When traveling is a hobby, one should be open to different possibilities. The prospects of having a great travel adventure is a matter of perspective as most adventures may come out the way we planned it to be while some may take a different turn. In one way or the other, it is all about looking into the positives during the trip rather than the “what-is-not-there”.
Having nothing to do on the last Sunday of April, I was looking for a quick escape from the heat of the city. After looking into possible destinations, I decided that Wawa Dam was a good destination to check out because of its proximity from the city. And judging from the pictures and blogs, it seemed to be great place to escape the summer heat.
Built in 1909, Wawa Dam was a water source for Manila residents. It was built along the Wawa Gorge – a gorge made famous by the local folklore “Bernardo Carpio”. Legend says that the gorge was created after a giant, “Bernardo Carpio”, freed himself from a large stones that resulted to this gap along the Sierra Madre Range. The dam used to be the only water source of Manila which was later abandoned after Angat Dam was built as a water source of the Metro.
The one hour ride from Cubao to Montalban does not offer much as it was just like your traveling in the Manila area. You only start to get the rural feel once you get to Montalban. From the town center, one has the option to take a trike or the jeepney to the drop-off point of Wawa Dam.
The jump-off point is not hard to miss with all the food and souvenir stalls that line the pathway that leads to the dam. Interestingly, the place was buzzing with activities – karaoke blasting on the side, the food vendors attending to visitors, locals peddling their wares, and guests getting in and out of the place. I knew then that it was a Sunday destination for quite a number of families and individuals.
The stalls and the noise blasting from the videokes was not something that I appreciated when I got to jump-off point of the dam. It gave me an impression that the local government had no form of management on the locals who wanted to take the opportunity to earn a living from this tourist spot. Do not get me wrong, I am a strong advocate of getting locals involved in tourism for them to earn a decent living from it but regulations are needed to preserve the beauty of the spot. I still believe that the government and the locals need to work hand in hand to promote sustainable tourism.
My initial disappointment slowly diminished after we started out on the pathway leading to the actual dam. Although it became evident to me that the place was not well-maintained, the sights along the stream or riverbed was definitely worth enjoying. The white rock formations were magnificent to see as it gave contrast to the lush greeneries on the mountainside. With the exception of a couple of picnic huts that dot the riverbed, the rustic view of the mountains and riverbed was well-worth it.
A pathway was carved out of the mountainside that leads directly to the dam, complete with tunnels. But I guess when the dam was de-commissioned, the maintenance was also decommissioned and the facility was left to the mercy of nature and human interference. Years of neglect and abuse can be seen as you walk along the path with walls being vandalized, garbage not properly being disposed, and metal rails and bridges that might give in anytime.
As I heard the roaring waters from the dam, I really got excited as this was the reason why we were there. I imagined myself having a nice picnic lunch with my family while enjoying the rush of cold water on our feet. I was excited to finally get to read while enjoying the breeze and the sound of water surrounding me.
As we got nearer, the view of the dam with water flowing down to the picnic huts below was just magnificent. Never mind the neglect that this place endured, the sight was just something that I had to enjoy. I could see people enjoying the waters as it trickled down the slope of Wawa Dam. It was a beauty on its own. I was excited myself to dip my feet on its cool waters.
However, we came in on a Sunday and the place was just filled with families and friends who were also taking on the opportunity to enjoy its cool waters. So we had to skip the spot that we wanted and worked our way further upstream. Reality sunk in that there were just far too many people that visit the place. Behind the walls of Wawa Dam were layers and layers of nipa cottages that locals had set-up – a source of income for them. The web of cottages on stilts were far too many that I think it is already damaging to the environment and the waters of the dam.
The huge crowd, the garbage strewn around the place, and the uninviting waters of the dam dampened our moods to take a dip. It didn’t also help that irresponsible visitors spit and even peed in its waters, without due consideration that kids were swimming just a few steps away. We did manage to soak our legs and feet for a while before settling down for lunch and just enjoy the breeze.
After lunch, I decided to walk around the area to take pictures. I was captivated by the landscape around Wawa Dam. Beyond its walls are lush greens that was refreshing to see. I enjoyed capturing rustic photos of nature, visitors, and locals. I guess the biggest consolation that we got from the quick trip was enjoying the refreshing breeze that blew over the area. It was a cool respite from the summer heat.
Post Travel Notes:
As we headed back to the city after an afternoon visit in Wawa Dam, I had mixed emotions for the place. The natural beauty of the dam and its immediate surroundings cannot be questioned. The dam structures are of historical value. However, the neglect that it suffered after it was decommissioned and poor tourism management of Wawa Dam is contributing to the slow deterioration of this tourism spot in Rodriguez, Rizal.
I seriously think that the local government should work hand-in-hand with the locals in the area for a sustainable tourism plan for Wawa Dam. A plan that will sustain the ecosystem of the surrounding areas and its watershed and the preservation of its historical structures. A firm regulation for visitors should be enforced in the area especially on cleanliness and sanitation. In the same way, visitors should be responsible enough to ensure that they keep the place clean and tidy so that everyone gets to enjoy the beauty of Wawa Dam.
Getting there: One can take a Rodriguez or Montalban FX or jeep along Aurora Boulevard in Cubao, Quezon City. One-way FX fare is at Php50. From Rodriguez proper, take a jeep (fare at Php8) or trike (fare at Php10) to the jump-off point of Wawa Dam. A 15-minute walk from the jump-off point will bring you to the ruins of Wawa Dam. Travel time is about an hour or two depending on the traffic.
Marc del Rosario
I believe in education, entrepreneurship, and caring for the environment.