Revisiting Arki’s Tambayan

Scuala Street, San Miguel, Bulacan province

Our group arrived at Arki’s Tambayan at around past 8:00am. There was not much traffic along NLEX and major roads since it was a national holiday ( June 12 ) Independence Day . Our group was met by Ms. Kat Garcia proprietor of the place.

Ms. Febe Sevilla together with Ms. Kat Garcia

 breakfast buffet meal which consists of fried rice, egg , skinless longganisa , fried galungong na tinapa, mustasa and a choice of coffee and chocolate

fried tinapang galunggong fish

group photo at Arki’s Tambayan -courtesy of Ms. Kat Garcia

Our group enjoyed the hearty breakfast buffet at the restaurant and after about an hour or so , we decided to leave the place .

Here is a visit to the restaurant few months ago :

Address: 0034 Scuala Street ,San Juan , San Miguel , Bulacan

Operation: 10:00am to 9:00pm everyday

Contact : 0917 800 9270/09358891003  for bookings and reservations

Landline: (044) 327 0388

 They have an active Facebook Page : Arki’s Tambayan

Related link : Arki’s Tambayan



A Visit to Minalungao National Park in Nueva Ecija

Barangay Pias, General Tinio , Nueva Ecija province -Philippines

Lakad Pamana , Tropang Gala and the author organized a tour last April 9 at the Minalungao National Park  sometimes spelled Minalongao . The visit is timely , because it is the peak of summer season and tourists numbers are high.

After we toured the old ancestral houses of Gapan . We left the place at around past 10:30am on our way to the site. It was about 18 kilometers kilometers and took us about  1 hour and 20 minutes when we arrived near Minalungao National Park . General Tinio used to be called Papaya because of the number of papaya plantations , locals would still refer the place until now.

Minalungao National Park and Peñaranda River ( Photo courtesy of Ms. Lea Barcinal ) 

We arrived past 12:00 noon and the van was charged Php 30.00 which was manned by children . Then, there is another sentry point where we were charge again Php 40.00 per head . Some of the participants try to haggle the price down, All their efforts came in vain since it fell on deaf ears.  We were given tickets which were also surrendered at the parking area, so we do not know who printed the tickets if it was DENR or local officials. We have to wait for some cars/ vans to move before we can get a decent parking space.  The cellphone signal is weak because of the surrounding mountains are blocking the signal .  The local barangay is not responsible for any damage or whatever valuables you may loose inside your car, try to park cautiously .

rock formations

One of our companion/ blogger friend Mr. Dennis Dy Kho predaking168.blogspot had already visited the  national park several years ago ( 8 years ago).  He told us, that it used to be rustic and very few people would visit the place even at the height of summer months. Now  – There are huge number of visitors coming from different areas .

public comfort room , – they charge Php 10.00 per head

It is a  protected area located in Barangay Pias , within the municipality  of General Tino , Nueva Ecija  in Central Luzon . The park covers an area of 2,018 hectares. centered along the scenic Peñaranda River bordered on both sides by up to 16-meter high limestone walls in the foothills of the Sierra Madre mountain range. It was established in 1967 by virtue of Republic Act No. 5100. There are still some local birds , macaques and  monitor lizards which can be spotted .

bamboo raft

One can choose different kinds of outdoor activities from river cruising , picnic by the river , renting a place with videoke , swimming, spelunking, nature and bird watching , hiking on top of the cross or just simply enjoying the wonders of mother nature .

bamboo rafts and floating cottages for rent

Remember to bring extra cash , renting a cottage can range from Php 200 small ones to Php 3,000 ( with videoke facilities and good for 30 pax)  . Bamboo raft would cost another Php 250 small ones and between Php 800 to Php 1,500 for large ones ( group of 4 to 10 people ) depending on the capacity of the bamboo raft ( without cottage and with cottage ). the small cottages beside the river are usually packed with people.

newly built picnic pavilion with newly planted fox tail palms

There were newly planted fox-tail palms within the picnic pavilion area. We just left to wonder ‘why’ they landscaped the place with non-endemic and non-indigenous plant species. They should have consulted with DENR or the local government should had an idea on what plant species  can be planted within the park premises. BUT based on what we saw, the park is getting overly developed and commercialized.

newly built building on the right side

We also saw newly paved cemented walkways or pathways within limestone rocks and multi-story building which  will soon open as hotel/ visitor center. One does not need a degree on environmental preservation to see the impact on one’s ecology.  I must agree with everyone’s observation that the newly constructed building is indeed an eyesore .

buffet lunch

 There are some eateries selling grilled food and home style meal, But we availed the catering services of Arki’s Tambayan . We were able to rent-out a cottage and our lunch menu consists of grilled liempo, boneless bangus, buttered prawns, steam okra, chicharon, grilled stuffed squid, korean style fried rice, ordinary rice, tofu sisig , creamy sisig , boiled peanuts, binurong isda – fermented fish with side drinks of fresh water melon juice or lemon with cucumber juice. There is also dessert of pastillas de leche from San Miguel , Bulacan and fresh slices of watermelon and cantaloupe

L-R Mr. Micheal Candelaria , .Mr. Andrew Cua together with Mr.Marlou Madrid 12 years-old  and Niko C. Resilva 11 years -old

A local guide is readily available around the area, even kids can be your guide and our guides were two local kids aged 11 and 12 years-old . The young tour guides aged between 10 to 17 years-old are sometimes called part-timers , Since they are only available during summer time , whenever there are no classes and they are not allowed to guide people on difficult terrain.   There are also much older tour guides for hire  .  You have a choice to see the entire national park by foot or by boat. We opt to hike around the cave network and climb the cross.  It was almost 2:30pm when we started our journey to the cave system. We told our young guides to take us to the most common pathway , since there are different entry and exit points and we told them that we also have some middle -aged participants .

  man-made graffiti on the cave

We did some personal interviews to know more about our young tour guides. The story is almost the same as the kids from Malangaan Cave  in San Rafael, Bulacan. They just want to learn a little extra money for their families and some cash for their ‘ baon ‘ allowance in school. This is also the chance to earn a little bit from the tourists.  What is good about the two kids that we met is that they are still going to school and wanted to finish . They are also helping their families by augmenting their income.

cave entrance with signage

vandalism of the cave walls ,  garbage ,  introduction / planting of non-native plant species are the most evident realities that can can encounter when you visit this place. So please try to bring black disposal plastic bags and properly dispose your garbage .

Mr. Niko C. Resilva – pointing one of the cave entrance

 We tried to pool our individual donations into a small envelope so that the small token amount can be shared between the two guides. If you ever try to encounter these two kids , do not hesitate to give them some cash and even foods.

hanging bridge

It was past 3:30pm when we finished spelunking and nature trek, some of the participants went back to the cottage and ate some fresh fruits like watermelon and cantaloupe melon, While we tried to cross the hanging bridge which connects the rocky trail on our way to the cross .

cement staircase going to the cross and grotto

Since it was still very hot , the trek going up is not easy and we saw a lot of people going down without finishing the 947 steps . It took us 30 minutes to 45 minutes to climb the cemented stairs . Planting native trees and native plants within these areas seems to be quite feasible .

Missionary Innyoung ” Ester” Choi memorial marker December 16, 1959 to April 13, 2012

We only stopped over and pay our tribute to Missionary Innyoung ” Ester”  Choi memorial marker where her remain is enshrined . Locals said that her ministry had help to construct cement staircase and cross on top of the mountain . Aside from different philanthropic works that her group did within the community .

group photo- courtesy of Ms. Leilani Concepcion

Mr. Igor Golubez ,Mr. Philip Reyes, Mr. Dennis Maristany , Mr. Micheal Candelaria were among the first people from to reach the cross .They were the first to cross the hanging bridge and proceeded with the hike going to the summit .  We were left waiting for several minutes .

cross on top of the hill

Mr. Andrew Cua ( Tralulu Travel)  and the author finally reached the summit about 5 to 10 minutes after the first group and then Ms. Leilani Concepcion followed us. We decided to take a group photo of the ones who reached the summit .

I bought 2  bottled 375ml water to quench my thirst . It cost Php 25.00 per bottle on the summit.

group photo at the summit- photo by Ms. Leilani Concepcion

We also saw the group of Mr. Jhone Gorme and Ms. Rheeza Hernandez on our way down . Almost everyone took the great climb. We finally left the place at around past 5:30pm just in time after the sunset .

How to Travel to Minalungao National Park

1.) If you can muster to gather between 10 to 15 people, try to rent a van or a Nissan Urvan going to Minalungao National Park – during this time of the year , It is better to leave Metro Manila before dawn preferably around 3:00am to 4:00am- Travel time is faster going to Minalungao between 4 to 41/2 hours from Quezon City  . You can share the cost between the group of friends or co-workers. ( I think , This is more economical and faster way to reach the place ) the only difference is just a few hundred of pesos.

2.) Take a bus bound Gapan/Cabanatuan. Available bus companies from Cubao/Pasay or Cubao like Five Star, ES Transport, Baliwag Transit . Travel time may take from 2-3 hours. Try to get the earliest time schedule around 4:00am in Cubao. Php 150 fare

3.) From Gapan City , you can have two options

(A) ride a jeep bound to General Tinio formerly known as Papaya ( jeepney fare cost between Php 25 to Php 35 )  and then from city proper ride a trike going to park (Php50 each according to the tricycle operator around the park)

(B) rent a trike from Gapan to Minalungao National Park. Estimate travel time is 1-1.5 hours (Php500-700 per tricycle depending on your haggling skills). This option is hassle free because you knew that there will be a tricycle waiting for you if you want to go back to city in anytime you want.

Travel Tips:

1.) Try to visit the park during weekdays – We already see the large volume of people when we visited the park on saturday . You can encounter parking problems, lack of cottages and even long lines at the bathroom.

2.) Try to go there during the start of the dry season – around late November to middle of June – The river and some parts of the cave system can get flooded and very muddy .

3.) If you can bring foods , try to bring food and even water , sometimes water can be quite expensive at the park. Try to bring spare change or loose change for tips.

4.) It is advisable to bring an SUV , Van or Nissan Urvan if you are a big group. The road is still passable during dry season.

5.) If you lived within Metro Manila- try to leave as early as possible , There are traffic choke -up point in Mindanao Avenue exit, Balintawak  exit, Bocaue exit,Malinta exit  Candaba, San Miguel , Gapan .

Note: All photos are from the author except those with photo courtesy- Those are owned by the participants who joined the tour and thus permission were sought to use their photos for this blog.

Breakfast Buffet Experience At Arki’s Tambayan in San Miguel

Scuala Street, San Miguel , Bulacan province -Philippines

Our group arrived at Arki’s Tambayan within San Miguel , Bulacan province at around past 8:00 am after over 2 hours of land travel from Quezon City last April 9 ( saturday ) . There was not much traffic along NLEX and major roads since it was a national holiday Specialties of the restaurants includes Inihaw ( grilled foods) , Lugaw ( rice porridge ) Soup ( particularly: beef marrow soup) .

Arki’s Tambayan

We rode Nissan Urvan Nv 350– A van ( car had a sitting capacity of 18 ) but we opt not to overload the van- There were 14 of us there sitting comfortably .

 Mrs. Kat and Mr. Ervin Garcia

While waiting for Van-B also a Nissan Urvan Nv 350 model – We were greeted by Mr. Ervin and Mrs. Kat Garcia , the proprietors of the restaurant . our group took the chance of taking some photos . Some of the participants also took time to talked  with the proprietors before the second van came.

briefing of participants

The restaurant had a sitting capacity of 40 to 45 customers at any given time, We liked the ambiance , the menu board written from colored chalks ,wooden chairs, well-lighted dining area and high ceiling .

menu board

breakfast buffet

breakfast buffet

Our breakfast buffet menu includes regional specialties like  Garlic Rice, Plain Rice Tinapa na Galungong , Tuyo (  deep fried dried fish ) Ginisang Kamatis with Egg , Fried Egg , Pork Tocino, Saba Banana, Kamote , Grilled Talong ( Eggplant)  – Drink – Coffee – Hot Chocolate and Fresh Pasteurized Carabao’s Milk.

 deep fried dried fish

The group particularly liked every menu , special mention to the pork tocino , ginisang kamatis with egg,  deep fried dried fish ,  fried rice ala Arki’s Tambayan and the fresh carabao’s milk.

group photo with thumb’s up sign ( photo courtsey of Mr. Ervin Garcia of Arki’s Tambayan)

We would give our thumb’s up to the restaurant. It is clean, chic, stylish plus hospitable staffs and great ambiance !  The restaurant is a favorite hang-out place for the students and people of San Miguel . They are also open to catering on special occasion.

The restaurant is also known for their smoothies or milk shakes cost Php 50-60 depending on size, milk tea cost between Php 35-80 depending on size and add-ons and they have great food.

We rate this restaurant at 9.00 out of the maximum 10 points .

Address: 0034 Scuala Street ,San Juan , San Miguel , Bulacan

Operation: 10:00am to 9:00pm everyday

Contact : 0917 800 9270/09358891003  for bookings and reservations

Landline: (044) 327 0388

 They have an active Facebook Page : Arki’s Tambayan










Picnic and Fun at San Rafael , Bulacan

San Rafael , Bulacan province -Philippines

We arrived past 7:30am at the scenic , Bustos Dam – San Rafael side . Our group then asked permission from the military officer manning the sentry gate at the 48th infantry battalion compound .

military sentry

The friendly officers tried to ask us where did we were from , We told them that our group is from Metro Manila and some of us are first time visitors of the place.

group photo

We asked the officers for a quick photo opportunity at the tank and military trucks which are parked within the compound. Some took their chance at a quick photo of the armor tank .

Bustos Dam

 Mr. Chael Santos and his team arrived a few minutes later , while some of us have started our photo shoot near the Bustos Dam – San Rafael side. During the dry season , when water at the dam is at its lowest level , people would usually cross this side of the dam going to the town of Bustos . It is much faster and saves travel expenses.

Please try to visit about our recent visit to Lakad Pamana of Bustos Bulacan part 4


We saw several kind of birds , water hyacinth and interesting landscape scenery .

breakfast meal wrapped in banana leaves

Our group was served a traditional Filipino breakfast meal by Arki’s Tambayan of San Miguel, Bulacan which consists of steam rice , fried bangus ( milk fish ) salted duck egg and fresh tomato, Another meal which consist of steam rice, tinapa na galungong , ginisang mustasa with  choice of either coffee 3in 1 mix or swiss miss chocolate   . While eating our breakfast , We overheard from a house nearby that there was a pabasa / pasyon or readings .  The pabasa usually starts on Holy Monday  and ends on Good Friday.

people at the balcony singing pabasa with electric guitar 

But according to some of the people in San Rafael , it would start during the lenten season and unlike some pabasa in Metro Manila. They would have a slightly different twist .

Lakad Pamana and Walk with Chan will be another round of tour schedule on April 10, 2016 SUNDAY ( whole day ) For those who wish to join us in our tour  there is a FB event page ( slot is very limited ) San Rafael Heritage and Malangaan Cave Eco Tour

Here are some of the places that we visited last March 12:

 San Juan de Dios Church and Parochial Museum

Malangaan Cave Adventure

A Tour of Greenery in Baliuag



Malangaan Cave Adventure with Lakad Pamana

Malangaan Cave and River ,San Rafael – Bulacan province

I woke -up past 4:30am with a mild flu and left home past 5:00am .  I was contemplating if i would join the tour or not since i am not feeling well .  Quite excited for the cave adventure and heritage tour together with Lakad Pamana .

Bustos Dam- San Rafael side

Arrived past 5:30am in our designated meet-up place for Metro Manila residents . We finally left the place at around past 6:00am on our way to San Rafael side of Bustos Dam . We ate our breakfast while waiting for the second van from Malolos ( some of the participants are from Malolos and Pampanga ) Our group was met by Mr. Chael Santos local photographer, guide , volunteer and blogger at tumblr . According to the local host and Mr. Chael Santos – During dry season , one can cross San Rafael going to the town of Bustos in just few minutes .

We visited the San Rafael Church and Parish Museum ( more on that tour in my next post ) then the Malolos group met us there .

cement road with cracks

We noticed that the roads leading to the barangay have a lot of cracks since heavy utility vehicles and 10-wheeler trucks pass the road, thereby some passenger jeepneys and tricycle would charge extra fare to compensate for the rough roads especially during the rainy season. After a short van ride ,  Our group arrived past 12:00nn at the site.

rock formation

The Malangaan Cave and River system is located at Barangay Tukod, San Rafael, Bulacan but the place also shares border with neighboring towns of San Ildefonso and Doña Remedios Trinidad or simply known as DRT .

entrance to the cave system

There are a lot of interesting limestone formations at the site. one rock formation looked like head of a turtle , some limestone formations looked like an image of a woman .

 the erosion are caused by rain 

Portion of the road leading to the cave system would also be very muddy . The best months to visit the cave system is from late November to early June ( dry season )

During rainy season- The cave area can be flooded and can be very slippery .

 swimming area

 There are several areas were we have to pass and there were mini checkpoints being manned by the local children and locals. ( We hired a van )

We have to pay three times – First was the road leading to the place manned by children  ( Php 30 ) Second was crossing the river where an old woman was standing ( Php 30 ) and the last one was the entrance to the cave and river system ( Php 30 ) a total of Php 90 per van  .Every time they would ask our van if we would like to swim or visit the cave .

turquoise colored spring water – photo by : Mr. Allan Martinez 

Total of Php 90.00 plus so called RENT to the 3 cottages located within the river area – It cost Php 100 per cottage so a total of Php 300 rental for the 3 cottages. A cottage had a sitting capacity of  between 6 to 10 people depending on body mass.  If we divide the total cost among the number of participants , It will cost us around Php 20.00 per head We were about 25 participants including our driver, caterer and Mr. Gilbert Diño  .  We waited for another 30 minutes so that everyone can relax and enjoy the place.

schefflera / five fingers and begonia growing on the crevices photo courtesy : Mr. Jhon Gorme

The place had an interesting rock formations and a good habitat for bats and swiftlets .


  We also saw native begonias , schefflera ( five fingers) Ficus pseudopalma ( niyog-niyogan or lubi-lubi ) , native ficus and a few native trees

Kuya Kulot one of the local guides told me that the native begonia that i was referring  is being use as a souring agent in the locality .

group photo at the cave entrance by Mr. Chael Sison Santos

We started the hike towards the main entrance together with Mr. Chael Sison Santos ,Kuya Kulot and a couple of kids who acted as our tour guide , Although we told them that we have an official tour guide from San Rafael.

one of the kids who joined us in our trek inside the cave

A couple of the kids went with us and they are the unofficial tour guides and ambassador of the cave system . There are over 20 of the children who takes their turn guiding people, some of them told us that the small token money that receive from tourists are used to augment their family income or allowance in school . Tourist season starts late November ( start of the dry season ) and peak during the summer months ( March , April and May ) then slows down by June as the rainy season begins with the cave network getting flooded. Flood waters can reach the several meters above the cave system .

graffiti marks

Our group have seen that there were a lot of ugly graffiti written by locals and even visitors to the cave system . We counted several dozens of ugly graffiti from names of  visitors , cellphone numbers, curses, sexual innuendoes , drawings etc…  I think a lot of them were not properly brief by the local authorities and even local guides . They should give at least 3 to 5 minute briefing for every tour group entering the cave system and swimming area.

ficus roots and ugly graffiti marks

I have voiced my personal observations to Mr. Chael Sison Santos and Kuya Kulot about what i have seen , aside from plastic mineral bottles and empty plastic wrappers that littered all over the place.

Kuya Kulot photo courtesy by : Ms. Pheeyah Salones

Kuya Kulot and some of the children were featured in several television documentaries which featured their stories about their tour guiding experiences . He is called Kuya Kulot because of his long kinky hair.  They were also featured on 24 Oras in 2012 by Mr. Mark Zambrano,  Brigada Siyete ” Mga Batang Tour Guide ” ” Anak ng Kuweba”  channel 7 and QTV channel 11 by Mr. Cedric Castillo in November 2015 . This had prompted a rapid in flock of local tourists from nearby towns and from Metro Manila.

author helping a fellow participant: Photo courtesy : Ms. Pheetyah Salones

We took a buddy-buddy system and try to take care of each other while climbing on the cave crevices and the cave , since almost all the male participants were able to climb the rock formation with minimal problems . We have to watch each other while climbing the rock formation. Except for Mr. Chael Sison Santos who went to the cave system over 24 times !  The cave network is quite extensive and there are several entry points and exit points. We only took the safe or tourist route.

inside the cave -just before the great ascend : Photo by Mr. Chael Santos

Seasoned cave explorers are usually called cavers or the hobby of exploring caves is called Caving , Spelunking or Potholing . I think almost everyone in the group were first timers . The cave system that we explored is between 250 meters to 245 meters long .  Caver or spelunkers would normally spend between 35 minutes to 45 minutes along the route ,but  our group are mostly non -professional and first timers. Our group spend about 1 hour and 20 minutes exploring the route.  ( not to mention taking photos and selfies along the way ) 

candit shot by Ms. Pheeya Salones

Kuya Kulot and Chael pointed another portion of the cave with white stalactites  and stalagmites formations, He told that we could spend a few minutes exploring the network , but we told them that it might damage the formation by just holding them , since our hands contains natural oil and perspiration which can damage the formation.  They usually called them kumikinang na bato ( shining rocks)

conquering the top -photo : Mr. Chael Santos

I had explored at least 3 caves , Crystal Cave – when i was about 6 or 7 years-old, Baguio- Benguet 2008 and Quezon province in 2009 .

We also saw the sad realities of living in a limestone rich deposit site , there were several areas that were quarried and mined of marble deposits using a very destructive form of extracting techniques , blasting the boulders using dynamites . We saw several holes in the huge boulders and neatly cut lines . There are some people who collects bat guanos , limestone rocks. This is a big relief that the local government had banned gathering of marbles and blasting of boulders at the Malangaan Cave site . But we think that cause oriented groups and local government should start the reforestation projects using native trees to protect the water shed and the rock formation .

lunch time boodle fight

Our lunch buffet was a combination of well-known dishes from Bulacan province like steam rice, fresh ampalaya leaves ,  crispy dinakdakan , inihaw na bulig or dalag, balaw-balaw with fritong talong , nilagang okra ( boiled okra) , chicken and pork kalderobo , binurong isda ( fermented fish) , nilagang sampaloc  with side condiments of bagoong , nilagang mani ( boiled peanuts ),  chilli pepper and fresh slices of watermelon , pastillas and melon juice with milk ( they call the juice mixture as Milon na Bulakenyo) the consistency is more of a halo-halo rather than juice.

 participants enjoyed the hearty meal

We also shared our food with the local tour guides and the small children who accompanied us .

We enjoyed the hearty buffet catered by Arki’s Tambayan from San Miguel, Bulacan – for orders and catering needs , just to to contact them at Facebook Page:Arki’s Tambayan

We left the place at around past 3:00pm for our final itinerary of the day and we all called our group Kwebarkats. 

Note : I am encouraging all visitors to observe proper cleanliness by bringing trash bags and avoid putting ugly graffiti and vandalizing the walls of the cave.

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