Monday, September 26, 2011

Wawa Dam, Rizal: Experience Nature just an Hour away from the City

F has this dream of joining a social entrepreneurship program launch by British Council and he wants his adopted town to be the beneficiary (not his real hometown, its just he found a new family in the place thru an office mate and he loved the place from then on). He invited me along with another office mate to survey the place so we could gather information we can need to complete the feasibility study that's required for the project.

Located at Rodriquez, Rizal (formerly Montalban), Wawa Dam is a defunct but still streaming reservoir. After  work, the three of us meet up at Farmers Cubao and rode an FX van bound to Eastwood Residences. From the subdivision, we rode a tricycle going to our office mate's home which is at the entrance of the street going to the dam. We can ride a jeepney for a cheaper fare but it is too late so we decided to ride tricycle instead.

Fortunately, the house is indeed near the dam and the river. Our friend allow us to sleep in one of their bamboo room. From our room we could hear the sound of the flowing river.

After breakfast the next morning, we headed directly to explore the place. We first visited the river at the foot of our cottage and saw big white boulders at the other side of it. On the way, I noticed beautiful huge trees. They look enchanting somehow. I just wish they could be preserve longer.

We crossed a hanging bridge to get to the other side of the river. We even bumped some children heading to their school and they posed coyly but cute to our camera. We captured a wonderful photo of locals in their most contented, happy form- the children.

After taking tons of photos in the white boulders, we return to the original road going to the dam and detour again to climbed down and take more photos on the massive boulders near the dam. We tend to be very careful that day coz the current was so dangerous and just a couple of days ago, a mountaineer was missing in the river and until that day, he can't be found. Anyway, we managed to capture stunning photos of ourselves doing almost anything we could think on top of these rocks!

On our way to the Dam, we trekked stiff paths on the side of the mountain. Oh by the way, the mountains between the dam is the legendary mountain in the folklore of Bernardio Carpio, the giant that was sealed in the mountains and said that causes the shaking/earthquakes in the place.

But if you will ask me who inspire the legend of that Hercules-like hero of the folklore, I assured you that is was inspired by the locals of the place. Friend R and I were so busy taking pictures of the place when a boy, around age nine to twelve, carrying sacks of produce was forced to slow down or he will bump us. He slows down and hit the upper ceiling of the tunnel where we are and lose his balance. He stumbled and the sacks fell down, thankfully he was not hurt. I felt guilty that it was our fault so I helped him raised the sacks. Now here's the funny and amusing thing I discovered- the boy is carrying three regular size rice sacks; two contains taro stems and leaves (I am not sure if it contains taro tubers coz I don't see some but its too heavy for just stems and leaves) and one contains good quality charcoal.

Why is it shocking? I could barely moved the taro sack and never pushed the charcoal sack an inch from its location. The sacks were SO HEAVY! Literally HEAVY- and he his carrying them in his shoulder, all three sacks!! HOW IS THAT POSSIBLE???? I am so blown away, I told the lad he's like an ant capable of carrying weight double or triple than his own. Oh, he never responded. I think he never understand my scientific comparison or he was pissed off that we bothered him a lot. We could not tie back the sacks so he just carry them one by one from that point of the trail. Still, I could not get comprehend how he managed to carry those sacks and balance on the stiff bridges.

We trekked the side of the mountain, take photos left and right, make mental note of information we need for our feasibility study. When we arrived at the watch tower of the dam, the water is raging. That is not what I picture in my mind when we are planning the trip weeks ago. Friend F said that during a typical day when the river is calm, the dam looks like a waterfall and  tourists can sit at the lower part of it and enjoy the soft cascading water coming from the river on top. Somehow later that day, I understand what the river wants to inform us- that it is its power and people should learn to understand and respect it if we want to enjoy it.

We found a balsa on the side of the river and locals allow us to sit on it. I am a nature lover and it is my routine to ask permission to nature to explore it and pray to God for guidance and safety. For the whole day, the area was monitored by media and rescue workers because of the missing mountaineer, I felt secured that we are being monitored as well. Though, I still uttered my regular prayer. But this time its kinda different coz I want to exercise what my religious ministry thought us weeks ago. Please allow me to share this part, its my blog anyway. That day, I uttered a different style of prayer. Its my first time to do it, so I hope it is worth mentioning here. My religious ministry said that through God we could move mountains. I thought why not command a river. I am half joking here coz I never think like that before but I said why not try coz my intention is good. I will just do it swift and silently.

While my friends were playing and enjoying the cold river water, I uttered my prayer silently and not obvious. I just place my hands in the water like I am playing but I am really praying. I am worried my friends might laugh out loud when they hear me or I might freak them out. Here's the content of my first unique prayer.  

        "River, I admire your beauty, I adore your resilient and I respect the power you are portraying today. But I want people to remember you as a wonderful river where happy memories happened. In God's name I command you to return to surface the man that you take. You don't need him in your basin. Return him to surface and promise never again to take life that could stain your image. One more thing, allow us to explore your place so I could be able to write article about you in my blog. Oh, I'll bring you more visitor by summer, is that a deal? Amen".  (Swoosh, I jumped in the water.)

We are able to cross the river by helping one another (river is shallow in that area but the current is so fast) and into the islet of stone in the middle where are are able to take photos like we are in the center of the two mountains. We only learned about the legend of Bernardo Carpio later that day. If we learned it earlier, maybe we could somehow have a pose like him pushing the mountains in opposite direction.

There are houses with stores along the river so food won't be a problem. There are also remaining deep wells. We want to make the most of our time so we follow the river until we reached the area where two rivers meet. It is the reason why the water is so powerful downstream. This part of the river is deep so we need to cross by riding a banca. We meet a local man that manned the banca and he cross us to the other side. He even allow his young son to accompany us to a better place where there are real cascades. A few minutes of walking and struggling over powerful currents, we reached a better area. The place with its powerful cascades is like a hydro massage. My friends enjoy the water, lay down there and allow the water to massage them. No one was there except us and some few locals coming from the mountain that brings their produce in the town.

The day ends well. We are rejuvenated. As for me, I am happy coz I have an additional entry to write in this blog. I was able to command the river though prayer (first time), I meet lots of kids that give me genuine smiles, I bumped a child that has a physical strength like of a folklore hero of his hometown and a powerful heart that wants to help his family survive. Lastly, to be able to accompany a friend that has a dream of creating a change for this community.

1. Friend F pursues his application for the social entrepreneurship program. He visualize a souvenir shop made of bamboo for the mountaineers and tourist of the town.
2. The mountaineer was found the following day, three days after he was reported missing. Though the event is still tragic, I am relief that my prayer for his body recovery was heard. I could sense there are lot of people  praying for him.

Suggestions for Locals of the place and its Local Government:
1. Avoid throwing garbage in the river. Preserve your place.
2. Though the dam is no longer useful as a reservoir, consider it a tourist attraction of your place. Fixed the watch tower and  bridges for locals and tourists safety.
3. Avoid vandalism on the boulders.
4. Protect your mountains coz it is one of the attraction of your place. It is also for your own safety.You are surrounded by mountains, remember? Landslide is always possible in a mountain with no more trees.
5. Say no to Too Much Mining.
6. Promote your place. You have the nearest mountains in the metro.

Product of the Place:
1. Bamboo: Get the fence for your zen-garden here at a very cheap price.
2. Charcoal: Good quality charcoal for market vendor of the said product. Folks here make the charcoal and packed them as well. Offer wholesale or retail.
3. Get freshest harvest here. e.g. pomelo,guava, taro stems and leaves, banana and other vegetables and fruits.
4. Manpower: Folks here are good in making resort cottages, bamboo cottages for beaches.

How to Get There:
1. From Cubao Farmers Market, ride an FX van going to Eastwood Residences (terminal beside Jollibee) Fare: Php50.00
2. Drop at Eastwood Residences, ride a jeepney going to Wawa Fare: Php 8.00 or tricycle Php10.00 each.

People visit the place typically to climb mountains or visit the dam. If you want to stay at my friends place for an overnight coz they do offer their cottage, please feel free to contact me. However, food is not part of the service. Advice to bring your own food or ask if you can rent a stove. I will give your details to them and its their discretion to accepts or rejects your inquiry. Its a private home, not a hotel. There is a small market in the place and several stores.

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