Minalungao: A Kept Secret of Nueva Ecija

Prior to leaving for a fifteen-day Turkey adventure, there is one Philippine travel destination that I and some colleagues have been to which I failed to feature and write about.  Three reasons for my failure of writing about this Nueva Ecija place is because (a) I was too pre-occupied about my upcoming Turkey journey; (b) I was too lazy; and, (c) I’ve gone selfish and don’t want to share the beauty and splendor of Minalungao National Park.

I had the least expectations about my going to Minalungao.  It is because I’ve never heard about this place in the first place.  And since it is not a popular Philippine destination, the site must be some mediocre place located in Nueva Ecija.  I was also not expecting much because the scale of planning compared to the amount of planning I have to do with my out-of-the-country planning was way way different.  Lastly, I had the least anticipations because I know quite a number of friends and colleagues who hailed from Nueva Ecija yet none of them seem to recommend visiting Minalungao. 

But as soon as we reached this national park and I alighted from our rented van, my jaw dropped!  I was so surprised to find out that Minalungao was such a Philippine hidden gem.  Also, what is so distinct about the place is that only locals of Nueva Ecija province seem to be around.  There seem to be very few tourists from Manila or even from abroad.

Minalungao is a protected national park considered to be one of the very few remaining natural environments that is close to Manila.  This ecotourist destination offers breath-taking scenery, easy hiking trails, green pristine river, inimitable rock formations and explorable natural caves.

Let my photos speak for Minalungao… 

After exploring what Minalungao and while we were heading to a cheap hotel in Nueva Ecija city center to stay overnight, it was the time I realized why people of Nueva Ecija seem to not recommend it.  Maybe it is because it is so beautiful, Nueva Ecija-ns want Minalungao to be a secret and be a well-kept natural environment.  People of Nueva Ecija wants to keep it for themselves because they don’t want this beautiful nature and physical world phenomena to be spoiled, be blemished and be destroyed by unmindful, insensible and ill-mannered tourists.

That is why after reading this, keep it to yourself. You can visit Minalungao (of course) but never tell anyone about it. Keep it at its status, that is, a secret natural environmental gem.

Kaya kapag nabasa mo ‘to, hwag mo ipag-sabi.

Filipinos’ Image of Turkey & the “Pasabog” of Pasabag

The Tourism Office of Turkey should pay me! Hahaha! This is because there has been quite a number of Filipinos (mostly my friends and relatives) who are now wanting to tour and visit this transcontinental country of Eurasia.

Turkish people should know that there seem to be some level of dreadful and critical image lurking within the minds of Filipinos about Turkey.  May be it is the media responsible in doing so.  It is because we Filipinos are only informed about Turkey when some bad or terrible new happened in that side of the world.

Actually, friends and colleagues were amazed to find out how beautiful Turkey is through the photos I posted in my Facebook and Instagram accounts.  But their first question if they happen to meet me about my Turkey journey is if it is safe and secured.  My usual answer? I was also hesistant on pursuing my Turkey journey prior to leaving Manila.  But towards the end of my Turkish adventure did I realize that it is one safe, harmless and innocuous place that I have been to.

To further prove my amazement about Turkey, let me feature the explosively beautiful Pasabag.

It’s a valley with unique and astonishing rock formations where you’ll get a feel of Cappadocia’s striking and iconic fairy chimneys. The tuff stone pillars of Pasabag are easily recognizable. It stands at 10 to 15 meters high often with twin or triple rock caps.

Pasabag is often referred to as the Monks Valley.  This was due to St. Simon and the monks who sought refuge inside this rock formations. 

Monks sought shelter in Pasabag after attracting unwanted funfair-like popularity after the public learned that they are some kind of a miracle-makers. To create shelter, monks would start by carving rooms for themselves at the bottom of the fairy chimneys and work their way to the top.  They were said to only descend to receive food and drinks from their disciples.

With the “pasabog” (translation: explosive) beauty like Pasabag and all the other equally amazing spots of Turkey, I hope that this country would soon erase (or at least improve) their undesirable image among the Filipinos.  I hope that this country would not remain to be like the monks of Pasabag who chose to be left unknown from the awareness of the itchy-footed Filipino travelling wanderlusts.

Yung makakating paa dyan, seyp po sa Torki!

Glacial Facial at Milford Sound

Milford Sound has been considered as the most visited tourist place in New Zealand.  It is the crowning jewel and quintessential spot of New Zealand.  Many visitors say that it is the most beautiful place they have ever seen.  It so beautiful, it is usually included in blogs and publications that enumerates the places to go to before an earthling dies.

Milford Sound is a body of water, thus, one has to take a boat ride to really appreciate its beauty.  And that’s exactly me and my friends did.  We took the tour as operated by Southern Discoveries which is inclusive of a sumptuous buffet lunch served right inside the boat.  It was actually a smooth connection between the 5-hour bus ride and that of the ship ride.  No worries, no hustle and surprisingly, no overcrowding!  Everything went smooth and organized.

cruising...

cruising…

And when the boat embarks into the water, further excitement about my NZ experience sets in.  The sights of the Sound were just gorgeous.  Limestone cliffs, snowcapped mountain peaks, amazing waterfalls and the clear water of the fiords were all so stunning.

I particularly loved the part when the boat would get so near the waterfalls throwing water down the sides of the sheer cliffs.  And according to the boat’s tour guide and narrator, water coming from above the cliffs were actually melted glacier from the mountains.  The narrator told all passengers to be ready to get wet and secure a raincoat because the bow of the ship will go right underneath the pounding falls.

The up-close look of the waterfalls were simply spectacular!  Only when the ship maneuvered right at the bottom of the falls did I realize how high, how strong and how massive the waterfalls were.  The sprinkling, the shower, the downpour of the glacial water on my face was something to behold.  I totally agree with the boat narrator’s description that the feeling would be like having a “glacial facial”!

Another add on about the Milford Sound cruise were the animals that tourists got to see.  We were unfortunate that we did not see pods of dolphins or rare penguins.  But what we found were lazy seals sunning themselves on low lying rocks.

getting ready for my glacial facial!

getting ready for my glacial facial!

strike a pose!

strike a pose!

Me and my friends were just too glad to do a 2-hour Milford Sound tour!  We were so happy that such an amazing place with all its natural splendor really does exist!

Kakaibang pasyal na may peyshal!

Old Majestic Tree in Aurora

Trees are considered one of life-sources.  Aside from being the great oxygen supplier, trees also makes the world a beautiful place to live in.

After seeing the majestic trees that grew from the ruins of Ta Prohm temple in Siem Reap Cambodia, I thought I will never be again fascinated by any living tree on the planet.

But after being enchanted by the massive 600+ year old tree in the town of Maria Aurora in Aurora Province here in the Philippines, I knew I am mistaken.  Hailed as the Millennium Tree, this breathtaking Balete type of a tree is considered to be the largest of its kind in the whole of Asia.

nature's gigantic masterpiece

nature’s gigantic masterpiece; i’m like meters away standing from the tree…

Unlike the massive roots of the trees in Siem Reap, people can actually enter through the hoards of root shafts of this 200 feet tall tree.

super UGAT! "inside" the massive tree

super UGAT!
“inside” the massive tree

I’m pretty sure there are higher, older and more massive trees in some tucked away and untouched forest or mountainside on the planet.  But what makes the Millennium Tree more meaningful and delightful is that people are actually allowed to climb up to a certain point so as to feel and further appreciate it firsthand.

Seeing thrilled tourists climbing up or passing through the narrow crevices of its roots were like little boys and girls being cradled by no less than the enchanting Mother Nature.

Bonggang puno…

The Unique Charm of the Hundred Islands

hundred islands, a totally different adventure

hundred islands, a totally different adventure

Having close encounters with the Taklobo or Giant Clams, colorful corrals and vibrant schools of fish are the highlights of my recent journey to the Hundred Islands in Alaminos, Pangasinan (a calm and peaceful province north of Metro Manila).  I was so glad to have the opportunity to snorkel in the deep blue waters (of the Coral Island) in this portion of the Lingayen Gulf.  I have been a couple of times to this gorgeous protected national park and I am glad that the islands were still jarringly beautiful.

I really like the fact that it would be very difficult for people to stay overnight in the islands because there are no luxurious room facilities available in these islands which would tend to spoil, destruct and deteriorate the natural splendor of the place.

Among the more than 120 islands of the park I think only four are allowed for tourists to stay overnight.  People who would want to stay overnight would only have to settle on pitching their own tent/s and pray that unforgiving heavy rain won’t fall and gust of viscous wind won’t blow during the night.  Otherwise, it would be some messy, muddled and shambolic escapade.

with lambert, jun and willie

with lambert, jun and willie

now, how can you construct toilets on those islands? aber!

now, how can you construct toilets on those islands? aber!

my magic shot of jb...

my magic shot of jb…

those rickety pump boats are not for the fainthearted

those rickety pump boats are not for the fainthearted

Some two-legged squeamish finicky creatures may actually say and declare that they hate the park due to its inadequate or lacking in facilities – like drinking fountains, toilets, luxurious restaurants, air conditioned huts, high-class smooth sailing speedboats, etc. – in the islands.

But for me these add up to the unique charm and appeal of this Philippine tourist spot.  It totes up to the rugged virginity of the place.  This makes you feel that these harsh islands remains to be untouched, unexplored, undamaged and indeed intact.  That the environment and its ecosystem is nothing but ‘natural’.  So when you’re in the Hundred Islands, simply embrace nature’s beauty and expect the unexpected!  Besides, that’s what fun is about!!!

Hundred Islands is not a fluid, easy and relaxing type of an escapade.  It is for the rough, tough and jagged type of an adventurer.  This distinct characters of the Hundred Islands makes me love and fancy this erstwhile Philippine tourist destination.

Kakaibang adbentyur… di pwede sa lelembot-lembot…

Flowers Feed The Soul

There is a rare inspiring feeling when gazing upon the features of a flower.  It is something that is not tangible and very difficult to explain.  Flowers are beautiful creations that link us to the miracles of nature.

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I don’t now but for me there is always something magical about the world of flowers.  Flowers somehow fades or reduces the stresses and concerns of everyday life.  It can actually feed your soul and make you incredibly alive, aware and totally animated.

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So if you have the rare opportunity to see and smell the flowers, do it.  Enjoy the experience before nature is engulfed in flames due to global warming and the upcoming end of days.

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Using merely my cellphone’s camera, photos of this post were photographed when I had the opportunity to stay overnight at the beautiful and tranquil Sonya’s Garden located in Alfonso, Cavite.

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Bulaklak sa banga! Pasok sa banga! Ang ganda no?