As for me, I think the destination is not really what we crave for when we travel. The feeling when you got to a place you've always wanted is nothing compare to the stories you build along the way. You have a perfect picture of your destination but few to almost none on what you will see and experience getting there. For me, what makes the trip more fun, unforgettable and exciting is the challenges you face along the way, the quick decisions you will make on every turn that will surely affect the entire trip, the spontaneous things, the mishaps, the inevitable, the feeling when you almost missed the last ride, few wounds and bruises you didn't see coming, the sacrifices you need to do, the people you will meet along the road, the conversation with the locals, the long conversation on long drives with your companions with uncountable laughs and smiles, understanding unspeakable thoughts of your comrades and their weary and thus building trust with each other, the few lost and found roads, and the indescribable sceneries of less traveled places, and discovering places you know nothing about before and little did you know you've found the perfect place you will crave to go back every now and then.
Minalungao has been on my bucket list since last year, the last time it was canceled was because I had flu but this time, despite the bad weather at Manila (February 6, 2016) and continuous raining we still pursue the trip, me, together with my childhood friends head to Nueva Ecija at dawn of February 7, 2016.
Nowadays, there are a lot of tours that offer different destination thus including this, I am not against it, but if you can do it on your own and in tight budget you can save more in diy trips. With this guide, I will narrate our experience going to Minalungao National Park.How To Go There?
I don't know if its because there's a long holiday but it seems that all of the bus station at Cubao are all on long queue, specifically bus that are going to Cabanatuan, all of them were telling us that the bus got hold up somewhere at Bulacan because of heavy traffic, and that was 2 am in the morning. Our initial meet-up is 2 am but we manage to hop in a bus at ES Transport station at 3:30 AM. It has the most short queues. Aside from ES Transport, Five Star and Baliwag has everyday trip going to Cabanatuan. Fair at ES Transport is only 150 as of February 7, 2016.
Arriving at Gapan, Nueva Ecija at 5:45 AM, tricycle at the terminal infront of Puregold were buzzing us out, it seems that it is very obvious that we are going to Minalungao, since we are going to eat breakfast first and badly needing a comfort room we decline every tricycle driver, but they insisted that we can take one as our service and will wait for us while we eat first. We said yes though. They charge us 800 for back and forth already, since we are four 200 per person is not bad, besides, it was a long 1 hour and 15 minutes ride.
We arrive at 7:45 AM at Minalungao National Park. It is advisable to take a tricycle at Gapan because it is much cheaper, an employee at Minalungao told us that from brgy. Papaya, tricycle charge them 150 each for one way already and its just down the road from Minalungao.
Is There An Entrance Fee?
Yep. There is. 40 pesos each. Other blogs mentioned of vehicle fee/parking fee as well as if you are riding a tricycle. But for us, they didn't charge us with that, but they've mentioned that vehicle fee is about 50 pesos.
The raft that we rent cost about 500 pesos. You can have it by yourself the whole day. It was big enough, 4-8 person capacity.
I really don't know if its required but having one is not bad at all. After all they will serve as your other companion and you can ask them about the place and can guide you if you want to do spelunking. Guide there are mostly kids. Yep, kids. They were skillful. And very friendly. I know about the law but it seems that it's their way of living there. We have two kids as guide, one is 9 years old and the other is 15 years old, they were cousins . We asked them what they are doing with the money they were getting from guiding and they told us that they are giving it all to their Parents, it was for their school baon and everyday expenses. Guide fee is not particular. You can give as much as you want depending on how they guide you or whatever you like. They guide us for 5hrs and we gave them 200 each. We enjoyed their company.
If its not much of a hassle to you, you can bring your own food. You can eat at the raft while roaming the place or while swimming. The cold breeze is perfect for picnic! We bring with us foods in can and some other crackers and breads. But, if you prefer buying there it is fine. They have eatery there, That time they sell frilled pork and hotdog, each for 25 pesos. They also sell rice as per my friend for he is the one who goes to the eatery by himself and the guide.
What To Do At Minalungao?
Oh, there are loads. Aside from rafting and swimming, you can do caving or spelunking. You can ask your guide they know it. There is also a zip line for only 50 pesos for one way and 100 for two way. Other attraction is the bridge crossing and the 1000 steps to grotto that we didn't get to see because my friends are all tired and we decided to head to Sky Ranch Pampanga right after.
How To Go Home?
The same way you go there. Your hired tricycle will bring you back to Gapan or if you have other plans you can ask the driver to take you there. From Gapan, there are buses going back to Cubao, its not terminal but you can wait there for a bus.
Breakdown of Expenses:
Bus from Cubao to Gapan (via ES Transport Cabanatuan bound) - 150 pesos
Gapan to Minalungao via Tricycle - 800 | 200 ea | 4 pax
Raft Rental - 500 | 125 ea | 4 pax
Guide - 400 | 100 ea | 4 pax
Food - 300 | 75 ea | 4 pax
Bus from Gapan to Cubao - 150 pesos
TOTAL - 800 pesos ea for 4 pax
Will be sharing more photos on my next post.