A Day in Wawa

When I visited a friend blogger in San Mateo after the Ondoy floods I was told that Montalban is just two rides away. I thought it would be great idea to go there then, if ever I wander around the area. Coming from South Metro, the trip to Montalban is a long one. I’m not too fond of trips to EDSA. The other route, through Laguna, is longer so that option is out. It took me more or less an hour just to Gotesco where I can ride a jeep headed to Mely, then San Rafael, then ride a jeep to Wawa – where the road ends.

Along the way I saw flattened hills courtesy of the busy quarrying around the area. There were enormous dump trucks loaded with excavated stones. At the rate of how they’re operating I wonder if there would be anything left in the next 100 years. The mud that filled the houses and swept people during the great flood was said to have come from these vast quarry fields.

The popular legend of Bernardo Carpio came from Montalban. It tells a story of a colossal man chained in the in Sierra Madre. It is said that whenever he attempts to free himself earth trembles. This folk belief which is one of the Tagalogs enduring legends actually came from a Spanish lore.

The Pamintan cave was said to have been Bonifacio’s hide out for sometime. Whether Bonifacio believes the legend of Bernardo Carpio is another question. I read from somewhere  that he went to Wawa looking for Bernardo Carpio which is kind of ridiculous – but we have to understand that some of our heroes are supernatural believers, so the story no matter how crazy it sounds could also be true. But written accounts points to the reason that he went there to seek refuge and survive. If he had stayed in Morong and declined the invitation from the Cavitenos to meddle in their politics he would have not been caught in the political mess that was the Magdiwang and Magdalo relations. Most of the larger caves in the area were occupied by the Japanese during the war. There is a Japanese iron plate commemorating their service for their country. I’m no fan of caves – they scare me like hell. Though I visited some in the past, I never got caught up with the spelunking hype. I’m sure its beautiful but it’s not just my idea of fun. And I call myself nature lover.

Large limestones weathered by the steady flow of water provides a perfect backdrop for some nature observation. I can easily spend a day in Wawa  and time flew fast — the whole place was such a treat to see. Since I’m into cataloging local wildlife, I really had a great time and I’m already planning a trip back.

Wawa Dam is situated at the foothill of the Sierra Madre Mountains. Despite the shanties and the backyard industries on the river bank, it is still a fascinating place to explore.The American created the dam in the early 1900’s and has long fallen victim to vandals. If only the government would have the imagination to create opportunities for tourism in the area it would definitely attract both local and foreign tourists. Wawa is inhabited by small communities, not indigenous but low landers. Some of them has been living along the shores of the reserve for decades. These people make their living from selling uling and whatever they could get in the area to sell. I was amazed to find a sari sari store right beside the old structure that was built before to monitor the dam.

These are really poor families. It’s easy for us to look at the option of getting rid of them as a solution. There must be programs in place to aid them and ensure continuity of all the basic social-welfare benefits until they recover in their new homes – that is if there are indeed plans to move them. One of the reasons why relocation has been a problem is that there is no programs that would allow the poor people to support their families. We can get  them out but they would just come back because the underlying problem is not treated. Same thing with this reproductive bill issue – the reason why our poor kababayans are poor is not because they have big families but because they don’t have work and if they do, it does not pay well. This is a question of economic development not of the poor people’s ignorance. Its like the old excuse that the government doesn’t have the money but we hear staggering figures being pocketed by the corrupt politicians.

Another issue that has been around for years is why the dam is has not been used. Wawa is still a viable source which could provide 50 million liters of water. The structure is still in place and the only reason why its ignored is, well,  politics. Calls to develop it has fallen in deaf ears because of conflicting interest. In fairness to the group that owns the right, they’re willing to compromise, invest on improving and making the dam work again, but the government ignores them.

Bird trapping is also a livelihood around the nature reserve. I met a man who trap birds for a living – he has this clever contraption that has a Bato-Bato inside. This bird, a specie of the Mourning Dove, has a distinctive plaintive sound that attracts  others to the trap – of course, the poor dove is not aware that its leading his friends to trouble. Believe it or not, very little is known of the breeding and nesting behavior of these birds. Its sad to see that we have countrymen who do this for a livelihood.

Along the banks I also found a man using electricity to catch fish. I’ve seen it on tv but this was the first time I ever saw someone catch fish using electric rods. Inside his net bag is a dalag, hito and bulig. There were also groups (they said they were from Marikina) that uses airguns. They were very skillful. I’m not sure if a government agency is watching over these communities. All these human activities must be controlled to lessen its effect on the environment.

19 September 2010


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