A Taste of Native Delicacies of Gapan, Nueva Ecija

Gapan City, Nueva Ecija province -Philippines

Lakad Pamana together WalkwithChan, Mr. Allan Martinez of Kapitbahayan sa Kalye Bautista atbp.  , Mr. Emil Carreon ( PTV channel 4 reporter and executive producer ) small group of local social media from nearby province of Bulacan and  Gapan City heritage advocates paid a courtesy call to Mayor Emerson ” Emeng ” Pascual  , the local tourism officers and local media .

courtesy call to Mayor Emerson ” Emeng” Pascual of Gapan city 

The group was warmly received by the Mayor and his staffs. The group was treated some sampling of well-known Gapan ‘s native delicacies . We were simply amaze to know ,what can the city can offer to local and even foreign tourists.

L-R Mr. Gilbert Dino , Mr. Emil Carreon of PTV channel 4 , Mayor Emerson Pascual and Mr. Ramon Valmonte ( Gapan City Advocate and Local Historian ) 

For those in doubt what Lakbay Lakad Pamana is or the advocates behind this , Lakbay Lakad Pamana is composed of several local heritage advocates like Mr. Gilbert Dino who had over 28 years experience with a well-known bus company and a local lifestyle blogger. Mr. Allan Martinez – one of the key founders of Kapitbahayan sa Kalye Bautista atpb. a local heritage advocacy group based in Quiapo. The tour was initiated by Dr. Tessie Obusan in 1987.

The author is also active conducting small scale personalized tours for friends , relatives and classmates since high-school days.

sampling of native delicacies 

The group had one common goal , which is to help promote local tourism, industry , beautiful ancestral houses , culinary heritage and helping indigent communities thru local tourism.

sample of native kakanins

The group got a sampling of Gapan’s native delicacies with maja blanca ala Gapan, maja ube , maja de pandan , espasol, ginataan sa bilo-bilo or sampilot , suman , local ice cream brand Puno’s ( Ube -cheese flavor and langka cheese cashew , pancit canton , ube , sweetened tamarind balls or minatamis na sampalok by Bien’s Sweet Products, lumpiang ubod with special sauce.

Ginataan sa Bilo-bilo is locally called Sampilot, We liked the ginataan, It is cooked in thick coconut milk .


Espasol or Baye-Baye is a type of squarish or cylindrical sticky rice with powder which is common delicacies in Laguna, Batangas and Quezon . The espasol made in Nueva Ecija taste different from the ones from Laguna .

 Since the province is one of the largest producer of rice and its -by products , the possibilities are endless.

pancit canton ala Gapan

Pancit Canton is cooked with the use of local vegetables and is not soggy .


Ube Blanca– This is a type of pudding made with purple yam or locally known as ube . Ube  scientific name is Dioscorea alata and is made into several popular desserts and ice cream. This is also best with coconut milk

Puno’s ice cream ( ube cheese flavor) 

Nueva Ecija had also a lot of carabao milk production – hence by-products like carabao’s milk , kesong puti , pastillas de leche , ice cream among others.

Puno’s ice cream ( langka  cashew cheese) 

Puno’s ice cream is one of the well-known ice cream makers of the province .

minatamis na sampaloc

Another interesting delicacy is the sweeten tamarind balls or minatamis na sampalok by Bien’s Sweet Products.  After all the native delicacies and gastronomic treat that the group had tasted ,  one must not miss buying when they are in Gapan. Eating plenty of food can makes a person sleepy during the long trip back to Manila and having sweet/ sour minatamis while during the trip will lessen the ” Umay” and help digestion .

The store/ home outlet is located at Purok 5, 220 Perez Street, Santo Cristo Sur , Gapan City , Nueva Ecija province

Contact Details: 0933-491-85-84 / 0926-409-7501

*Note : Lakbay Lakad Pamana together with, KKB, the author and in cooperation with the local goverment of Gapan City  , Nueva Ecija will be having a whole day culinary and heritage tour on September 24 Saturday .

Here is the FB Event Page, for those interested in joining the whole day tour :

Contact : Call Or Text 0923 346 7575
Email: lakad_pamana@yahoo.com.ph

Puno’s Ice Cream FB

Philippine Carabao Center

Website: http://www.census.gov.ph/

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.

A Visit to the National Shrine of La Virgen Divina Pastora

Three Kings Parish, Delos Reyes Street,  3105 Gapan City , Nueva Ecija province -Philippines

The Divina Pastora’s two centuries of existence has given rise to legends on the origin of the image – that it was found floating on a river, or discovered under a tree. The fact is the image did not have a supernatural but rather historical origin.

The exterior of the church is plain while its interior formerly has a central retablo with niches dedicated to the Epiphany of the Lord and to the Virgen La Divina Pastora.

National Shrine of La Virgen de Divina Pastora

Near the end of the 1700s in Gapan, there lived a woman named Doña Juana Valmonte, one of the eight children of Don Bartolome dela Cruz Valmonte, said to be Gapan’s first gobernadorcillo in 1747, and Doña Eulalia Fernandez — the couple from whom all the Valmontes descended.

church marker

The Parish Church of the Three Kings in Gapan is considered the oldest and biggest colonial church in Nueva Ecija. In 1986, the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines declared this church as the National Shrine of Virgen La Divina Pastora.


A spinster, Dona Juana was a woman who could be considered much ahead of the ladies of her era. She lived in the family farm, serving as its overseer, in Barrio Callos, named after a tree species that abounds in the place that, at that time, was a part of Gapan but is now within the jurisdiction of the adjacent town of Peñaranda.

This central retablo however was torn down in the 1970s due to infestation of termites. It was replaced with a modern style sanctuary dominated by a huge image of the Crucifixion, arguably the largest in the province of Nueva Ecija. Only the two side retablo are maintained to this day. Prominently displayed on the left retablo is the original miniature image of the Virgen Divina Pastora which was donated by the Valmonte Family in 1986. The right retablo enshrines the Adoration of the Magi.

church ceiling

Described as a stocky woman, she was said to possess such physical prowess that she could wrestle cattle to the ground when it was time to brand them.

While the palitada of the walls was stripped, the grand painting of the Holy Trinity on the church’s dome has been preserved. Local artist, Isidoro Samonte painted this image in the early 1900s.


We were led up to the church belfry and we saw some bats living

ecclesiastical museum

life sized statue

collection of rosaries from different countries

private chapel

Located within the church is an old house which also served as private quarters of the current head of the shrine. We were allowed an exclusive access to the chapel.

Website links:



A Visit to Dr. Angel Del Rosario Ancestral House

Gapan City , Nueva Ecija province -Philippines

This is the first ancestral house which we visited in Nueva Ecija . Our group was greeted by Dr. Angel I. del Rosario DMD , a dentist  together with his immediate family . We just happen to know a common friend Mr. Dez Bautista of Malolos, Bulacan and AHP-Gapan Chapter which facilitated the exclusive tour of his home.

Gapan City rotunda

The house is located near the Gapan city rotunda and a portion of the ancestral house was demolished to paveway for the road widening project of the government . According to one of the relatives, the house is at least 100 year-old.

Del Rosario Ancestral House

The group took the side entrance and were lead to a staircase with interesting black figurine holding a lamp .

religious images made from ivory

old telephone

wall painting

Santo nino image

dining and living room area

The  living and dining room areas have a lot of items spanning several decades . It includes sala sets, wooden furnitures, plant holders, lamps, fixtures , matones de manila , cabinet set , unique wall decors and family portrait.

wall painting and family portrait

There is a lone oil painting entitled   La Flor de Gapan painted in 1927 Encarnacion de Inductivo .

Group photo L-R Mr. Louie Ramirez , Dr. Angel I. Del Rosario , Mr. Gilbert Diño , Ms Lea Barcinal and Ms. Ofie Serrano

The owner had also prepared freshly cooked botchi and personally toured our group in his home.  His home is not open to the public so an appointment must be made prior to visit.

group photo with the participants and owner of the ancestral house photo by : Mr. Jonathan Hernandez

Our group finally bid farewell to the family of Dr. Del Rosario and headed for the other parts of the city .

A Visit to the Ancestral Houses of Gapan, Nueva Ecija

 Gapan , Nueva Ecija province- Philippines

We arrived past 9:00am in Gapan City after almost 3 hours of travel from Quezon City . Our group were met by Mr. Ramon Valmonte and Mr. Louie Ramirez administrators of the Ancestral Houses of the Philippines-Gapan , Nueva Ecija chapter and We were one of the first tourist group from Metro Manila that were allowed an exclusive entry to some  ancestral houses of the area.

Gapan City rotunda

Gapan City is the oldest town in Nueva Ecija founded sometime in 1595 . Records of the first Catholic mission to the far east indicated that in 1595, Fathers Contres Tendilla, Caballo and Salazar were responsible for clearing the forest which later became a pueblo.

Gapan City rotunda with Virgen La Divina Pastora

All the houses that we visited are private and their furniture sets are heirloom pieces , so we were brief not to touch them. Although there is no strict protocol with regards to the group’s behavior inside the house, Everyone is very cautious with our behavior .

 Silvino Valdez and Barbara Agno Heritage House

Silvino Valdez and Barbara Agno Heritage House is  one of the largest ancestral house in terms size and scale  ( equivalent to 3 to 4 houses ) which is located in a corner lot of Delos Reyes Street built around the last quarter of 1800’s .  The second house had an interesting  masonry on the lower level and wood works on the second floor which reflect a gentle era of the 1920’s . Based on the location , size and  architectural grandeur . It showed that it belonged to a well to do family during that era.

Valdez Ancestral House as seen from the other side of the street

Intricate wrought iron bars fill its baluster and elaborate floral latticework made from hammered steel can be seen from its ceiling. The windows are from period colored glasses of the late 1920’s.

The house is more popular known as Ms. Eula Valdez ancestral house.You can also see a mermaid figure in one corner of the ancestral house with 1928 . The key stone year indicate the year that the house was completed . The concrete overhead water tank beside the house was constructed in 1928 when there was no electricity and water supply yet. The water from the deep well was being pumped manually by a male house help so water would run to the 2nd floor bath and toilet plus bedroom sinks.

Valdez Ancestral House

Her maternal  grandfather was Filipino painter Fernando Amorsolo.  There seems to be 2 large houses which are inter-connected with each other . One would reflect a turn of the 19th century design  and the newer one with an art nouveau design with large balcony facing the street.

Family History :

The house was built in the last quarter of 1800 ( 1870’s to 1880’s)  Mr. Silvino Valdes who was married to Ms. Barbara Agno.

” The house was inherited by their son,  Mr. Estanislao A. Valdes & wife and grand aunt Maria Valdes-Sevilla. Ms. Andrea Reyes who had two children, Emilio married to Isabel Fermin and Maria who was married to Benito Sevilla who were childless. Emilio died early so Maria inherited the house and later gave it to Emilio’s son and our father,Estanislao (Dandy) who was married to Gracia Jorge Amorsolo. Now the house is a community property owned by Estanilao and Gracia’s seven children namely, Ma. Elena, Ma. Veronica,Marcus, Miguel, Ma. Isabel Rosa, Concordia Andrea and Julia (Eula). ” – personal interview from one of the siblings .


Taruc Ancestral House

Taruc Ancestral House is located beside the Valdez Ancestral House . The house belongs to the family of the prominent radio and media personality Mr. Joe Taruc ( born Jose Malgapo Taruc, Jr. ) DZRH news anchor /  Senior-Vice President and father of another news anchor from GMA channel 7  Mr. Jay Taruc ( Motorcycle Diaries and I-Witness) . The house roof was renovated using new galvanized roofing . The wrought iron gates were recently installed and the house probably got a fresh coat of paint .

old house with a higher perimeter wall

This is another ancestral house located beside the Valdez Ancestral house , The house is a period turn of the century house with newly built walls . According to one of the locals, The wall used to be lower . The owners wanted some privacy hence they built taller perimeter walls with some stone vases. This is to avoid the prying eyes of local photographers and for security purposes.

colonial houses

There are several old ancestral houses within the old municipal area. Since they are owned by private families, One cannot simply enter one’s house without the consent of the owners. Some of the houses had caretakers or distant relatives living within the premises. One can only admire the houses by just looking them outside and their facade.

 Cuison Ancestral House

The Cuison Ancestral House is also known as Doña Martha Cuison ancestral house, his husband is Mr. Agustin Cuison who is part Chinese . She is a well-known philanthropist in the community .

  . sala set

wrought iron peacock stand

underwood typewriter

The current house was made in the mid -1930’s reflecting the art deco era. The wrought iron grills windows and doors, sala sets, furnitures among others.

group photo at the grand staircase

The house had a new perimeter wall and a neatly manicured lawn. Some portion of the house had been renovated .

dining area

The dining area is large with several cupboards ,  furniture set and dinner wares from that time . Most of them are only use in special occasions.

food storage furniture

This a kitchen storage furniture a localized version of a refrigerator ( minus the cooling system) , This was used in most homes until modern refrigeration until became cheap and accessible.  The local would put oil at the base of the furniture which prevents ants, rats , insects and it allows air circulation inside the food storage prolonging the shelf-life of the food like fruits and vegetables.


The rooms of the Cuison house is large and spacious with a family altar . There were several heirloom santo images made from ivory with lavishly embroidered dress .

grilled windows with intricate wooden lattice designs

statue holding a light

Gapan North Central School

Gapan North Central School is another fine example of a Gabaldon style architecture . The nice entrance arch reflect the gentle era were school buildings built with spacious garden, large windows and high ceiling which held in the air circulation. Unfortunately a covered walkway obstructed the view of the main building .

old municipal building

The old municipal building had a date 1733 and 1896 on the main entrance with a gun and sword . You can see the brick masonry materials , intricate iron grill works, balcony .

Munting Bulwagan Alaala kay Ginang Mariquita Garcia Gutierrez Zabat

This is a simple post war house  along Delos Reyes street that was converted into a training ground for kids who wanted to join a band  or basic music lesson. Zabat Band would give FREE music lesson to kids ages 10 years-old  everyday at 6:00pm . The children would undergo rigid training before being accepted as full fledged member of the famed band.  There is a small family museum inside the compound But we were not able to visit the memorabila room due to time constrain. We are just contended with watching some band members marching the street .

History :

It was Padre Eliodoro Chico y Bustamante, a Tagalog priest, who organized the first local band in Gapan, Nueva Ecija on November 22, 1820. He appointed his relative, Lorenzo Zabat y Chico, to supervise the band. It was called Banda Zabat and became famous in Nueva Ecija and the surrounding provinces. The first Filipino to be recognized as band director is Leonardo Silos (1826-1910). At about age 20, he was appointed director of the band of the Spanish Army’s Regiment No. 5. His third son, Rosalio, directed Banda Pasig, a contemporary of Banda Zabat.

There is an active facebook page of the Zabat Band   . They are also well-known band not only in Gapan , Nueva Ecija but the band is also known in other parts of the world .

Note : I will make a separate blog post on the ancestral house of Dr. Del Rosario

References and Bibliography :

“Banda Uno, Banda Dos.” Filipino Heritage: the Making of a Nation, vol. 8, pp. 2213-2217.

Gapan City :Website: http://www.gapancity.gov.ph/

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