Nueva Ecija is known for being the rice capital of the Philippines . If you go there, expect to stroll around numerous green fields while being burned by the sun. From Manila , we travelled north by bus to Cabanatuan for 4 hours. There are resorts and inns in the area where you can stay for the night. Food is very easy; there are many food chains and restaurants there. We stayed in Cabanatuan for a night, and took a van going to Gabaldon for a 2-hr ride.
If you plan of going to Gabaldon, please control yourself from sleeping on the way. It is nice to watch out for beautiful mountain formations, clean and clear rivers and streams, and lovely faunas. The town of Gabaldon is known for having the cleanest water sources in the Philippines . There are limited places to stay in the area, and the easiest is by immersing yourself to the community. If you choose comfort, there is a place called Stone 8 Resort in Gabaldon. It is a resort surrounded by mountains with a swimming pool watered by the flowing river. We stayed in Baragay Bagong Sikat, a place where there is no other means of staying but by befriending and gaining the trust of people there so they may offer their homes for your accommodation.
There, we wandered around the Greenfields with locals. We surrounded ourselves with people who taught us how to farm and to live a simple life. One thing about our host that made farming very interesting is that they use everything organic.
I borrowed a local’s bicycle to stroll around the area. At one point, you would want to just stop, breathe the fresh smelling air and travel your eyes 360 degrees to see that Gabaldon is a farmland bounded by mountains. It was refreshing. You can also take a 3km hike from the town proper to reach Gabaldon waterfalls, where water coming from Sierra Madre is crystal clear and potable.
Locals took us to a river where people travel from one brgy to the other. Going there is not an easy task. There are ‘boats’ they called “Perry” or ferry in layman’s term, but these boats were not motor-operated, nor paddled. These are blocks of woods where people wishing to cross the river would stand (or sit if you are lucky) and be pushed by men. We wanted to experience it even though crossing is not really necessary. So we rode the ‘Perry’ to cross to the neighbouring brgy, and crossed back after. It was my first time, so it was perfectly fun.
All in all, the best thing about this town is its people. They are the nicest bunch I have ever met. You could easily trust them and fall in love with them. They are real treasures. I can’t wait to come back.
Kadaclan, Burlig Mountain Province: the place I won’t go back unless by air
With seven friends and an adviser, we headed north of Luzon for research and travelled by bus for 12 hours, van for 4 hours and a jeepney-like truck for 7 hours in a rough road with lots of non-people passengers. By that, I mean chicken, sacks of rice, potatoes, green vegetables, and stuff you wouldn’t imagine could be your travel companion. There were 20 to 30 people inside and on top of the truck and still counting. You sit with all kinds of people; elder, kids, hunks, matchsticks, sunny-smelled, sweaty bodies – some of which with flowing saliva down the sacks of goods. The truck was jam-packed, not even a needle could fit in anymore. It was literally a roadtrip to the ups and downs of the mountain with our bodies swaying side byside making everyone squeeze with one another. No one can move their legs; I moved mine and hit a chicken.
You would not know if you are near or far, you can see nothing but mountains. Actually, kilometers do not matter. The bumpy and dusty road will take hundred times your normal travel hours. Imagining it, that guy from Globe Tattoo commercial may have overtaken us by foot. I imagined restaurants, comfort rooms when we reach the stopover. Apparently, what you can only see during stopovers are small waterfalls where natives hydrate. It was beautiful indeed. But it was exhausting.
I cried. I was tired. I wanted to take a bath but that wasn’t possible at the moment. So I had positive thoughts. With little opportunities of peeking out the window, I tried to smell the fresh air. It was good, almost perfect except quite smelling the smoke from our also tired truck. I wanted to transfer from inside to the roof, but that wasn’t possible as well. I tried to sleep, I could not. I looked out and appreciated the wonders of the mountains. There are small streams everywhere, beautiful rock formations, greener than green trees, terraces and terraces of rice, a river different from which you see in the metro. It was beautiful.
It was dark when we finally reached our destination. We talked to some locals. We ate local food and had their local rice wine. They were very accommodating. They gave us the best of what they have; best seats, best food, best wine, best ventilation, best room. We befriended them particularly the kids. Then, we called the night over.
I woke up earlier than my roommate. It was a nice sunny morning, but the cool breeze still touches my skin from inside the room. Great. It was the perfect time to get up and explore. The moment I opened my door and walked out the room, I thought “where am I?” I screamed to wake my roommate up “Oh my gosh, look!” and she stood up to see what I was seeing. Wonderful. It was beyond beautiful. I could not think of any other adjectives to describe it. She described it as paradise, but I couldn’t describe even half of what I saw in words. We were surrounded 360 degrees by mountains of greens, and below are some small rivers, there are rice terraces, and trees are huge and are amusing while blown by the wind. The sky is a moving painting. There are no cars, no tall buildings, no noise and no pollution. It was serene. Music there is duets of birds chirping accompanied by the whispers of the wind. I never thought it was so beautiful because we didn’t had a visual welcome of the town, but it had a perfect timing. I might have lost interest if I saw its beauty while I was dog-tired from travelling.
We explored the mountains with two kids as our guides. They took as to a chain of small waterfalls where kids are swimming. It was surrounded by big rocks and trees. I immediately took my shoes off to join the kids,but our guides told us “not yet”. We trekked still, and at the back of those small waterfalls is an amazing bigger waterfall. It was not as big as the popular ones, but it was a treasure. There,we swam, relaxed and enjoyed the loveliness of nature. We trekked back and saw a cave from afar. We failed to reach it but inside are coffins like what you see in Sagada, only pretty scarier. Our guides said that the cave is their “cemetery”. They said that there was also a time when dead bodies were just thrown inside until they are bones.
Only little is written about this town. There are no fancy websites to check on to, nor sufficient information to read. Not even a wiki-article. It was more than two years ago when I visited this place, it is only now that I found the weight of needing to write about it. Kadaclan is worth a check. Go ahead, you can try to trace my footsteps, or you can travel by air just what former PGMA did – by helicopter.
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Kadaclan Raw Video part 1
Kadaclan Raw Video part 2