Rustic, scenic, delicious Nueva Ecija

Provinces in Northern Luzon have started accept­ing local visitors after more than 30% of Filipinos have been fully vaccinated. One such province is Nueva Ecija whose rich lands offer a wide range of fun adventures for travel-hungry wanderers.

Metro Manila residents can easily reach Nue­va Ecija via a three-hour drive using the North Luzon Expressway and Subic-Clark-Tarlac Ex­pressway. Visitors are immediately greeted by the relaxing green, rolling Colosboa Hills in the munic­ipality of Cuyapo.

The undulating hills are the perfect play­ground for bike rides or a great spot to delight in a hearty local breakfast while enjoying a fresh breeze with a view of Mount Bangcay.

Nueva Ecija is also site to a number of beauti­ful lakes, one of them is Libsung Lake which hugs the five-hectare property of Argamosa Farm. The lake can be best admired from Balinese-style floating huts and villas with guests enjoying dish­es from freshly picked produce.

In the town of Guimba, Myriad Farms is an agricultural learning site where visitors can go on carabao rides, pick fresh vegetables, and sleep in rustic accommodations. For a laid-back weekend retreat, Natividad Farmhouse offers a pool, a koi pond, friendly sheep and homey rooms for small groups.

In the town of Pantabangan, the dam is its centerpiece with the majestic Sierra Madre Moun­tain Range providing picture-perfect background. 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 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 soothing spa treatments, as well as water sports like 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 agri-tourism site that features artsy viewpoints, where a sea of clouds emerge from the mountains.

Cabanatuan City – Nueva Ecija’s trade center – shows that the provincial slogan, “Never-ending Fun,” can also be experienced through food.

“Putok batok” fantasies are best features at Hapag Vicenticos where diners can indulge in the signature Putok Batok — a collection of crispy pata, lechon kawali, chicharon bulaklak, and ado­bong aligue.

For dessert, one can always try Puno’s Ice Cream and Sherbet, a well-loved local brand that brings back childhood memories of flavors like ly­chee, chocolate, macapuno and cheese.

An area ideal for a stroll is Freedom Park which offers tree-lined spaces and a memori­al dedicated to General Antonio Luna. A short walk from the park is the Cabanatuan Cathe­dral and Plaza Lucero, site of the fiery general’s bloody assassination.

Before driving back home, local tourists can order freshly baked pizzas, pastas, rice meals and caffeinated beverages at OQuadro Café, a favorite hangout among the hip and young, with specialties that are ideal fuel for the drive home.

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