Talking about Nueva Ecija, what usually comes to mind are thoughts of the rice granary of the Philippines, the thousands of hectares devoted to the raising of palay, the rich cultural heritage the province has handed to the present being the cradle of heroes and the birthplace of historians, writers, poets and educators. But there are more to Nueva Ecija than the above-mentioned characteristics.
Nueva Ecija occupies an area of 550,218 hectares populated by 1,659,883 people as of 2004. It has 27 municipalities: Aliaga, Bongabon, Cabiao, Carrangalan, Cuyapo, Gabaldon, General Natividad, General Tinio, Guimba, Jaen, Laur, Licab, Llanera, Lupao, Nampicuan, Pantabangan, Peñaranda, Quezon, Rizal, San Antonio, San Isidro, San Leonardo, Sta. Rosa, Sto. Domingo, Talavera, Talugtog and Zaragosa, and 5 cities: Cabanatuan, Gapan, the Science City of Muñoz, Palayan and San Jose.
As the cradle of heroes, Nueva Ecija is linked to the historical events that led to the founding of the First Republic of the Philippines. General Mariano Llanera of Cabiao immediately responded to Andres Bonifacio’s call to rise against the Spaniards by besieging Factoria, the more popular name then of San Isidro, at that time the capital of Nueva Ecija, on Sept. 2 to 3, 1896. This was the "First Cry of Nueva Ecija." Other Novo Ecijanos joined the revolutionary ranks such as Generals Mamerto Natividad, Jr. of Cabiao, Manuel Tinio of Aliaga and Pablo Padilla of Peñaranda. General Emilio Aguinaldo subsequently honored Nueva Ecija as one of the eight rays of the Philippine Flag, symbolizing the first eight provinces that revolted against Spanish rule.
In the intellectual and cultural arena, Nueva Ecija occupies a prominent place. Its sons rank among the country’s intellectual elite, among them: Epifanio delos Santos, writer and literary genius; Sedfrey A. Ordonez, statesman and poet; Lazaro Francisco, novelist; Paz Policarpio-Mendez, educator; Leopoldo Serrano, writer and historian; Gaudencio Antonio, senator; and Ponciano B.P. Pineda, linguist and Tagalog poet.
Nueva Ecija is also blessed with illustrious and prominent political figures who contributed to the growth and prosperity of the province. There was, again, Epifanio C. delos Santos, the first governor of the province during the onset of the American colonial administration; Isauro Gabaldon, and Hermogenes Concepcion, Sr. who, in their respective terms represented Nueva Ecija admirably in the Philippine Senate. Other governors with equal records of contributions to making what Nueva Ecija is today include General Manuel Tinio, Leopoldo D. Diaz, Amado Q. Aleta and Eduardo L. Joson. Their dedication and patriotism made history for Nueva Ecija in the political arena. Their strong and visionary leadership was a significant factor in their governance of the province, thus spurring its unprecedented economic development.
In tourism, God has richly endowed Nueva Ecija with magnificent and varied scenery that constitute its tourist attractions. Sightseers do appreciate the natural scenic spots such as the Minalungao National Park in Gapan and General Tinio, which is a large forested area along the Sierra Madre mountain range with its stiff ravine and rock formations placing the park in the tourism map of the country. There is also the cool climate in Barrio Puncan in Carrangalan. For such, Puncan has earned the name of "Little Baguio" of Nueva Ecija for its cool breeze, the fresh atmosphere and the scent of pine trees in the air.
Other places to see or to enjoy that may compare with the wonders of the country are: Fort Magsaysay, home of the Philippine Army Training Command in Palayan City, which has become a popular tourist destination area of World War II veterans and their families; Camp Pangatian Shrine in Cabanatuan City; the phenomenal Pantabangan Dam; the big pasture lands of Laur and Rizal; and the Central Luzon State University (CLSU), in the Science City of Muñoz, considered one of the best and most scenic agricultural institutions in the country, definitely Nueva Ecija’s pride. The CLSU campus is a landscape of full-grown, shady trees, a sight to behold indeed. It beckons all to come, see and study at the CLSU.
Another memorable historical spot is the monument dedicated to General Antonio Luna seen poised atop his horse on the very place where he was assassinated in Cabanatuan City. Though not a Novo Ecijano, Nueva Ecija has formally adopted him as one of its illustrious sons.
Palayan City, the present capital of Nueva Ecija, with its new, modern and beautiful capitol building plus the exotic campsites of the Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts of the Philippines are worthwhile visiting. Then there is the beautiful and only rubber dam in Llanera, the first and largest rubber dam in the Philippines.
Finally, one cannot avoid mentioning Nueva Ecija without touching the Nueva Ecija High School (NEHS), which began in San Isidro as the Wright Institute in 1904-1905. It was later transferred to Cabanatuan City in June 1927 built in the style of Gabaldon- type high schools all over the country. From it have graduated the provinces’ "Hall of Fame" (Bulwagan ng Dangal) and "Most Distinguished Alumni" honorees, conferred by the Nueva Ecija High School Alumni Association, Inc. (NEHSAA) the association of Sedfrey A. Ordonez, Consuelo Villamor-Asis, Guillermo A. Pecache, Pedro O. Sanvicente, Paterno V. Viloria, Damiana L. Eugenio, Saturnino A. Abesamis, Rafael M. Ileto, Luis T. Santos, Melencio S. Magno, Felipe A. Estrella, Julieta R. Jalbuena, Florino A. Francisco, and Pacifico M. Fajardo to mention a few. They contributed immensely to the honor and prestige not only of their Alma Mater, but also of Nueva Ecija and the Philippines.
"WOW! Nueva Ecija" exactly expressed the A-1 distinction of the provinces’ sceneries, sound financial resources, dedicated provincial, city, municipal, and barangay leaders, educational institutions, and the cradle of noble heroes, historians, scientists and writers. In a few words, it is a glorious and wonderful province.
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