Nueva Ecija is just three to four hours away from Metro Manila by land. There are many bus lines that serve this province such as Five Star Bus, Baliwag Transport, and ES Transport. All buses and private vehicles pass through the North Luzon Expressway (NLEX) to get there.
How to Get Around
Jeepneys are an efficient and affordable means of getting around when in Nueva Ecija.
There are many tricycles in the province. Cabanatuan City is even named as the "Tricycle Capital of the Philippines." These vehicles are the preferred public transport of the locals.
What to See
The province of Nueva Ecija played an important role in the history of the country as evident in its numerous historical sites. But your experience in the province should not be limited to just a heritage tour as there are also various attractions around—both natural and artificial—that will take your breath away.
The Sideco House in the town of San Isidro is perhaps Nueva Ecija's most prominent landmark. It was where Emilio Aguinaldo resided when he was escaping from the Americans, making San Isidro the country's capital during the time. Another must-see in San Isidro are the remains of the Tabacalera or tobacco factory. The area is often referred to as "Intramuros" because of the brick walls.
Nueva Ecija is also where you’ll find the memorial markers of national heroes and historical figures of the Philippines. A statue of General Antonio Luna in Cabanatuan City's Plaza Lucero marks the spot where he was assassinated. Likewise, Doña Aurora Quezon, the wife of President Manuel L. Quezon, was killed in the town of Bongabon by insurgents; there is a marker at the area where she died. Meanwhile, you'll find a monument and marker in the town of Cuyapo, where Apolinario Mabini was captured by American soldiers.
Dalton Pass is a sprawling mountainous area in Carranglan with a road that connects the Nueva Ecija and Nueva Vizcaya provinces. Also known as Balete pass, this is where a bloody encounter between Japanese soldiers and the joint forces of American and Filipino soldiers took place during World War II. The area was named after General James Dalton, one of the American leaders during the battle.
Another must-see landmark is Camp Pangatian in Cabanatuan City. It was a former military training camp turned concentration camp for prisoners-of-war during the Japanese occupation.
Just like other provinces, Nueva Ecija also has plenty of impressive churches. There's the St. Nicolas de Tolentine Parish in Carranglan, the Peñaranda Church, and Cabanatuan Cathedral. Meanwhile, the Three Kings Parish in Gapan City is the national shrine of the image of the La Virgen Divina Pastora. Another pilgrimage site is the Our Lady of the Holy Rosary Church in Nampicuan, which enshrines a replica of The Holy Veil of Manoppello or what is believed to be Jesus Christ's burial cloth that bears his face.
While Nueva Ecija may be a landlocked province without any beaches, it is still home to many bodies of water that will entice anyone for a swim. In the town of General Tinio, you'll find Minalungao National Park. This protected area features the stunning emerald green waters of the Peñaranda River bordered by some limestone cliffs. It is one of Nueva Ecija's major tourist draws. Aside from swimming, you can go cliff diving and spelunking in its caves. You can even go on a hike to reach the Minalungao Cross where you can enjoy a view of the mountains.
The province is also home to a bounty of waterfalls where you can enjoy a dip and commune with nature. There's the Gabaldon Falls, Aloha Falls in Carranglan, Palasapas Falls in San Jose City, and General Luna Falls in Rizal to name a few. Also found in Gabaldon is the Dupinga River, where you can cool off with a swim and have a picnic with the whole family at the native cottages.
Nueva Ecija's natural wonders are not just limited to bodies of water. Hike up Mt. Kemalugong or Paasa Peak in Laur and marvel at the sea of clouds at the summit. Mt. Sawi in Gabaldon is also a treat for mountaineers.
The Pantabangan Dam is the largest dam in the country. Aside from being a reservoir, it is also a rising destination for game fishing because of its abundance of bass. Some people even visit the dam to witness the stunning sunset.
Diamond Park in San Jose City should also be included in your itinerary. Also known as Tayabo Nature Park, this man-made park lets you connect with nature. Have a picnic or climb up the one-hundred step stairs to the pagodas, where you can enjoy a panoramic view of the province.
Agriculture is Nueva Ecija's primary industry and you can gain some knowledge about it through several attractions. Philippine Rice Research Institute or PhilRice showcases different kinds of rice along with other interesting exhibits at its Rice Science Museum. At Central Luzon State University (CLSU), there are two museums to visit: the Agricultural Museum and the Living Fish Museum. As its name suggests, the former has exhibits and displays that feature local culture, especially the rice industry. On the other hand, the latter has a collection of different species of fish from all over the country and also serves as breeding ground.
Another unique attraction is the Gross Ostrich Farm in the town of San Leonardo. It is home to many ostriches. You can buy ostrich eggs here as well.
Lastly, make sure to also visit Museo Novo Ecijano in Palayan City to catch a glimpse of the rich culture and history of the Novo Ecijanos.
Events and Festivals
One of Nueva Ecija's most prominent festivals is the Taong Putik Festival in Aliaga. It is held every June 24, the feast day of St. John the Baptist. It is a unique festival because, as the name suggests, locals cover their bodies with mud during the celebration.
Another lively feast is the Tsinelas Festival in Gapan City. It is held every August 25 during the anniversary of its cityhood. Tsinelas expos, street dances, and the Giant Slipper competition are some of the highlights of the feast.
Where to Eat
Fast Food Chains
Jollibee, McDonald's, KFC, Chowking, Mang Inasal, and Greenwich are just a few of the fast food chains that you can enjoy in Nueva Ecija.
Most of the popular restaurants in the province are found in Cabanatuan City. The rustic Hapag Vicentico's offers delectable Filipino dishes as well as delicacies of the province such as Cabanatuan's famous batutay longganisa. NE Restaurant also primarily offers local dishes. It originated in Cabanatuan City and branched out to other destinations in the province such as Gapan City. For some light fare like noodles, cakes, and sandwiches, Joey's Restaurant Cafe is the place to go. And if you want something a bit unique, head to House of Pink Cafe and Bakeshop. This Hello Kitty-themed cafe features adorable interiors and offers equally artistic drinks and dishes. Meanwhile, Luz Kitchenette is a renowned restaurant in Gapan City which also specializes in Filipino dishes.
Where to Shop
There are two SM malls in Nueva Ecija, both of which are in Cabanatuan City: SM City Cabanatuan and the smaller SM Megacenter Cabanatuan, formerly known as Megacenter The Mall. Meanwhile, NE Pacific Mall is a homegrown mall with a Robinsons Department Store and Robinsons Supermarket outlet.
There are also small community malls like Walter Mart in Gapan City and Magic Mall in San Jose City.
You can visit Cabanatuan Public Market if you want to buy some batutay longganisa.
Sweet treats and pastries are the common pasalubong from Nueva Ecija and there are many places where you can buy them.
Edna's Cakeland and NE Bakeshop are popular bakeshops that offer a wide array of baked goods.
Edna's specialties are its cheese roll and fluffy mamon, while NE Bakeshop takes pride in its ensaymada, brownies, and siopao.
Silvanas are the customary pasalubong from the Science City of Muñoz, which you can buy from Eriel's Cakes and Pastries or First Baker. While you're in Muñoz, swing by Milka Krem. This store sells different dairy products such as ice cream and cheese made from carabao milk from the Philippine Carabao Center.
If you have a sweet tooth, make sure to bring home a box of Aying's Homemade Pastillas from the town of Cabiao.
What to Buy
Of all the ice cream flavors, Chives Cafe & Patisserie in CLSU probably sells the most unique—tilapia ice cream. If you're adventurous when it comes to food, make sure to buy a tub when visiting any of the museums in this university.
But if you're not that much into the exotic, then Puno's Ice Cream will definitely appeal to you. This homegrown ice cream store originated from Cabanatuan City but has several branches in select towns in Nueva Ecija. Its ice cream flavors range from the usual cookies and cream and chocolate to local flavors like langka cheese cashew and ube macapuno. They also serve sherbets.
ATMs and Money Changers
There are many banks and ATMs in Nueva Ecija. You'll also find money changers in town centers and certain malls.
Fare: PHP 150.00++
Gapan City is the first town in Nueva Ecija that you'll reach when you pass through Bulacan. The bus fare costs only PHP 150.00.
Food: PHP 50.00 to PHP 300.00
Carinderia meals in Nueva Ecija cost as cheap as PHP 50.00. Meanwhile, eating in a restaurant range from PHP 200.00 to PHP 300.00 on average.
Shopping: PHP 100.00 ++
A box of 12 silvanas from Eriel's costs about PHP 100.00, while a big box of 25 is PHP 200.00. Meanwhile, a box of 30 assorted pastillas from Aying's is priced at PHP 150.00.
For ice cream, a pint of tilapia ice cream from CLSU costs PHP 700.00 to PHP 750.00. On the other hand, Puno's sells half a gallon of ice cream for a little over PHP 200.00, and a gallon for a little over PHP 400.00. Meanwhile, one kilo of batutay costs about PHP 200.00.
Accommodation: PHP 900.00 to PHP 1,900.00
Most of the accommodations in Nueva Ecija are concentrated in Cabanatuan City. For less than PHP 1,000.00, two people can already have an overnight stay at Hotel Sogo Cabanatuan. Meanwhile, a more upscale choice is The Harvest Hotel, which can accommodate two persons for less than PHP 1,900.00 a night.
Activities: PHP 30.00++
The entrance fee to Minalungao National Park costs PHP 30.00. If you want to rent a cottage, prices start at PHP 200.00, while a bamboo raft can be rented for PHP 250.00 to PHP 500.00 depending on the sun. Minalungao's zip-line ride can be enjoyed for a PHP 100.00 fee.
Arrive in Gapan City. Have breakfast at Jollibee and order your lunch for takeout
which you will eat in Minalungao National Park. After having your breakfast, hire a
tricycle that will take you to Minalungao.
Arrive in Minalungao. Enjoy swimming, trekking, and spelunking.
Have your lunch at a floating bamboo raft.
Explore more of Minalungao. You can also try the zip-line.
Head to Cabanatuan.
Arrive in Cabanatuan. Check in at your chosen hotel.
Swing by the cathedral and Antonio Luna's monument in Plaza Lucero.
Grab some dinner at Hapag Vicentico's.
Have breakfast at a fast food chain in Cabanatuan.
Visit Camp Pangatian.
Hop on a jeep to Muñoz.
Arrive in Muñoz. Visit the Agriculture Museum and the Living Fish Museum.
Have lunch at Chives Cafe & Patisserie.
Buy silvanas at Eriel's for pasalubong.
Hop on a jeep back to Cabanatuan City. Once you're there, ride a bus or jeepney to
Arrive in Gapan City. Ride a tricycle to the Three Kings Parish. Once you're there,
say a prayer and see the image of the Virgen La Divina Pastora.
Venture outside of the church grounds. There you'll see the many ancestral houses
of Gapan's Heritage Street.
Walk or take a tricycle to Luz Kitchenette where you can have early dinner.
Ride a tricycle to Bucana and board a bus bound for Manila.
Nueva Ecija's wet season runs from May until November, while it’s dry for the rest of the year. Most tourists prefer to come during dry season so they can fully enjoy their trip.
Make sure to bring some medicine, first aid supplies, and insect repellent whenever you travel.
Safety and Security
Nueva Ecija is a safe place, but practicing constant vigilance is still a must. Be observant of your surroundings and keep your valuables safe at all times.