Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Exploring three Eastern Nueva Ecija towns: Bongabon, Rizal, Pantabangan

(This is part of my Nueva Ecija townhopping last June 12, 2013)

Bongabon, Rizal and Pantabangan weren't originally included in my itinerary. For one, I thought they are so far from the center (Cabanatuan) and it would be very difficult for me to get there because of the lack of public transportation. But the truth is, I would really like to go see Pantabangan because I read from a website that it has a Spanish-old Church. So when the opportunity to visit the town presented itself, I immediately grabbed it.

From Palayan, there are plenty of jeepneys plying the road going to Bongabon so all I had to do is to get into one. Upon reaching Bongabon, I rode a tricycle to bring me to the town center where the town church and hall must be located. The town church is located just beside the tricycle terminal so I noticed it immediately.

Bongabon Church. Nueva Ecija.
Bongabon Church was built during the Spanish-era but is now newly renovated. It's not clear whether the present architecture of the church is entirely different from the original or it was still the old church with minor face lift. The church walls and facade is made with red bricks while the pillars and other parts are plastered. The church is also decorated with beautiful stained glasses which are obviously newer addition.

Interior of Bongabon Church
In front of the church is the town gym while at the left side of the gym, across the road is the town's old municipal hall, now the town's police station. From there, I rented a tricycle to bring me to the new municipal hall.

Bongabon Municipal Hall
I have talked to the tricycle driver to bring me to Rizal. He initially agreed but changed his mind after we visited the Bongabon municipal hall. He advised me to just get into another tricycle. I have no choice but to look for another tricycle because there is actually no other public utility vehicle plying the Bongabon-Rizal route other than tricycle. From Bongabon to Rizal, I paid Php 100.00. 

I was a bit surprised when I saw Rizal and it's commercial area. The business looks good and banks are present so I was wondering why there are no available transportation from Rizal to Bongabon and you have to rent a tricycle just to get from the former to the latter.

Rizal Municipal Hall. Nueva Ecija.
Rizal town church. Nueva Ecija.
I was out of cash and I decided to withdraw from a nearby bank. While waiting for my turn, I talked to the lady at my back and asked her where is the bus or jeepney terminal going to Pantabangan. She told me that at that time, those are not yet available (it was only 10:00am then). PUV will be available from 2:00 PM onwards. I can rent tricycle again but I will have to shell out Php 150.00 on a one way trip, and it would definitely ruin my budget that day. The other option doesn't seem good too because if I would wait for the jeepneys and/or bus, many precious hour for my town hopping will be lost. 

Good thing, the lady who I have spoken to noticed my uneasiness and asked me my problem. And I was surprised when she offered me a ride since her family are also going to Pantabangan. Actually, she and her husband were in Rizal just  to buy feeds. I was so thankful to them not just for the ride but for trusting a stranger like me. I could have been a carnapper or someone who will do them harm but then, they still trusted me fully. (Does it mean I look like a very harmless guy?... just kidding!). They even brought me right into the front of Pantabangan Church.

More than a Century Old Bell

The very first thing I noticed upon reaching the church is a bell enclosed with grills beside the church. I thought it was just some ordinary bell because there is nothing special about the way it is housed in a grill box but upon checking, I found out that it actually is a Spanish-era church bell, minted in 1843.

Pantabangan Church
I was actually expecting a century-old church but what I saw is a new church being built. The lady who offered me a ride explained that the town's old church was submerged in water when Pantabangan dam was built that's why the church was transferred in its present location. I have no idea whether that's what really happened or there was also an old church in the present location but was dismantled to give way to a newer one.

Interior of Pantabangan Church
After visiting the church, I went to check the town hall next. Pantabangan town hall is grand and beautiful and serves as a reminder to the visitors that it is a prosperous town. Actually, there are rumors that Pantabangan officials has plans for converting the town into a city but personally, I think it is not the time for them yet. The place still looks very much rural, though a very homey rural town at that. 

Pantabangan Town Hall. Nueva Ecija.
Because that was already an hour after noon, I decided to first take a break for lunch. Ironically, it was hard to find a decent place to eat at at the town proper. All I found is a very small carinderia in the town's transport terminal and I've got no other choice but to eat there.

After lunch, I waited for a bus (coming from Baler, Aurora) to go back to Rizal so that I may be able to go to my next destination, San Jose City.


To know more about my Nueva Ecija Tour, you may visit the following (some to be posted later):

author image

About the Author

I am ROMEL RAFOR JAIME, the man behind San Josenyong Gala. My travel blogger name came about because I am a proud resident of the City of San Jose del Monte, Bulacan. In real life, I am a licensed librarian who works in a college in Gapan, Nueva Ecija as a librarian and teaches general education subjects from time to time. My goal is to visit all the 81 provinces of the Philippines before visiting other countries. As of 2017, I have already visited 73... :)

1 comment :

  1. I thought Bongabon's Sibuyasan Festival is the best among the best.