The landlocked province of Nueva Ecija is often perceived as a vast expanse of drab, uninspired flatlands, with nothing much to see but endless rows of rice and corn fields– but behind the pretense of a sleepy, pastoral town, little did everyone know that it hides an adventurous flip side.
Tucked away in the town of General Tinio, in the foothills of the great Sierra Madre, is the beautiful and whimsical Peñaranda River, hemmed in by towering limestone boulders. It is part of the Minalungao National Park– an initiative headed by the local government to attract visitors into the once unheard-of place. One may rent a bamboo raft to take you to the sandy banks where you can swim and lounge in the sun. For a little adrenaline pump, you can do cliff-jumping, just be sure that you do it in the deeper parts. You can also try the park’s Zipline where you can relish the view of the river from above.
Be warned though, as the allure of the river is as capricious as the naiads that reside in its depths– at times, the water flows gently like combed silk, then displaying mesmerizing hues of emerald and celadon green; in ominous weather it bursts into a violent torrent of murky floodwaters.
Nueva Ecija could be hiding a lot more of these treasures in its sprawling territory. It wouldn’t be named after a Spanish town for nothing, don’t you think?