I have just spent most of my day in the Pamitinan Protected Landscape. I bet most of you don't know this place I am talking about. After my day there, I am quite shocked to know that most Manila and Quezon City-based folks, myself included, have been going around not knowing of this beautiful and historic place!
Miss Meyan of the Gaia Exploration Club (GEC) invited members of the Wild Bird Club of the Philippines to go birding in the site to do a bird survey and some caving afterwards. Joining us were the protected area superintendent, representatives from the Department of Environment and Natural Resources and some local barangay officials. Even in the early pre-dawn rain, our group drove to Rodriguez, Rizal (formerly Montalban) to discover and re-discover (for some of us) the place.
Approximately an hour's drive away from the Quezon Memorial Circle, the Pamitinan Protected Landscape includes the sites of the Wawa Dam, the Montalban Gorge and the Pamitinan Cave. We were greeted with mist-covered mountains as we parked our convoy at the entrance to the trails. Here you can already see large, white limestone rocks and a short walk reveals a rushing river coming from the dam.
We were met by the rest of our party at the parking area and after giving a brief introduction to birdwatching, we made our way up the trail. The dam greeted us with the loud sound of falling water pouring into a ravine. The Wawa Dam was built by the American's in 1903 and became operational in 1909 where it used to supply water to nearby places. The dam was closed in the early 1960's and its services were replaced by the much larger La Mesa Dam.
|The Wawa Dam|
Past the dam and the almost deafening sound of the water, the surroundings suddenly become quiet and the trail opens up into the riverbanks. As one looks back at the dam, you can now see more clearly the Montalban Gorge. This narrow valley is the origin of the Philippine legend of Bernardo Carpio, who is said to be trapped in between the mountains (or holding them apart ala-Atlas) and is the cause of earthquakes.
|The Montalban Gorge|
Houses line the side of the trail but the opposite side remains mostly uninhabited and we could hear coucals and tailorbirds calling from the trees. Some of us saw a small flock of Elegant Tits in the area.
|Birding along the trail|
Along the trail, we saw an Indigo-banded Kingfisher, seemingly undisturbed by nearby human activity. We also saw a Common Kingfisher and a White-throated Kingfisher.
|A male Indigo-banded Kingfisher|
Even though there were quite a number of houses along the trail, we were able to see some Scale-feathered Malkohas and an immature Crested Serpent Eagle in their backyard trees! Also seen in a mixed flock were pretty Elegant Tits, Black-naped Monarchs and even a Purple-throated Sunbird!
|Immature Crested Serpent Eagle|
After more than two hours birding, our group walked back to the parking lot where most of us would be getting ready for their caving adventure in the Pamitinan Cave. This cave, one of the many in the area, is the site where Andres Bonifacio and seven other Katipuneros met way back in 1895, inscribed their names on the walls and formalized their fight for Philippine independence. As a teacher, I wondered why schools don't conduct their field trips here. Students don't (and shouldn't) have to go inside the caves. They only need to see for themselves how far the revolution reached and how real it was by seeing this concrete piece of our history.
|Two cave openings seen just by the entrance, before the dam|
I personally chickened out and didn't join the group of brave birder-cavers (yes, I admit it.) But hearing their stories and seeing some of their photos from inside the cave was enough of a caving experience for me. =)
After having lunch and drawing up our bird list, we said our thanks and goodbyes to the friendly people who accompanied us in our Wawa Dam adventure. We will definitely be back and are planning to stay a whole day birding.!
To bird and/or go caving in the Pamitinan Protected Landscape, one must secure a permit from their Tourism Office. Send me a message if interested. It's worth exploring!