Tuesday, February 7, 2012

A class field trip to the Wawa Dam in Montalban, Rizal

A class field trip to the Wawa Dam in Montalban, Rizal
A lesson on tourism, history, social concern, and journalism.
words and pics by rick olivares

Where art thou, Bernardo Carpio?

In my journalism class, I try to make writing fun for my students by presenting topics that appeal to their taste buds and sense of adventure. Sometimes I make the classes issue-oriented. I don’t believe in forcing them to write. I will get far better results by having them write about things that are relevant.

One of our topics has been history, tourism and geography. We initially wanted to go to Corregidor but it was pricey for the students. I tried to get a discount but the travel agency that handles the tours on the Rock never got back to me after they said they would.

While talking to my dad about it, he suggested going to Wawa Dam which isn’t really too far yet isn’t much of a tourist spot. It also carries with is a special significance owing to the legend of Bernardio Carpio and that the nearby caves were used by Andres Bonifacio’s Katipunan.  

After a couple of postponements, we finally got to do it today, Tuesday, February 7, 2012 since it was also a holiday in Ateneo (President’s Day). The field trip was always considered to be “extra work” and “optional” but would help the other catch up on their grades.

We left Ateneo around 930am, 30 minutes later than we would have liked since Stu Balmaceda was late (hahaha). It took us about 45 minutes to get there as there was a little traffic owing to road construction.

Once we got there, I wasn’t sure if we arrived in some quarry because of all these massive marble boulders everywhere. But we were finally here.

I had to register first at the local tourism office where they assigned us a guide named Michael. Since it was a Tuesday morning as they mostly get their tourists on weekends, we had the place for ourselves (aside from the locals) and that was just fine.

One of the first things we noticed were the locals carrying huge sacks of coal and vegetables down the mountain to sell in the markets of Metro Manila. Busy day, I chuckled. There is money to be made.

We took shots of the stone that is said to be the footprint of the mythological Bernardo Carpio, a giant of a man who was trapped between two mountains and was trying to break free of them. As the folklore goes, when there is an earthquake, Bernardo Carpio is said to be trying to free himself.

The rocks that are said to belong to the mythological Bernardo Carpio. 
Aimee, Bea & Meg at the watchtower.
Then we went up the dam’s old watchtower that was built by the American Colonial government in 1909. The watchtower was used by Japanese forces during World War II but has since been stripped of all hardware. Most of the effects of the war have been scuffed away but our guide said that there are still a few nicks on the watchtower here from bullets. Up to the last decade, it was still common to find pieces from fallen warplanes or even munitions.

The Wawa Dam used to supply Metro Manila with water until the (Angat) La Mesa Dam was built to replace it in 1967.

The reservoir because of years of disuse and lack of maintenance is green from the moss and siltation. Below the dam are now cottages for tourist use (Php150 for the whole day). They sell beer in a nearby sari sari store and it must be a unique way to booze away.

Wawa Dam.
According to Michael, there are plans to revive the dam, to build a cable car, and to beauty the area. I sure hope so because I find it to be a colossal waste of resources as the fresh water that comes from the mountains is used as a bathing area for the locals. I inquired about the locals using the river as a dumping ground and Michael said that they mindful of further polluting the river. He hesitated for a few minutes before answering so I am not sure if he has told me the whole truth. And the path up to the dam is littered with trash. The watchtower has its share of graffiti. So much for conservation. I shook my head in disappointment.

Stef, Bea, Meg, Robi and Anne on the raft to the other side so we could go to the cave.
We took a few minutes rest at the tourist office while Michael scrounged around for flashlights as we were going to the cave -- called Pamintinan -- that was used as a hideout first by the Katipunan (during the Revolutionary War) then later by the Japanese (WWII).

We took a raft (Php100 per trip back and forth) that took about a minute for us to cross to the other side. Since there were 10 of us, that meant two trips.

From there, we had to do a little climbing to get up to an observation deck at the entrance of the cave.
The entrance to Pamintinan cave.

We prayed first before we entered the cave – for those who perished inside and in the surrounding areas during the wartime. Once inside the air became a little stale. The flooring was uneven and rocky. The flashlights and hardhats (rental fee is PhP50 each) came in handy because the last thing we needed was someone to bang their head against the rocks.

The walls and the ceiling were damp with water seeping through. After walking for about 30 minutes, we decided to turn back. It was too dark and the mud was really causing problems with our footwear. Our best advice, wear strong and thick sandals or rubber shoes because the mud will ruin everything else.

We were done past 130pm and drove back to Ateneo.

I thought it was a fun day for the class (even if only nine of my students – Robi Non, Meg Rementina, Aimee Dacanay, Stef Martschei, Bea Ocampo, Chris de Chavez, Denise Jose, Anne Malicdem, and Stu Balmaceda not to mention my comrade in arms Brosi Gonzales made it). The idea was to awaken a sense of adventure especially for local tourism, to get a better grip on Philippine history, and to introduce a sense of awareness about social issues that plague our country. All that and to write about it.

As for this old dog, it’s never too late to learn new tricks. It was a day well spent.

With Stef and Anne after our "rafting."

Check out my students' group blogs here:
Aimee Dacanay and Robi Non

Chris deChavez, Bea Ocampo, and Anne Malicdem

Meg Rementina

Stef Martschei and Stu Balmaceda

Denise Jose

and some videos that I took:

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