Minalungao National Park

My brother told me about this place in Nueva Ecija where the turquoise water of the river runs between limestone cliffs. I searched and saw several blogs on this seemingly “undiscovered” place, the Minalungao National Park. Apparently, its a place known to locals but only (relatively) recently to outsiders thanks to the power of social media. I suggested to my colleagues that we visit it as a potential site for their ecology classes (and to swim and beat the summer heat).

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Some things you need to know if you want to visit and take the same photos you see if you Google the place:
– go on a weekday if you can
– go as early as you can (or camp out in the park and beat the crowds the following day)
– go in summer (unless you want to swim in the brown waters of the river)

We went on a Sunday, which was one of the peak days and the park superintendent estimates that there were around 3000 people in the park. It’s even more crowded during holidays.

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I had this image in my mind of the limestone cliffs covering a more extensive portion of the river, but that was not the case. Naturally, most swimmers would be in this portion of the river, hence the dozens of rafts.

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The river was also shallower than I expected, with pockets of deep pools scattered around. Since we didn’t want to swim in the crowded areas, we moved further upstream where we had the place to ourselves.

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Several blogs have already given transportation details to reach this place so I’ll just give a summary.

Get to Gapan by bus or private vehicle (some advise to take the SCTEX). From there you can try to get a jeep to Papaya then take a trike to the park (or arrange for a trike or jeep to bring you straight to the park). For private vehicles, once you get to the Gapan/Peñaranda crossing, turn right (coming from Bulacan) and keep a look out of the small signs pointing you to the park. The map below shows the route we took but there appears to be several possible ways to get there from Japan crossing.

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