial. It was as if we were transported back in time as we entered the heavily-secured compound where two of the brightest minds in the history of Philippine politics were held in captive. Walls made from sawali mats and barbed wires surrounded the area. We were then led to a small room where a documentary about the confinement of then senators Ninoy Aquino and Jose W. Diokno during Marcos' era was shown. The short film was moving; we really felt the anguish from the families and supporters of the captives.

Aquino Diokno Memorial Fort Magsaysay Nueva Ecija
Visiting booth
Aquino Diokno Memorial Fort Magsaysay Nueva Ecija
Ninoy Aquino's cell
Aquino Diokno Memorial Fort Magsaysay Nueva Ecija
Jose Diokno's cell
Afterwards, we were guided to the actual cells. They endured thirty days of total solitary confinement in this undisclosed place during Martial Law. The rooms were small and bare, plus, the scorching heat will totally drain you out. They were held there with nothing to do but endure the days knowing nothing about why, where and how long their stay will be. Christmas songs being played all day was also torturing them. It was as if the mission was to torment them, physically and mentally.

Aquino Diokno Memorial Fort Magsaysay Nueva Ecija
Ninoy's way of counting the days
Aquino Diokno Memorial Fort Magsaysay Nueva Ecija
Secret calendar of Jose Diokno using soap packaging
It was a truly heartbreaking and shattering experience to visit their actual confinement spaces.

Moving on, we went to a man-made lake, still inside the fort. Pahingahan Complex is for the rest and relaxation activities of the military personnel. The fresh air and nice scenery was the perfect backdrop for a quiet retreat.

Pahingahan Complex Fort Magsaysay Nueva Ecija

Pahingahan Complex Fort Magsaysay Nueva Ecija
Serene
Gapan City

It took us almost two hours from our hotel in Cabanatuan to reach the city of Gapan. Founded in 1595, it is one of the oldest towns in Nueva Ecija. With that in mind, we knew that we were in for a historical tour around town.

Three Kings Parish Church Gapan City Nueva Ecija
Three Kings Parish Church
Three Kings Parish Church Gapan City Nueva Ecija

We first went to the Three Kings Parish Church along Delos Reyes Street that was built during the 1800’s. Being the biggest and oldest church in the province, it truly withstood the ultimate test of time (from earthquakes to the 1896 Philippine Revolution) which was quite observable from the intricate designs and old belfry.

Three Kings Parish Church Gapan City Nueva Ecija

Three Kings Parish Church Gapan City Nueva Ecija

We walked further to where the ancestral houses were located. Built during the Spanish era, the structures survived countless natural catastrophes. The noticeably quiet street added to the drama. I wish we could’ve visited one of the houses though to complete the whole experience.

Gapan City Ancestral Houses Nueva Ecija
Gapan City ancestral houses
Gapan City Ancestral Houses Nueva Ecija

Gapan City Ancestral Houses Nueva Ecija

Camp Pangatian War Memorial Shrine

Going back to Cabanatuan City, we passed by the seemingly deserted park that is, the Camp Pangatian War Memorial Shrine along Cabanatuan–Palayan Road. Around twenty years before World War II, this served as a military training camp. But the Japanese soldiers used it as the largest prisoners-of-war camp during World War II (1942-1945), some of which were survivors of the Death March.

The memorial is dedicated to the American soldiers and Filipino guerillas that died on camp during the war.

Camp Pangatian War Memorial Shrine Cabanatuan City
Camp Pangatian War Memorial Shrine
Minalungao National Park

Dragging our sluggish bods inside the van, thanks to our one-hour sleep (read:beer sesh), we continued our slumber on the way to Minalungao National Park. We were warned at the entrance gate that the water wasn’t in its pristine emerald green condition. The heavy downpour the past night resulted to a muddy river, but we still continued.

Minalungao National Park General Tinio Nueva Ecija
The Minalungao on my mind
Grabbed from Kirk
Located at General Tinio, still in Nueva Ecija, this park is a protected area that covers 2,018 hectares with PeƱaranda River and the 16-meter high limestone walls at the foot of the Sierra Madre mountain range as the focal point.

This ecotourism destination offers some breathtaking adventures of cave explorations inside the numerous rock formations and the fun activities at the supposedly emerald green waters from the river.

Minalungao National Park General Tinio Nueva Ecija
Minalungao National Park during rainy season
The group settled on a hut that was rented out for a few hundred bucks and made it as our base camp for the day.

It was such a downer to see a muddy river as compared to what we’re expecting. It was also notable that a signage indicated that almost eighty persons already died in the river. Certain improvements like the paved walkway along the rock formations and some ongoing constructions that looked like hotels were also a disappointment.

Minalungao National Park General Tinio Nueva Ecija

Minalungao National Park General Tinio Nueva Ecija

The young group of Team RH proceeded with their cave explorations while the oldies preferred to rest on one of the limestone walls (I was one of the oldies, for clarification. haha). We were totally drained by the heat and last night’s alcohol intoxication and didn’t have much energy to walk some more. We feasted our eyes on excited tourists as they went on with their death-defying rock climbing stunts. Some were also enjoying their floating raft tour alonng the river.

Minalungao National Park General Tinio Nueva Ecija

We had a hearty lunch on our base camp and ended our trip with laughter as we reminisced on our three-day jaunt at Nueva Ecija. And I must say, really, that there’s more to Cabanatuan City than rice fields and paddies. 


Aquino – Diokno Memorial
Fort Magsaysay, Laur, Nueva Ecija
Open Hours: Mondays to Fridays | 8:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.
Entrance Fee: Donations only

Minalungao National Park
General Tinio, Nueva Ecija
Entrance Fee: 30 pesos per person | 50 pesos per vehicle

Check Cabanatuan City accommodations here





2 comments:

  1. Hala, I grew up in Nueva Ecija, but have never been to this place. I heard Minalungao National Park before kaso my lola never agreed to me going there - deliks daw :D

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Delikado nga talaga Arlet. Kaya di na kami nangahas na mag swim. hehe

      Delete