Aside from having the most number of tricycles in the country, Cabanatueños also take pride with their delicious food products. Being the former capital of the province of Nueva Ecija, the city is a major hub of transportation services within the province.
How to get there : From Manila, Cabanatuan City is 3-4 hours by bus. Several bus companies dispatch buses every 15-30 minutes (24/7) to the city, from their various stations around Metro Manila (Avenida, Cubao, Caloocan/Grace Park, Divisoria, Pasay, Trinoma) (A/C bus; PhP 197 per person from Cubao; non A/C bus PhP80-100): ES Tranport | Five Star Bus Co (fare and schedule) | Genesis Transport Services Bus (fare and schedule) |Baliwag Transit, Inc.
By car, take the fast and scenic route via NLEx-SCTEx. In NLEx (tolls (PhP 174.00)| map) take SCTEx exit. IN SCTEx (toll), take tarlac city exit (last exit; toll = PhP 69.00). Upon exit, turn right and go straight to the town proper of Sta Rosa, Nueva Ecija. Upon reaching Maharlika Highway in Sta. Rosa, turn left. Cabanatuan City is right next to Sta. Rosa.
If coming from Diosdado Macapagal International Airport in Clark Field, Pampanga, instead of taking a bus from Manila, you may take Genesis Transport Services Bus (fares and schedule) in San Fernando, Pampanga.
By car, proceed to SCTEx Clark Field gate. See directions from SCTEx above.
Best time to go: January – May (Annual Longganiza Festival in February, the city’s founding anniversary month)
Must-do experience: Food-trip-all-day
Best lunch at NE Crossing (Must try: sour version of pinapaitan (originally an Ilocano dish; ox tripes and innards stew flavored with tamarind, chili, and bile), bulalo (beef soup))
Best Merienda (snack) at the local public supermarket (Must try: various sweet rice cakes (around PhP10-25 per serving) such as calamay with sweet syrup and latik, butchi (deep fried rice flour dough balls, filled with sweet mongo), and arso leche (soft purple rice cake slices with coconut milk)).
Other snack options: Across the westside of the palengke (local public supermarket) is the FM foodshop which is most famous for its super hot pandesal (round salted bread; PhP 2.50 each), beef mami (noodle soup; PhP 20 per serving, add PhP 5 to add boiled egg) (must also try: fish balls, squid balls, and kikiam).
Try Pansit Malabon (a stir-fried noodle dish) at Joey’s Snack House in del Pilar St., beside the Cathedral of St. Nicolas of Tolentino.
Must also try Puno’s ice cream and sherbet (available in various flavors) which is famous among locals. Their store is located in Maharlika, Hi-way, Brgy. Bitas, Cabanatuan City (near Araullo University; Tel. No. +63 44 463-0818 or +63 44 464-8694). Puno’s ice cream and sherbet is also available at the newly opened Yogurtree Café in Maharlika Hi-Way, Brgy. H. Concepcion, Cabanatuan City (near NE Pacific Mall; Robinson’s Cabanatuan; +63 922 825 9206). Yogurtree Café also serves fro-yo at a reasonable price.
For the more adventurous travellers, try the streetfood outside the local public supermarket (southeast corner) (Must try: hot peanuts, fried duck egg, fried one-day-old-chick).
Best dinner: Enjoy the relaxing ambiance at Vicentico’s Restaurant in del Pilar St. Try their gising-gising (a local version of spicy sauteed vegetable), sinampalukang manok (tamarind chicken soup), and sizzling lumot (big squid).
Another sumptuous treats are: Rustica’s Restaurant’s (Maharlika Hi-way) seafood sinigang (sour soup with fish, fish egg, and shrimp; PhP200 per serving, serves 3-4 persons) and baby back ribs.
Cheaper option: Dine in any of the lugaw (congee) and mami stalls along the northside of the Freedom Park in del Pilar St. (Must try: goto (congee with beef tripe) (PhP25-35 per serving), guya (ovary duct of a chicken) (PhP20-25 per serving).
By night, chill out at the Retro Bar and Restaurant in Kapitan Pepe Subdivision.
Food-to-go treats: Kalahi’s litsong manok (grilled chicken; PhP 150-160 per whole chicken), pork barbecue, and sisig (chopped grilled pork) along Burgos Avenue; Bhaby Ruth’s special bibingka and puto bumbong in Plaza Lucero across the Cathedral of St. Nicolas of Tolentino.
Don’t miss: Ride a tricycle (Minimum fare: PhP15 per person/PhP10 per person for 2 or more passengers; PhP2 per km)
Visit: Philippine hero Gen. Antonio Luna Statue and Marker in Plaza Lucero (across the Cathedral of St. Nicolas of Tolentino) | old Nueva Ecija Provincial Capitol along Burgos Avenue | Camp Pangatian (Prisoner of War Memorial Shrine) which served as a military training camp and later, concentration camp for allied prisoners of war during the Japanese occupation.
“Pangatian Shrine” by Lawstude | Cabanatuan City
Stay at Acropolis North Water Camp (PhP2,000-3,000 per room per night, up to 4 pax). Other lodging facilities include: Microtel Inn and Suites Cabanatuan (PhP1,200 per room per night), Village Inn, and La Parilla.
Best buys: Cabanatuan is famous for its special garlic longganiza or longganisa (local sausage). Available at the local public supermarket or NE supermarkets and foodshops (PhP 190 – 200 per kilo; look for Aling Otya or Aling Mercy’s stall). Other take-home treats: NE bakeshop’s espasol and ube (purple yam) bread; Edna’s Cakeland’s buko pie and cassava cake; and Nita’s pastries’s yema balls (sweet custard candy).
For more info email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Contributor: Ruth Francisco*, a researcher on weekdays; a shopper/traveller on weekends.
*With special thanks to Cristy Francisco and Iva Sebastian-Samaniego.