Mt. Pamitinan and the gorge of Montalban

By Gillian Gacuma

RIZAL — Just an hour drive away from Commonwealth Avenue in Quezon city is Barangay Wawa in Montalban, Rizal. The community sits on the banks on the segment of Marikina river that passes through the gorges of Wawa.

Built in 1909 during the American colonial era, Wawa or Montalban dam is a gravity and slightly arched dam (dam it!) that supplies the water need of the once small-scaled Metro Manila until the completion of the larger Angat dam in the 60s.

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The cemented path that leads to the spillway of the dam is also fenced to avoid any untoward accidents.

Located in Montalban gorge and sandwiched between 426+masl Mt. Pamitinan (seen on the top photo) and the 424+masl Mt. Hapunang Banoy, the site become one of the favourite summer getaway of large groups, specially families from neighbouring cities of Manila.

I’ve been here countless of times when I was in grade school and when my family was still in Quezon City. And my amusement remain the ‘same.’

The cool waters are ideal for washing off the tropical heat, kayaking with the readily available bamboo rafts and picnics on its pebble based banks.

We went there as a group of eight and from the House of Representatives complex, it only took us an hour to reach Eastwood Village (not the district in Pasig, this is where confusion usually starts). From there a Php60 or roughly USD1.5 tricycle ride will take you to the Barangay Hall and tourist office of Wawa , the jump-off point for Mt. Pamitinan, Hapunang Banoi, Sipit Ulang and Binacayan and Wawa dam.

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The decommissioned Wawa dam that spills water from Sierra Madre mountain province.

Guide fee is at fixed rate of Php500 or USD10.00, ideally per mountain and you should add more incase you’ll be hiking more than one. Environmental fee is surprisingly at Php2.00 per person.

However, just like any hiking destinations, you shall register and pay environmental fees for different Barangays that you will pass. For our Mt. Pamitinan we paid Php20 or half a dollar.

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Chips and chill at Hapunang Banoy Junction.

Your bags and other belongings like packed lunch can also be deposited at the safety of the Barangay Hall, YASSS for bag-free hike!

We began our ascend at 7:30AM with proper reminders, stretching and prayers and for this trip, we decided to hike Mt. Pamitinan. The established trail would roughly take you an hour and half or 2 hours to reach the summit, and I highly suggest that you hike an adjacent mountain to make most of your trip.

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One of the rocky assault part of the trail, from here it will only take you 15-30 minutes before reaching the summit.

Falling under the minor climb category, with 3/9 difficulty and trail class of 1-4, the trail of Mt. Pamitinan is mostly forested (don’t miss the ancient Balete tree), with rough to tough parts that demands rock climbing skills. While some parts of the trail, specially the first half, can be slippery due to thick fogs in the evening.

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Early stage of the rocky assaults part of the trail with a commanding view of Mt. Binacayan.

30-40 minutes away form the summit, you’ll pass by the Hapunang Banoy Junction where a rest area with makeshift stores are available. A stop is recommended for beginners as the next leg of the trail will be a bit challenging but fun for those who enjoys rock climbing. This part requires extensive balance and care as sharp rocks might cut or seriously wound any hikers. Wearing gloves are useful for ensuring comfortable grips on the rocks.

Mt. Pamitinan’s summit will give you an extensive view of the surrounding mountains, wherein the highlight is the drop cliff that will give chills to those who are not into heights.

Of course we didn’t miss the chance to take pictures of the magnificent morning view of Rizal. Although some areas are obviously inhabited by real estate monsters that took over the green areas of the surrounding areas.

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The cliff where things become more exciting!

By 11 in the morning, we are already back at the jumpoff-point, the Barangay Hall where we are kindly assisted and taken care of. Cottages are readily available for FREE beside the hall so eating lunch will no longer be a hassle.

As soon as the heat toned down, we trek to the nearby Wawa dam where we enjoyed the sights of the gorge.

How to get there?

Public: Take a van or jeepney from Cubao to Montalban (Eastwood) [Php50/$1; 1-1.5 hours] Alternatively, take any transport to Montalban (i.e. via Banaba, San Mateo) then tricycle to Barangay Wawa. (Approximately 2-3 hours travel time because of various stops and delays.) 

Private: Drive to Rodriguez, Rizal via Marikina or San Mateo, then follow the road to Wawa Dam. There is an entrance of Php50 or a dollar for private vehicles while parking slots are available in front of the tourism office.

kaWawa naman: the saddening state of Barangay Wawa as a eco-tourist destination

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Wawa gorge and its large boulders. Lets keep it this way, please.

As I mentioned, I’ve been to Wawa before. Its one my family’s favorite retreat place when our parents are feeling off the city atmosphere. I can still remember a handful of nipa huts or stilt houses, the small stores where you can buy packed condiments in case one of your siblings forgot to bring some from your kitchen, the relaxing sound of the crashing waters of Marikina river as it passed through the large boulders and the large ground of tree-shaded parking space of hired Jeepneys that brings family and friends to this place.

All of these simple yet relaxing image of Wawa will welcome every guests on its ‘gates.’ I usually become sentimental when it comes to the environment, and I will not apologize for that.

15 years passed by so quickly and things have changed in this place. The large open ground now houses different local government centers, while some of it are abandoned or simply unfinished, the serenity is now replaced with loud karaoke stalls filling up the airwaves and the wide path to the dam is now a tight street where two to three floor houses with no efficient sewage systems are clamped with each other. I even saw some of the locals washing their clothes with detergents on the river.

I’m not against development, and I’m aware that there has been an eco-tourism explosion in the area but the irony in Wawa is so relentless that the community is unaware of. Their livelihood is anchored in the lush greens and ‘clear’ waters of Wawa yet evidence of neglect for both the local authorities and the residents are obvious everywhere.

There’s still hope for Wawa, upon writing I already sent an email to the local government of Rizal, highlighting the things that we can still do to save the condition in the area. I’m planning to call their office once they didn’t response in my email for the next 5 working days. Fingers crossed, Viajeros!

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Mt. Pamitinan, January 2016.

*$1=Php47.76 (February 2016)

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