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.
CAVAN OF JOY
|Late afternoon soak at the hotel's swimming pool|
|Savory batutay for buffet breakfast|
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|
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.
"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.
|The second bedroom of the Loft Suite|
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|
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".
Photography by Aubrey Gacer
Official website of Harvest Hotel
Address: 1179 Del Pilar St., Cabanatuan City, Nueva Ecija, Philippines 3100
Phone: (044) 950-8888
Mobile: (+63917) 539-6125
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|