Monday, December 7, 2009

The Rizal Province Leg of the Laguna Lake Trip

Professor Nori Palarca, who teaches the Landforms and Countryside Landscape graduate subjects in UP Architecture proposed a Laguna Lake loop field trip to visit various landmarks and landforms pertinent as landscape examples to their course outlines. As a result the 2 classes convened at 6:30 AM on a Sunday and boarded a small coaster, then commenced following a supposedly easy route around Laguna de Bay (but which suprisingly a few people ever follow). Though I am not part of that class I took the opportunity to join them, serving as photographer, space filler, tour guide, entertainer and vehicle counterweight.

They went on a clockwise direction starting with the towns in nearby Rizal Province. At 7:30 AM we reached the first destination on their prepared list, Hinulugang Taktak in Antipolo. This is the once famous waterfall, the Prime tourist spot of Old Antipolo. But now it is reduced to a sorry state with floating garbage and dirty water. As we made our descent down the steep steps leading to the waterfall valley, Prof. Palarca explained how this once beautiful resource reached its present state of degradation. Since the waterfall is downstream of Antipolo town proper, the refuse coming from human habitation has rendered the once beautiful resource into an environmental problem. Now Hinulugang taktak's visual resource potential is significantly lessened. Feeling a bit distraught of what we saw and learned, we left Hinulugang Taktak and headed for destination no. 2 at the outskirts of the town.

Following the Ortigas Avenue extension we reached the border of Antipolo leading to the next town of Teresa. There came to view our next intended landform. The peaks bordering Teresa town has long been the site for mining activities. They excavate large amounts of marble (the famous Teresa marble) and limestone (for manufacturing cement) at prominent portions of the slopes. As a result the adjacent mountains were left scarred with the wear and tear of the industry. The visual value of that resource was greatly diminished. We continued on leaving Teresa at a sad note, hoping to find better light in our next stop.

We moved through the towns of Baras and Morong, finally making a left turn at a Tanay intersection with a signange saying 'This way to Daranak Falls'. The path ascended to steeper elevation and we followed the way up up up. After a few kilometers we made another left turn and started to go downhill to the perceived valley of the two adjacent waterfalls, Daranak and Batlag. The road was rugged, flanked with a better vegetation cover than Hinulugang Taktak, a welcome change to the negative environmental conditions we saw in our first 2 destinations. The coaster braved a couple of minutes of dirt and potholes before making a halt. We all disembarked and continued on foot, crossing a long bamboo bridge and a rocky river, before finally getting a glimpse of Daranak Falls.

Surprisingly for a first time visitor like me, Daranak Falls water column rests on a shoulder of wide bare rock and falls into a basin of clear shallow water. Its sister falls, Batlag is in the same condition. But communities have started to sprout in the adjacent areas and the peripheries giving the apparent danger of exploitation, like in Hinulugang Taktak. We hope that Daranak and Batlag would stay a little more inaccessible to people to keep it naturally clean and beautiful for a longer time. We left both falls, hopeful that when we do get to return, we'll still find them in the same state.

We reached destination 4 a little before lunch. It was the look out point on the national highway, on the outskirts of Pililia. Here we could see the extents and boundaries of the whole Laguna de Bay. Though the mix of natural and developed areas was tilting towards the latter, the view was still awesome and breathtaking. Any landscape development in this area would still make use of the visual resource. But additional landscape and architecture should blend into the sight and not further hinder or block visual access. After rejuvenating with the picturesque view and a quick snack of quail eggs from vendors, we headed for the Laguna leg, and the second part, of our trip.

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