Early Saturday both Grace and I met up with Fredd and his UPM colleagues at the MWSS compound in Old Balara. Apparently this trip to Ipo Dam was a joint undertaking between UPM, Manila Waters and volunteer employees of Procter and Gamble. We were surprised to find the P&G contingent headed by no less than Everest veteran Romy Garduce. I learned that Garduce has long been a P& G employee himself and has organized an EKO adventure group among his coemployees. This Ipo trip was their latest conquest. After Fredd has given us a rundown of what to expect, river crossing, hiking, little climbing, my less adventurous heart kept on nervously pounding.
At about 8 in the morning we boarded 2 Manila Waters Canter Vans and made our way to Ipo. It took an almost 2 hour ride coming from Diliman to the watershed, passing thru La Mesa, Novaliches, San Jose del Monte and Norzagaray in Bulacan. Finally, at around 10 am we descended down the waterway ravine of Ipo and caught glimpse of the dam, which actually collects diverted water from Angat River (coming from Aurora and Quezon) and transfers them to subterranean pipes leading to the Lamesa basin and finally the households of Manila.
Upon reaching the dam structure we immediately put on life vests, crossed the dam rim and embarked on fishermen’s bancas for a 20 minute boat ride to the reforestation site. We were all thankful there is a light overcast of clouds, sparing us from the basking heat in open water, leaving us to fully enjoy the sights of the site. The water rim was high eating up the base of existing vegetation. My neck elongated and my eyes were forced to a squint trying to get a glimpse of the plant species existing in the banks. It was surprising that there is impressive plant cover but we were told that the deforestation is not visible from the river.
After a few kilometers of uninterrupted forest view we reached the reforestation site and we were greeted by signs of human habitation. For one there is a banca port leading to a few shanties and ultimately, a sari-sari store. Children were playing along the banks if not bathing in the semi clear water. As expected the parts near the habituated area had identifiable species, mango, cashew, commercial teak, dayap, papaya, cassava, domesticated banana, acacia; all these are alarmingly non-native species. But luckily the area was still wooded with a good portion of native trees. Grace and I were relegated to picture documentation of the event but more importantly, the existing species of native trees and shrubs. UPM has been reforesting the site mainly with narra seedlings. Documenting some of the other native trees would aid in knowing what other species to throw in the mix.