Have you ever discovered a destination by exploring Google Maps? That’s how I found the so-called New Zealand of Pangasinan. This serendipitous moment occurred while I was on the road to Ilocos Sur. In Sison, I just happened to open my app; and when I saw this curious destination marked nearby, I had to click for more photos. Then, I was surprised to find a place that resembled New Zealand’s Papamoa Hills Regional Park.
Also read: Bagbag Beach is Pangasinan Town’s Very Own “Little Batanes”
Exploring the New Zealand of Pangasinan
The road to the New Zealand of Pangasinan is inconspicuous, so much so that it’s literally called “Unnamed Road” in Google Maps. But if you follow the track towards it, you will find a hidden gem along Barangay Camangaan in Sison and Barangay Don Benito in Pozorrubio. Locals also know it as Bantay Reyes.
Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to travel to the destination. However, in my curiosity, I got in touch with someone who has. Travel vlogger Nicollo Lagmay of Kiko Explores PH shares his experience of Bantay Reyes with TripZilla Philippines.
How did you discover Bantay Reyes?
Na-discover ko siya nung June 2020 — kasagsagan pa ng pandemic noon. Nag-set lang kami ng mga high school batchmates ko ng simpleng reunion. Naisipan naming doon kami sa bundok mag-picnic at bonding.
Habang tumagal kami sa bundok, onti-unti naming nakita yung ganda ng lugar. Nakakarelax at nakakatanggal ng stress! Kaya nung araw na yun, nag-picture kami dahil sobrang ganda ng lugar. Tapos, nung pinost namin sa social media, nag-viral!
What was your first impression of the place?
Nagulat ako sobra. Na-surprise ako. I loved the place. Hindi ko inexpect na mayroon palang ganoong napakagandang lugar na gawa ni Lord.
In Bantay Reyes, you can enjoy biking, kahit mag-hapon pa yan. Walang entrance fee. It’s a very Instagrammable place kung saan pwede kayong maghabulan at mag-picnic.
This is one of the best mountain trails I would recommend. Believe me — you don’t have to wait until the pandemic is over to fulfil your dream of visiting New Zealand. This mountain gives you the feels of it — with no visa processing!
Ito ang bagong atraksyon sa bayan ng Sison kung saan makikita ang malawak na saklaw ng mga bundok, puno, at hayop. Mountain bikers at nature lovers ang madalas na bumibisita rito. Mamamangha ka talaga sa ganda ng lugar!
Inihahalintulad ko siya sa Papamoa Hills Regional Park ng New Zealand kasi parang parang may kaunting hawig sila. Matatanaw mo sa itaas ang bulubundukin ng Cordillera Mountain at ang mga ilang bayan ng Pangasinan.
How to get to the New Zealand of the Philippines
To get to Bantay Reyes from Manila, Lagmay recommends the following routes.
- Take a bus bound to Laoag City, Vigan City, Abra, Candon City, La Union or Baguio City.
- Alight at the Ice Plant in Sison, Pangasinan.
- Ride a tricycle (₱60) to Bantay Reyes in Barangay Camangaan.
According to Lagmay, hiking Mount Santos takes only about 15 minutes. After the fairly easy climb, you’re treated to views of rolling hills and unadulterated skies.
Tips for travellers who want to visit
Finally, Lagmay shares tips for travellers who want to enjoy Bantay Reyes.
- If you want to enjoy the place na kayo kayo lang at walang photo bomber, schedule your trip on weekdays. Be there as early as 8am.
- Bring food and drinking water.
- Wear sunscreen to protect your skin.
- Keep your belongings safe and dry.
- Bring a power bank and your own medical kit.
- LEAVE NO TRACE.
- Finally, enjoy the relaxing, quiet, and unobstructed view from the farm.
Also read: La Palmera Mountain Range: A Short Travel Guide to This Southern Gem
Other than the New Zealand of Pangasinan, did you know that Nueva Ecija also has a destination nicknamed ‘New Zealand of Central Luzon?’ Well, the Philippines certainly has countless natural wonders we have yet to discover. Let us know if you know any more in the comments!
Quotes were edited for clarity, style, and flow. All images credited to Nicollo Lagmay and Christian Paul Ymana.