Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Cabanatuan is no longer a city in the middle of nowhere. It's now the economic heart of Nueva Ecija where a lot of other exciting things are happening at its fringes. In the past few decades, it has proven to be an exciting destination for meaningful stopovers that tend to linger for more than a day. Malls and restaurants are now part of its landscape that once only featured vast rice fields. Tourists now have more reasons to meander through the city and end up with a pasalubong bag of its famous Aling Otya's Longganisa (batutay, hamonado, and rekado), Puno's Ice Cream & Sherbet, and other local hauls. Proof of this bountiful change in the scenery of the former provincial capital is the aptly named four-star Harvest Hotel.


The 81-room hotel was where I stayed for more than a night simply because I appreciated its practical luxury. It was my official tour base for my visit of Minalungao National Park, an emerging natural attraction in the province. Travelling three hours from Manila to Nueva Ecija deserved a fitting layover which the hotel offered. Besides, my target side trip demanded that I travel another hour or so to the town of General Tinio where the river, cave and rock formation are. Thanks to Harvest Hotel, my journey became a destination in itself.

Late afternoon soak at the hotel's swimming pool
Savory batutay for buffet breakfast
Hotel facade

Here are three exciting reasons why the Cabanatuan City hotel left a great lasting impression on me:

1. Sensational Dining Experience At Harvest Hotels' Cafe Ecija

Buko Lychee: Drink of the month at Cafe Ecija

I actually salivated over my revisit of Cabanatuan City because of the delicious memory of its famous longganisa that locals call batutay. I first tasted it in 2013 and failed to take a souvenir photo because I mindlessly finished the grub in just a few minutes of pure joy. It was that delicious!

At Cafe Ecija, I had the chance to relive that moment as the hotel's restaurant served it for buffet breakfast. Imagine my excitement seeing a pile of batutay at 6:00 in the morning. As a result, I was that enthralled to linger at the buffet table!

"Imagine my excitement seeing a pile of batutay at 6:00 in the morning."

Since I stayed for two nights with my friend, I appreciated that the restaurant didn't serve the same roster of dishes for two consecutive mornings. There were staples that deserved being had over and over again and it was a good decision for serving taho (sweet tofu pudding) in traditional tins, street food-style. It just made waking up nostalgic even if I was more than a hundred kilometers away from home.

The filling Burgerniza
The appetizing Longganisa Spring Roll
Pininyahang Manok Sa Gata (chicken dish)
The sweet seduction of Cafe Ecija's Mocha Caramel Cake
Chef Lester of Harvest Hotel

I also grabbed the chance to sample the other longganisa variant called hamonado for dinner via an order of Longganisa Spring Roll. The hotel dubs it as a Cabanatuan Specialty because of its use of the hamonado longganisa in the roll of vegetables that was served with homemade garlic chili pepper sauce. If anything, it made my dinner appetizing along with my orders of the Pininyahang Manok Sa Gata (chicken dish) and a refreshing glass of Buko Lychee.

"It was definitely hamonado-licious!"

I was also able to taste the initially intimidating Burgerniza which features the same signature hamonado flavor as its patty. The filling portmanteau of a hamburger and longganisa was made more delicious with the use of Milka Krem's kesong puti (white cheese). The latter's slightly salty taste complemented well with the sweet hamonado and even proved to be a great substitute for mayo. It was definitely hamonado-licious!

Before I left the hotel, I made sure that I also tried one of its featured cakes -- the Mocha Caramel -- which went down well with brewed coffee. The rich-tasting icing was topnotch for one of my afternoon resets and left me perked up after my Minalungao adventure.

Solo guest on pool time
The view of the swimming pool for al fresco buffet breakfast

2. Relaxing Post-Adventure Soak At Its Swimming Pool

Minalungao National Park was a terrific side trip in Nueva Ecija because it allowed me to experience nature in the part of the province that's still sparsely populated. Back in Cabanatuan City, however, there is really nothing relaxing to enjoy that's in close proximity to one's booked lodging if you're staying in a budget inn. This just makes my stay at Harvest Hotel all the more satisfying because the room rate is inclusive of access to its swimming pool.

Family-friendly pool
The pool is long enough to be seamlessly connected to a grassy expanse of the property which is probably a garden designed for special events. The spot that essentially breaks it is a decent space for recliners which is sensational for afternoon relaxation. As a result, this recreational area of the hotel is not as gloomy as some hotel pools that I've had a soak in.

"Romantic guests can even appreciate it for its laid-back ambiance."

Guests with kids can find it to be family-friendly because its deepest part is just at four feet. For those on tour layovers like me, the pool access is simply relaxing. Romantic guests can even appreciate it for its laid-back ambiance. It's also perfect for winding down the day after a city tour of the public market and interesting landmarks.

Standard Twin
Standard Queen
The second bedroom of the Loft Suite
3. Restful Nights On Its Plush Bed and More

The hotel's four-star quality was most palpable in its well-appointed rooms, two of which I experienced during my stay -- the Standard Twin and Loft Suite.

"Unlike typical shortchanged lofts I've seen in some poorly designed hotels, this two-bedroom version looked so impressive..."

The Standard Twin is complete with basic room features that include a couple of plush beds, a spacious bathroom, work desk and chair, an expansive window for sensational pool and garden views, cable TV, coffee and tea-making facilities, mini-bar, in-room safe, closet and individually controlled air conditioners. The bedroom is beautifully enhanced with ambient lighting. I loved the inclusion of the mini refrigerator because it let me store the longganisa that I purchased at the nearby public market for a few hours before check-out.

The first bedroom of the Loft Suite
The Loft Suite's living room

The Loft Suite was a bit of a surprise because it's the only kind that I've seen so far with an attic for a second bedroom. Unlike typical shortchanged lofts I've seen in some poorly designed hotels, this two-bedroom version looked so impressive from the door as its upper level (the first bedroom) didn't translate into an imposing ceiling downstairs. It's actually the same design I've seen in one five-star resort in Boracay but this one's with a bonus -- an attic for a second bedroom which I think a lot of newly-weds and couples with kids will appreciate.

With Cabanatuan being in a strategic location in Nueva Ecija, particularly being accessible from the Cagayan Valley Road, commercial structures in the city are suddenly attractive for layovers to Aurora and other provinces. Harvest Hotel is proof of this development, making it a cavan of joy in a place that's known as a "Gateway to the North".

Book now.

Photography by Aubrey Gacer

Harvest Hotel

Book a room at Harvest Hotel.

Address: 1179 Del Pilar St., Cabanatuan City, Nueva Ecija, Philippines 3100
Phone: (044) 950-8888
Mobile: (+63917) 539-6125
Email: info@theharvesthotel.com

More Photos Below:

The hotel at night
Inclusive in the room rate is access to the hotel's gym

Enjoying my afternoon snack at Cafe Ecija


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