Lakbay Norte Highpoints Must-See Places in Nueva Ecija


As it enters its 10th year, the #NLEXLakbayNorte continues to promote more tourist destinations in Northern Luzon. However, due to the global pandemic, the usual 5-6 day caravan across several provinces is curtailed to a shorter trip focusing on just one province. This writer of Nomadic Experiences and Out of Town Blog was recently invited to participate in the 2-day familiarization tour of Nueva Ecija. Following IATF-enforced safety protocols, we explored other must-visit places in the province known as the “rice granary of the Philippines”.

Melissa Ferrer looks at the view of Sierra Madre
One of several IG-mable spots in Forest Garden

Nueva Ecija is more than endless rice fields, this landlocked province wants to let travelers know about stunning natural spots, relaxing wellness resorts, thriving farm tourism, and rich culinary culture. To give you more reasons why Nueva Ecija should be considered more than just a pit-stop en-route to places like Baler in Aurora, here are the interesting places we visited during our two-day visit to Nueva Ecija.

Colosboa Hills in Cuyapo

Situated on the rolling slopes of Cuyapo, Colosboa Hills is every bit of a gift to every outdoor enthusiast. In addition to the camping grounds spread over the 10-hectare nature park, there is a three-kilometer bike trail that includes downhill and uphill trails for both beginner and intermediate mountain bikers.

Koryn Iledan rides a bike on the slopes of Colosboa Hills
Avid biker Edrie Ocampo pedals through a downward biking trail

Seasoned biker Edrie Ocampo, who was hired by the tourism office as a consultant to design the biking track, said "We designed a trail that will not only test the skills, endurance and stamina of bikers but also give them the opportunity to enjoy the majestic view.” He also shared to us the plan of the local government to stage off-road biking competition in Colosboa once the trails are finalized.

Arianne Joyce Montano sings the soundtrack of Sound of Music in Colosboa Hills
The sweeping view of the waving hills

The picturesque scenery of Colosboa shall provide every "Tambiker", a reason to sharpen their uphill and downward biking skills while surrounded by a beautiful sight of Mt. Bangkay and Mt. Bulaylay.

Sophie Gianan participates in a tree planting in Colosboa Hills
Newly planted trees are protected by bamboo cages

A variety of trees are also being planted in the park. Cuyapo Tourism Officer Joan Mendoza said the LGU planted trees like the Palawan Cherry, Bambanaba, Fire tree, and Yellow tree.

Audrey Trinidad enjoys her breakfast
Breakfast with a view

After several rounds of negotiating the steep biking trails, you may be hungry. Fortunately, Tambayan ni Berto is a nipa-hut restaurant where you can enjoy delicious Boodle dishes perfect for a group of bikers and friends.

Argamosa Farm Resort

Those seeking a relaxing weekend to enjoy both nature and wellness can stay at this farm, which is bursting with beautiful corners such as gardens, ponds, rice fields, and cottages inspired by Balinese architecture.

Levy Amosin poses for PJ Dayag Photography
The pond which is a favorite spot for pre-nup pictorials

Ruddy Argamosa originally envisioned his five-acre property as a family vacation spot but later turned it into a farm-wellness resort. Located in Paitan Sur, guests can either stay overnight or take a day trip and enjoy farm-to-table meals.

Additionally, their sumptuous servings not only include fresh fruits and vegetables, it also consists of livestock produce. As Mr. Argamosa said, “We harvest and catch it, our guests eat it”.

Sara Abdollahi books a bali inspired room
One of the Bali-inspired villas

“Right now, we have a lot of occupancy next year booked by tourists coming from Europe.” Argamosa said as he pertains to the vast appeal of wellness and nature-friendly resorts particularly of Argamosa Farm Resort to foreigners in search of a tranquil environment.

Highland Bali Villas

In spite of the popularity of "Bali" as a branding word for many resorts in the Philippines, you cannot deny how Balinese architecture has inspired resort owners and developers to create properties that have elevated style and a grounding atmosphere.

Ayi Del Rosario checks out the pool of Highland Bali
Vibrant pool and relaxation spots

One such example is this high-end resort in Pantabangan, Nueva Ecija which serves as a perfect getaway for a long-deserved family holiday or an anniversary wellness-and-chill with your special someone.

Jomie Naynes relaxes inside the room of Highland Bali
Inside one of the suites of Highland Bali

Aside from the comfort-lavished rooms and great food served in the restaurant and poolside bar, the resort features a couple of outdoor pools, world-class spa service and an amazing view of the Sierra Madre and the Pantabangan lake.

Farm Ridge by Desmond Farm

Nestled on the slopes of the Sierra Madre mountains and overlooking the calm waters of Pantabangan lake are a set of cabins that gorgeously blends with the surrounding nature.

Millet Miranda captures the view of Farm ridge
A few of the cabins comes with a small private pool

Constructed on the vast farm land of Farm Ridge by Desmond Farm, these hilltop cabins dishes breathtaking outdoor views and a country vibe stamped with mother nature's serenity.  Part agricultural and farm tourism site, guests can enjoy a much-needed Zen-and-chill experience while regaling at the spectacular landscape in between spreads of healthy farm-to-table meals.

Ariadne Jolejole does yoga in Farm Ridge
If you wake up early—like at 5m—you'll catch a sea of clouds

Currently, there are six cabins of varying layouts but sharing the ambiance of a calm bucolic lifestyle, and a main farmhouse called Matahum. Each cottage was named from different words taken from Tagalog, Cebuano and Hiligaynon languages, such as Amihan, Hiraya, Bahaghari, Maharika, Malipayon and Marahuyo.

In the cabins' interiors there are mostly wooden materials, with floor to ceiling sliding glass doors, nipa thatched roofs. Other features include a private bath, a loft and a veranda that lead to the majestic views of the mountains and the lake.

Myriad Farm

Accredited as a Learning Site for Agriculture by the Agricultural Training Institute (ATI) in 2019, and as a Farmers Field School (FFS) by TESDA in 2020, Myriad Farms— located in Brgy. Triala in Guimba—conduct trainings for both local farmers and visitors wanting to learn basic and advanced farming methods.

Michelle Lim

Activities on the farm includes: Harvest and pay of seasonal fruits and vegetables, Carabao-riding experience, Farm demo and mini-lecture on how to make jam, fruit vinegar, tomato sauce and processing of meat such as pork tocino, garlic longanisa, as well as vermi-culture and compost making.

Myriad Farms also conduct agricultural training on rice production, organic farming methods for livestock and vegetable and fruit produce.

Pantabangan Dam

If you're on the lookout for jogging and biking trails, then the route passing through the span of Pantabangan Dam should be on top of your list of places to see in Nueva Ecija.

Regine Yulo

Overlooking the waters of Pantabangan Lake (a tributary of Pampanga River), the dam is an earth-fill embankment dam since the spot where the water flows, was once an old town. Because rainwaters from the Sierra Madre always flood the town, the Philippine Congress passed a law authorizing the development of the Pampanga Basin in 1969. Soon, the old town was replaced by a dam reservoir.

Natividad Farmhouse

Located in Brgy. Casongsong in Guimba, Nueva Ecija, this farmhouse is another ideal place to enjoy a secluded stay. Offering only a few rooms—all of which are spacious, comfortable and furnished with complete features, expect a socially-distanced vacation communing with nature and the farm's countless roaming adorable sheep and goats. 

Kristina Hamdorf chases the goats in Natividad farmhouse
Guess, another activity here involves chasing sheep and goat

At nighttime, enjoy a sit-in by a bonfire or gaze at the starry-filled skies. Other activities include swimming and heaps of Zen and chill time.

Forest Garden

Unlike the controversial Dolomite Beach, this patch of property situated on a hilltop in Brgy. Malbang Pantabangan is good for one's mental health. Why wouldn't it be? it has amazing nature scenery and fascinating wooden structures millennials would describe as "Hashtag for the Gram"

Armi Valdez sips coffee in Forest Garden
Order a cup of coffee, pick a spot, have a Zen state of mind

A small cafe is also located in the property, so you can pick a comfy spot at one of Forest Garden's art installation creations and enjoy a cup of coffee while regaling at the impressive view of the Sierra Madre.

Hapag Vicenticos

Already aculinary landmark fronting Cabanatuan city's Freedom Park, serves all-time favorite Filipino cuisine inside a charming fusion of a traditional heritage house and 'bahay na bato' setting.

Sky Gavin orders Crispy pata in Hapag Vicenticos
the best-selling Crispy Pata slash Kare-Kare

Gorge on a family-reunion type of feast at Hapag Vicentico's by ordering some of their bestsellers like the crispy pata kare-kare, deep fried hito, adobong baby pusit, tortang talong and more.

Kezia Romblon sits inside the pretty interior of Hapag Vicenticos
I am so digging the interior 

Cabanatuan’s Freedom Park

A walking tour through the Freedom Park of Cabanatuan is not complete without learning something about the city’s history. For newbies in the city, it is advisable to hire a tour guide—specifically the one being groomed by the tourism office to become the city’s Carlos Celdran, Jayson Rabino.

Mishi Magno listens to the historian of Cabanatuan
Jayson Rabino, Cabanatuan's Carlos Celdran

During our brief walking tour, he obliged us with a history lecture and some anecdotes about city's Freedom Park and its adjacent historical sites.

It is great to see that historical learning is being combined with tourism promotion in many parts of the country. Travelers are therefore advised to hire the services of these historians who have been trained by a growing number of tourism offices in their local areas. Why only travel for the 'Gram, when you can travel and learn as well. Plus, you can also help these chroniclers of our past, earn additional income.