I’ve been anything but okay for the past few days. I know it’s Holy Week and all, but I honestly can’t muster up the energy and enthusiasm to go to Church. I don’t need to burden you with the sordid details. I’m 99.9% sure that my personal life is not the reason you’re here. Moving forward, I just wanted to get out the house. For some reason, I couldn’t contact my best friends. My cellular signal is seriously messed up, so I just dragged my folks to the far end of our hometown. It helps when your family is almost always game for a trip anywhere. This blog has been getting serious traffic for our Visita Iglesia post in Rizal. To all those who dropped by and commented, a big thanks! I’ve been contemplating on either shutting down this blog–since K and I hardly get the chance to update–or just taking over completely. Well, here I am. And here goes nothing.
Being a San Mateo native, I know probably th———is much about Montalban, Rizal (more properly known as Rodriguez these days, but hey politics). If I’m being honest, I probably know th—————is much about San Mateo. And if I’m being blunt, I’d say there really is not much to know about either San Mateo or Montalban–at least from what we could see on the internet, which is a damn shame. But before anything else, let’s not get these two places confused. They’re two different municipalities located at the northern edge of Metro Manila and lying just before the majestic Sierra Madre mountain range, I would imagine. I really wanted to make this post about San Mateo but until I get whipped into an inspired writing frenzy, I’ll save that for later. I’d like to introduce you first to the rarely talked about Wawa Dam and Pamitinan Cave in Montalban.
1. Wawa Dam
Sitio Wawa, San Rafael, Rodriguez, Rizal
Wawa Dam is a gravity dam built during 1909 over the Montalban Gorge. This was supposedly the only source of water for Metro Manila prior to the construction of Angat Dam. It has since been abandoned but people have been calling for its reopening due to severe water shortage. If you’re driving, you’ll easily find yourself at Wawa just by following M. Del Pilar street all the way to the end of the road. We were only asked for a basic parking fee of Php20, since we were just taking in the sights.But from what I hear, others were asked Php40/head as entrance fee yesterday. Now if you want my honest opinion, I would think there really is no entrance fee and you can question anyone who asks you for one unless they show some proof. There is still very little development in the area, and most people who flock the dam are locals just hoping to cool off and swim. There are a number of sari-sari stores and food stalls lining the river, but a lot of trekkers bring their own food for cooking. The actual dam itself is filled with floating bamboo huts and a bit reminiscent of Kevin Costner’s Waterworld. While I saw hundreds of kids, I really don’t recommend bringing children to Wawa. The path towards and around the downstream face of the dam is steep and not cemented. The bridges, if any, are also in deteriorating, rusty and make-shift condition. I’d tell you to go for the adventure and curiosity’s sake, but leave the kids at home.
2. Pamitinan Cave
Sitio Wawa, San Rafael, Rodriguez, Rizal
Pamitinan Cave is also known as the mythological cave of Bernardo Carpio. According to Philippine folklore, Carpio was born to a poor couple living at the foot of the San Mateo mountains. A Spanish priest named him after the legendary Bernardo del Carpio of Spain, after he manifested extraordinary strength. But when Carpio grew into a formidable leader of rebelling Philippine forces, Spanish colonizers in Rizal supposedly hired a shaman to trap him between two great boulders in Montalban, Mt. Pamitinan and Mt. Binikayan. Carpio allegedly causes severe earthquakes whenever he attempts to break free from the hold of a talisman, which chained him to the mountains. (It also doesn’t hurt that Montalban sits on the West Valley Fault.) Know that there are several versions to this tale, so I can’t really tell you which one is the most accurate.
Carpio’s story supposedly led national hero Andres Bonifacio to believe that the former would one day liberate not only himself from the power of the talisman, but also Filipinos from oppression. Bonifacio was even inspired to hold a secret meeting of seven Katipuneros deep within the limestone-filled cave to declare Philippine independence, on a Good Friday like today or on April 12, 1895. Japanese soldiers also used the cave as camp.
As of this posting, there is unfortunately no other way–none that we could see–to Pamitinan Cave but to cross the river by climbing down the rocks, hiking and/or jumping across shifty stones and boulders. Buwis buhay (read: very risky). If you’re not up for it, don’t go. It was quite the trip for me, especially since I just dislocated my knee last year. But if you are up for the trek, I’d suggest wearing rubber shoes, and bringing a portable water bottle and mountaineering headlight. There’s a Php5 entrance/environmental fee once you finally get to the cave. The guides have a supply of safety helmets with headlights for minimal cost, but they do run out. My dad and I didn’t go all the way into the cave. He was reprimanding me by the time we got to the curtain-looking limestone since, like I said, I have a weak knee. The guide mentioned though that Pamintinan Cave stretches to around 500 meters–I hope I remembered that correctly–until the very bulwagan, where Bonifacio and his men congregated and wrote “Viva la Independencia Filipinas” on the walls. There are supposedly passageways all the way to the province of Bulacan, even Quezon—I mean can you imagine? See Google Maps–but no one has attempted to go all the way in.
I don’t mean to scare you away, but there’s also a legend of Pandora (sometimes referred to as the “nangunguha“), a mythological fairy-like river queen, who supposedly takes the lives of unsuspecting mortals by drowning. I’m not much for legends, but the sheer difficulty of going around places-of-interest in the area should be enough warning against rowdiness. The local government should also seriously consider building a hanging bridge towards the cave, and repair the paths around the dam. The place can really be stunning if given the chance.
On a lighter note, we actually spotted two more sights in Montalban (Eulogio Rodriguez Ancestral House and Gethsemene Prayer Mountain), which were unfortunately closed. You might want to check those out. Personally, I hope I’ll get the chance to return and feature those two soon. In the meantime, let me know if there are any more spots–restaurants, resorts, secret mermaid coves, what-have-you’s–that I missed and could write about in the future. It’s actually lovely to experience places we didn’t know were figuratively just sitting in our backyard.
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