Nueva Ecija may not be by the sea, but it still has its fair share of natural beauties. One of these is in Minalungao. After a two hour jeepney ride out of Cabiao we found ourselves looking at a secluded river, set against the backdrop of a limestone valley. Now I know I've bragged about the beaches, but this really was on another level of picturesque beauty. For a while, I was sure I was staring at a giant movie screen, because the smooth white rocks and the glistening blue river just seemed too perfect to be real. What made the day even better was that no one else was around. Once we had sailed our raft into the heart of the valley we were completely alone- only the river dared to disturb us with its gentle trickle.
Okay that last part was a bit of an understatement because the river had quite a strong current in certain parts. We actually had to 'rescue' one of the volunteers who found himself stranded on a rock because he can't swim very well! I wasn't surprised to hear that there have been a lot of casualties in this deceptively dangerous utopia. Another factor to add to that are the rocks: perfect for climbing and cliff diving. Yet the river is in one part shallow, then suddenly very deep- so you have to be sure to land in exactly the right spot! The 'raft' that we rented was fantastic: it was much less of a boat and more of a floating hut. We could swim a bit, climb back on to the raft, swig a drink, grab a snack and jump back in again. All in the middle of the river.
Yet, when the sun started to set it was our signal to say goodbye to this little piece of paradise. It won't be long until I'm saying my goodbyes to my host-family, Cabiao and the Philippines...
...why is goodbye so much harder than hello???