Monday, March 17, 2014

Asia's cleanest dam: Pantabangan

Baler is one of my most visited destination in the Philippines; And for every visit, I can't help but stare at Pantabangan Dam, and tell myself, I have got to find some time to visit this dam. 

I once attempted to visit this destination, but If I recall it right, I think I was led again to Baler, if not elsewhere. 

This weekend, while I was due to do the Bakun Trio climb in benguet, I was not feeling well for a 3peak weekend. Another travel friend Gen was inviting me too for an exploration climb in the town of Alfonso Castaneda (just nearby pantabangan), but when I checked out the elevation level of his mountain of interest, it was 2000masl (major climb); Thus, I requested pantabangan as an alternative, which he agreed.

We left manila at 12midnightt, and by 4:30, we were in pantabangan town proper. The town is dead asleep (not the usual rural areas whose elderlies wake up at early 3am to sweep, and cook, etc).

We walked towards Intang, that part of the dam with a port for fishing and dealers, as well as jump off point for employees of the power plant. 

The sun hasn't come up when we arrived, so the best we could do is ttake a nap. We looked for some plane to pitch our tent. 

At around 9am, I was awoken by the blow of the air. The tent was tilting at a low 30degrees. At the same time, the heat of the sun was striking directly at us. I woke up Gen too and said we better move to some other shaded parts of the dam where we can comfortably tie our hammocks. We asked some of the people there where it might be nice to do so, and we were pointed to the dam proper (if not in the resorts fronting the dam).

We walked back towards the town proper.   

After some breakfast, we decided to walk it to the dam proper. There were the fish vendors in the highway. The fishes were teasing.. then again, we just had breakfast from the same carinderia we dropped by in the morning. Had we seen these vendors ahead, we would have opted for them.

The fish vendor we spoke too was also offering service to the dam proper. He said he has a son who has a motorbike, and if we opt to, he can ask him to come over and drop us to the dam for P300. We said we didn't have money and lowered the offer to 200, but still, we thought we could just walk the distance (although, at the background, I knew we'll be able to hitchhike).

We walked toward the direction of the dam proper, and to my surprise, we got into this log house which I, again, every time I travel to baler, look forward to seeing. This time, I am right in the house... and, wohooo, it's a coffee shop, so the more than i can get inside and see. I ended up having a 3hour sit and talk with the daughters of the owner.

The sunlight is becoming cooler, it's 3pm, and we have got to move. We walked again to the highway's detour for the dam proper. 

We tried waiting for some truck so we can hitch, but they were all speeding single motorbikes. I asked Gen to pick his bag, and we'd walk a bit (and chance on getting someone to hitch us as they see us walking towards their destination). Then, it was a fail. We would have walked almost 2 kilometers and no one was stopping. I looked at the time and it doesn't seem like we'll get on time if we keep walking. The dam closes entry for visitors by 5pm, we only have less than an hour. I knew I gotta do somethiing. 

I heard a motorcyle approaching, positioned myself, and flagged it. I told him we will be visiting the dam, and we might not get in if we continue walking. Bingo! He gave us a ride. Instantly, we were in the dam. 

When he dropped us, I asked him if there's a chance he's going back. He said  he will, and that he'll only be doing a short talk and visit to his brother who lives in the vicinity of the dam. I asked him if he can pick us up, as were not really moving anywhere else but just take pictures from the same spot, he said he will. 

After some pictures, I noticed that some of the (perhaps) dam staff were looking at us, and kind of saying, please pack up it's time to leave. We readied our stuff, and notticed Mr Trike Driver just passed. Oh my.. 

There was no choice but to walk, but there was no reason to loose hope for there will be a lot more vehicles to pass. By the time we got to the gate, a jeep with  a few workers passed. We asked if we can hitch, and luckily, they agreed. In fact, not only did we hitch with them back to pantabangan proper, they happen to be on their way to cabanatuan too. In the end, we got the free ride to Cabanatuan. Saved a total of 400 pesos in this trip.

To get to Pantabangan, take the baler bound buses from Cubao. First trip leaves at 12mn, and because of the span of the trip, you might want to take the 3am trip. The fare to Intang from the town proper is P30/pax/way.

From town proper to the dam proper is P60/pax/way. 

Dam is open for visitors from 9am til 5pm. In intang, there are some households that offer boat service for fishing (bring your fishing rods though as they don't have it available).

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