A weekend warrior is always on the lookout for a quick escape away from the city. Good thing there’s one province near Manila that answers my weekly itch to travel: the province of Rizal.
Rizal Province caters to all kinds of wanderers and adventurers. It has places for art and history appreciation, mountains to conquer, rivers and falls to take a plunge in, and a fiesta when you can celebrate in the streets.
Getting to the towns of Rizal is easy because there are known public transport terminals in Star Mall, Shaw Blvd and in Farmers Mall, Cubao. There are also UV Express vans and jeepneys along Aurora Blvd. and Maine Street in Cubao. So get your map ready and pin your next destinations in Rizal.
1. Mt. Pamitinan
Mt. Pamitinan is just one of the four mountains in Brgy. Wawa area. The other three is Mt. Hapunang Banoi, Mt. Binacayan, and Mt. Ayaas. Because of the proximity of these mountains, one will see almost the same panoramic view of the barangay. However, Pamitinan is a better choice for having two popular photo op spots in one go. You can take a mandatory “conquered summit” snapshot at the top or for extra bravery points, a rock platform shot like this
The challenge in climbing this mountain is as you get nearer to the summit, it requires scrambling over limestones that can get hot from the sun or slippery after it has rained. Guides are definitely recommended for beginners and are available when you register and pay a donation fee (for the lack of a better term). There is also a “7-12” (yes, twelve) store there if you need to buy refreshments.
2. Pinto Art Museum
Situated in Antipolo, Silangan Gardens’ Pinto Art Museum showcases contemporary masterpieces of Filipino artists. The art gallery is also the home of an organization called Silangan Foundation for Arts, Culture and Ecology. Within this hectare land is a museum complex comprising a number of gallery sections of different themes and different art forms featuring paintings, metal and wooden sculptures, and other mixed media.
There is also a restaurant, a chapel and a small pond at the gardens. It has a swimming pool, too. Because of its picturesque features, it’s not surprising that several photo shoots had been done and photography meetups organized in Pinto Art Museum.
The museum complex is notable for its whitewashed walls, large open spaces, and open-air ventilation that can be attributed from Spanish and Mediterranean styles.
3. Higantes Festival
Every 23rd of November, Angono comes alive as a hundred Higantes or giant paper-mache puppets are paraded down the streets. Some of them are as tall as 12 feet! The joyous festival also coincides with the feast day of San Clemente, the town’s patron saint of fishermen.
Legend has it that the first giant was made by Angono peasants in mockery of their imposing Spanish landlord. Since then, these enormous figures have taken on many other characters and are now associated with cheer and festivities. The tradition of Higantes-making is kept alive by local artists and art groups.
4. Angono Petroglyphs Site Museum
Petroglyphs are images found on the rock surface. These images are not drawn or painted, but rather engraved or carved. More than a hundred human and animal petroglyphs have been found on one rock wall in Angono which can be traced back during the Neolithic times. These petroglyphs were discovered by the late National Artist Carlos “Botong” Francisco.
In 1973, the site was declared by the National Museum of the Philippines as a National Cultural Treasure. As of writing, the site is undergoing rehabilitation and is closed to the public.
5. Binangonan, Rizal
One possible side trip (and it is free!) if you’re headed to the Angono Petroglyphs Site Museum is a hill near Thunderbird Resorts in Binangonan overlooking Laguna de Bay. Due to the elevation of towns of Rizal, there are other similar viewing decks that offer a clear view of the Metro Manila skyline.
6. Tinipak River
Regarded as the cleanest river in the region, Tinipak River in Daraitan, Tanay, Rizal is worth the long commute. Going to the river from Manila requires seemingly endless transfers on public transportation like FX, jeepney (top load yay!), tricycle, and raft.
The trek itself to the white wall and rock formations is relatively easy. Parts of the trail have already been cemented and wooden bridges had been constructed. You will know that you have reached the end of the trek when your jaws finally drop due to the natural weathering beauty of these rock formations and the soothing sound of river flow. You can choose to go spelunking and see the natural swimming pool inside the cave.
7. Daranak and Batlag Falls
Daranak and Batlag are two falls located in Tanay. A 5-minute walk separates the two. Despite its close distance, each has distinct qualities. Daranak is known for its jade waters with platforms suitable for cliff diving and larger basin to accommodate a lot of swimmers.
Batlag is serene, less crowded with people but populated with more trees and vines. One reason for the lower visitor count is the additional entrance fee. Batlag is the setting for Engcansia world of the hit Okey Ka Fairy Ko movie franchise.
8. Wawa Dam
Legend has it that there once was a man with incredible strength named Bernardo Carpio. He grew up in San Mateo, Rizal and was in active rebellion against the Spanish conquistadors. The Spaniards saw him as a great threat and sought the help of an engkantado to capture him. They lured him towards a cave in Montalban and trapped him between two boulders. Bernardo’s struggle to escape caused earthquakes that created the Wawa Dam.
Despite the abandonment of Wawa Dam or Montalban as a functional water source for Manila, it is open to public and is a park for those who seek escape from the busy metropolitan.
The trek to the actual dam is relatively easy due to the cemented pathway. The elevation of the path also gives the visitor a better view of the river and white boulder between the river banks. At the end of the trail is a viewing deck of the gravity dam.