Monday, January 16, 2012

Bernardo Carpio's Lair

Wawa Dam
My able guide companions
View of Mt. Pamitinan 
My mom used to tell me stories that in the past, they often go on excursions to Montalban in Rizal.   My sisters could recall going there but personally I could not remember ever setting foot in the waters of the famous Wawa dam, so it has always been a puzzle to me what it looks like. Last Thursday night I was asked by a few friends to join them on a trip to see the vegetation growing in the vicinity of Pamitinan Cave near Wawa Dam.  I said yes because I was curious of the place.

The white limestone geology of the Montalban gorge
On a Saturday morning we braved going to Rodriguez, formerly Montalban, in Rizal, to check out Wawa. I was with fellow plant enthusiasts Noel, Anthony and ace botanist Ulysses Ferreras.  Among us four, I was the only first timer to the place.  My companions gave me a quick tour of the area with Uly, a Rodriguez resident, serving as guide.  He gave a run down of sights in the site, starting from the rock quarries to of course the Wawa valley. He pointed out that this is legendary place where Bernardo Carpio stood in between two great rocks.

The Montalban gorge
The banks flanked by large acacia trees
Native Begonia
There are many versions of the legend.  I am not sure which is the true and most accurate.  What is relatively in all of them is that Bernardo Carpio, possessing great strength, stood in the Montalban gorge to prevent the two great rocks from crashing into each other. Uly was pointing out that there is a stone on the valley which is proof where Bernardo stood.  The hero even left his mark, his footprint.  I did not get the opportunity to go down at water level to see the rock bearing Bernardo Carpio's print.

Flowering Sterculia symbolizes hope for old flora
Impatiens montalbanica id'd by Uly
Leea sp.

The famous legend aside, it is refreshing to see that years after the story's time frame, the two rocks - which are actually two mountains - is a stronghold of greenery in the area. The geology of the surrounding peaks, Uly says, is limestone.  It means that the area was thousands of years ago was once under water. Like any limestone formation, trees would have a harder time to get a foothold. Thus if you cut the trees growing in the limestone forest, it will be harder to regenerate them. Another dilemma is that foreign species like Samanea saman (acacia), Leucaena leucocephala (ipil-ipil) and Swietenia macrophylla (mahogany) are becoming common in the area, replacing the old natives.

Hypoestes also id'd by Uly
But in the fringes,we found some natives surviving. They grow in between the newcomers, but quite healthy and even flowering. There were even reports that rare birds species still frequent the area tucked in the remaining native vegetation. Uly talked with PASU Susie de Belen to propagate more of the natives.  She promised to do so if she could get hold of native seedlings.       

1 comment:

Harold Jordan said...

Hi, I just went to the place last weekend. Though I have been there a couple of times, it was only weekend that some kid offered to sell me turtles. Are you familiar what kind of turtle is it? I looks like a Malaysian soft shell so am not sure if its endemic or was it just introduced.