I again joined as a guest in a demonstration tour hosted by Lakbay Kalikasan for teacher representatives from 9 different schools, this time to Montalban (now renamed Rodriguez after its late local son and Senate president Sen. Eulogio “Amang” Rodriguez, Sr.), a town steep in mystery and folk legends, and one of the nearest, it being just 28.60 kms. from Manila. Assembly and pick-up point was our usual EDSA Shrine. Our 2-van convoy made a brief stopover at U.P. Diliman (my college alma mater) before proceeding to our final destination, the town’s Wawa Dam and its beautiful gorge.
|The two mountains of Bernardo Carpio|
Montalban is mostly mountainous, its central and eastern sections being traversed by mountain ranges extending north to south. It also has a series of steep, sloping ridges. The province’s highest peak, the 1,468-m. high Mt. Caladang, is located along the Rodriguez/Quezon province boundary. The town’s mountains and caves figured prominently during the early days of the Katipunan (a hideout and a site for secret meetings) and the Philippine Revolution (site of a June, 14, 1897 rout of Spanish forces under Col. Dujiols).
Montalban is full of legends and folklore. Near Wawa Gorge, the folk hero and demigod Bernardo Carpio was said to hold two mountains apart, with his mighty hands, to prevent them from colliding. His enemy, the enchanted king of the mountains of San Mateo, was defeated by Bernardo in a wrestling match. The king had his revenge when he enticed Bernardo to enter Pamitinan Cave.
He blocked the entrance, with two gigantic boulders of rocks, and trapped him inside forever, thus shackling him to a prolonged bondage. When an earthquake occurs every 100 years, it is said to be Bernardo breaking one of his chains. It is said that when all his chains have been broken, he would then liberate all his countrymen from their own slavery.
Wawa Dam (also called the Montalban Dam), located at the foothills of the Sierra Madre Mountains, in Brgy. Wawa, supplies water to the Novaliches area in Quezon City. Overlooked by Mt. Irid, its spectacular, forested Wawa Gorge lies between two marble and limestone mountains (of Bernardo Carpio fame) and, through it, passes the Wawa River (or Marikina River) as it flows into Laguna de Bay. On our way to the dam, our group espied one of 4 caves believed to be Japanese strongholds during World War II. A historical marker was said to have been placed at the entrance of one of the caves in memory of the Japanese soldiers who died in the three-month long battle in 1945. Treasure hunters are also said to be attracted by rumors of gold buried in the caves.
Wawa Gorge is also the place to be for the relatively new, adrenaline-pumping and extreme sport of rock climbing. The gorge’s 400-meter high cliffs provide different levels of difficulty for rock climbers. There are ten rock climbing sites with approximately 50 established routes, graded 5.0 to 5.12, all stable, free from vegetation and generally safe from rock falls. Its Redemption Area, perpendicular to a metal footbridge, features “Fun in the Sun” (unrated), “Redemption” (5.10, bolted), “Sacrament” (5.8, bolted), “Sanctuary” (5.6) and “Under the Bridge” (has three short, unrated climbs). The strictly traditional “Sanctuary” is the most popular.
|Trying my hand at rappelling|
We, however, weren’t there for the rock climbing and there was to be no rock-climbing spectacle either on this hot summer day. Lakbay Team Leader Ryan Viado, however, had a special treat in mind for us: the equally adrenaline-pumping sport of rappelling at the gorge’s metal footbridge. Rappelling, is nothing new to me, having tried (and enjoying) it during a past Lakbay tour of Biak-na-Bato National Park in Bulacan. Assisted by Alan Galang and Alexes Erquiza, Ryan soon had our rappelling equipment installed at the bridge. Initially, there were no volunteers willing to try this seemingly once-in-a-lifetime experience. To set a precedent and embolden the others, I took the first crack at it, doing a near-flawless performance. Just like in Biak-na-Bato, rappelling was the piece de resistance for this fruitful and memorable day.