Gone for the weekend: RIZAL PROVINCE
by The Pinoy Rider
Right at the doorsteps of Metro Manila and nestled at the southern end of the Sierra Madre, Rizal holds many secret natural and cultural treasures – from its seemingly endless zigzag roads, to alluring waterfalls and stunning rock formations, Spanish-era churches to 5 thousand year-old artworks (No kidding! Read on to find out what it is) and a passionate dedication to arts- the Province of Rizal truly has a whole lot more to offer to riders and travelers alike.
Map of Rizal c/o Rizal Provincial Government
It would only take you an hour, or even less on a good day, to get to Rizal, well at least to the city / towns closest to Metro Manila. At first glance, the towns and cities closest to Manila are heavily commercialized that is why one might think that they are still in Manila since there’s hardly any difference if you compare them. One has to really explore this province as there’s really a whole lot more to it than simply that.
In my Gone for the Weekend series I will be traveling to certain destinations which you could do on a weekend and thus would need about a couple of days to explore, so that hopefully this would be included in your planned travel destinations in the future. In the first edition of my Gone for the Weekend series, I will be taking you guys to the historic province of Rizal.
A little background on the Province: Rizal began as a territory when the provinces of Tondo and Laguna were created by the Spanish government with the towns of Pasig and Parañaque (now part of Metro Manila), Taytay and Cainta- bustling towns during the Spanish colonial era with a decidedly cosmopolitan mix already, intermarriages between the Tagalogs, the Chinese and Arabs were prevalent long before Spain came to colonize these shores. Encomiendas (Encomienda – a system used to define the status of people in the society) were established with Moron (Morong), Passi (Pasig), Taitay (Taytay) and Tagui (Taguig-now part of Metro Manila) under their respective jurisdictions under the provinces of Tondo and La Laguna. In the succeeding years, further political subdivisions were dissolved and created with the town of Morong eventually becoming the capital of La Laguna and then later changed into a Distrito Politico-Militar de Morong. During the tenure of the revolutionary government of General Emilio Aguinaldo, who also served as the Philippines’ first Philippine President, Mariquina (Marikina) became the capital of the Province of Manila.
Present day, Rizal is bordered by Metro Manila to the west, with the impressive rugged mountains of Sierra Madre and the province of Quezon to the east, Bulacan to the north and the Laguna and the Laguna de Bay – one of the largest freshwater basins in Asia-Pacific, to the south. This diverse geography now plays host to a kaleidoscope of spectacular natural wonders. Although struggling between sounding too cliché and its rather charmless concrete view decks and an obvious but seemingly manageable trash situation, the waterfalls of Hinulugang Taktak in Antipolo- a popular tourist destination for Manila-folk in the past, is unarguably stunning in its own right and probably the closest waterfall you can ever get to from Manila. There is a minimal entrance fee, one can reach it by a tricycle and it is pretty close to the important pilgrimage church of Antipolo – the Antipolo Domed Cathedral. The cathedral is home to Our Lady of Peace and Good Voyage whose apparent miraculous image sailed back and forth between Manila and Acapulco eight times- not an easy feat since the waters of the Pacific could be treacherous and unforgiving to the galleons with the oceanic storms, pirate attacks and British and Dutch blockades eyeing to seize the Philippines that time. During the Lenten Season, scores of pilgrims and devotees flock to Antipolo Church, walking all the way from Manila barefoot. Do not be surprised to see people around early morning during the week of Easter walking barefoot on Manila’s main thoroughfare – EDSA, chances are they are headed to Antipolo for this annual sojourn.
I came from the South, so I had the luxury of taking the relatively new C6-Taytay Road, which really helped me a lot as it connected Taguig to Taytay, Rizal via a backdoor route. There were only a few vehicles plying the highway as it’s not as popular as the other major thoroughfares that we have in Metro Manila, yet the roads seem to be a whole lot better.
With the Yamaha SZ16 in tow, I figured this would be a great way to break in the new bike that was built for touring. Clear roads, and an itinerary I was excited about, I was more than eager to be gone for the weekend.
The Yamaha SZ16 waiting eagerly
The National Historical Site – The Angono Petroglyphs
A National Treasure, The Angono – Binangonan Petroglyphs is the oldest known work of art in the Philippines. There are 127 human and animal figures engraved on the rock wall dating back to 3000 BC. These inscriptions clearly show stylized human figures, frogs and lizards along with other designs that may have depicted other interesting figures but erosion and neglect may have caused it to become indistinguishable.
The Angono – Binangonan Petroglyphs can be found at the boundary of Binangonan and Angono. It is located at the upper part of the mountainous area of Barangay Tayuman and more popularly known among the locals as Matandang Yungib or Old Cave.
It is also a treat to go to the Petroglyphs as you would have to pass by a dark tunnel which leads to the pathway going to the National Historical Site.
It is very much amazing to see 5000 year-old writings survive the years. At the same time, It is just so sad that due to neglect and vandalism, not all of the cave writings discovered by National Artist Carlos “Botong” Francisco in 1965 are still there.
Prepare 20 pesos as your entrance fee to help in conserving and preserving the site.
5000 year old ancient writings by our Filipino Ancestors greet you as you see the Binangonan – Angono Petroglyphs
Known as the “Arts Capital of the Philippines” due to its deep history of showcasing the finest artists in the country, it is also the hometown of two popular Filipino national artists, Lucio San Pedro (Music) and Carlos Botong Francisco (Arts).
One of the more popular Angono festivals would be the Higantes. It was said that the higantes started during the Spanish colonial times, when Angono was once a hacienda and ruled by Spanish hacienderos. The Angono land tillers’ way of protesting their struggle is by making giant effigy of their landlords whose hands are usually high up on their waist. These representations could reach up to a stunning 12 feet in height!
According to http://tourism-philippines.com/, with the discovery of the ancient drawings (the Petroglyphs), the town of Angono solidified its reputation of being the Cradle of Philippine Art. Angono is a proud home to artist families where a visit to the Blanco Family Museum in Ibanez Street is a must. The museum houses the paintings of the entire family from the youngest (7 Children- all painters) to the patriarch of the family. Some of the paintings can be so detailed that they almost look like photographs and their recurring themes are the travels of the family as well as the pastoral scenes of Angono and Laguna de Bay. Unfortunately some of these paintings were stolen and have yet to be found. Indeed, the museum is extraordinary in how so much talent can be found in just a single family. (Museum Hours- : 9-11am, 1-5pm everyday with minimal fee which includes a guided tour). Another must visit place in Angono is the old, and preserved studio of famed Philippine muralist and National Artist Carlos “Botong” Francisco who was known for his historical pieces and being one of the first Filipino modernists along with Victorio C. Edades and Galo Ocampo (known as the Triumvirate amongst the local art circles) – a rebellion from another National Artist Fernando Amorsolo which is more known for his romanticist works of Philippine scenes. His works include the Bayanihan, Blood Compact, First Mass at Limasawa, The Martyrdom of Rizal, Magpupukot, Fiesta, The Invasion of Limahong, Muslim Bethrotal, Sandugo and Portrait of Purita. These murals have been replicated in bas reliefs on the street where the former master lived. Botong Francisco’s grandson Totong, a visual artist in his own right now maintains a gallery of his own attached to his gramps’ restored studio. Buzz in, they are usually open even during Sundays, entrance is free. A visit to Angono would not be complete without dropping by Toti Argana’s workplace on Manila East Road corner Don Benito Street. Argana is a known Higante maker- giant papier mache human figures that are usually paraded around town during the Higantes Festival celebrated every November 23rd.
Where to eat? Balaw Balaw Restaurant stands out. It doubles as a restaurant that specializes in exotic cuisine and an art gallery at the same time. Balaw Balaw refers to bagoong mixed with rice gruel and angkak herb. The restaurant serves deer meat, frogs legs, pythons, and believe it or not, ducks
For the past few years, I’ve wanted to go to Daranak Falls. Whenever I pass by Rizal en route to doing a Laguna loop, I always happen to pass by the narrow road leading there from the highway and I promised myself to go back the next time I was in the area. That plan never materialized, not until today.
It was on a Sunday morning when I arrived and I was so surprised at the number of people that were in the falls area. Numbering in hundreds, it was very difficult to navigate the long walkway going to the falls as people would bump you left and right. This was most probably due to the fact that the temperature that day reached the mid-thirties, school was over, and it was a weekend. Nevertheless, it was all worth it as the waterfalls proved to be a thing of beauty. By the time that I reached Daranak, inspite of all the people that were there, the water was crystal clear, as you could see in the picture. During the rainy season, Daranak Falls, along with Batlag Falls, gush exuberant cascades of water which is made quite mesmerizing by the fact that these beautiful waterfalls are so close to Manila. My only wish right now is for the local government to spend more time and effort in taking care of this local treasure.
I’d definitely go back to the place some other time so I could have it all to myself.
The Pinoy Rider at the Daranak Falls in Tanay, Rizal – a popular summer destination for local folks
Entrance fee to the falls is 20 pesos for adults and 15 pesos for children. Additionally, you may also bring your own picnic table for 150 pesos. Open everyday up to 6 pm only.
While in Tanay, you may want to visit the former Philippine President Erap Estrada’s rest house which is now converted into a museum and some sort of a zoo. There’s a vegetable garden and a diverse collection of animals from farm animals such as chickens to uncommon ones such as ostriches, as well as an old chapel and a Muslim-inspired pavilion called the Maranao Village where he entertains guests. There is a minimal entrance fee required.
Rock Balancing is gaining popularity (Tanay, Rizal)
Probably the most popular among all the municipalities and cities in Rizal, Antipolo City has more than 600,000 residents and is one of the more highly urbanized and commercialized cities on the outskirts of Metro Manila. During my Rizal Gone for the weekend trip, I visited the famous Antipolo. The Antipolo Cathedral is home of Antipolo’s renowned miraculous icon, the Our Lady of Peace and Good Voyage (Nuestra Se’ora de la Paz Y Buenviaje). Located at the middle of Antipolo’s town center, the church is the perfect place to pray for a safe journey.
Do not forget to get your take home of Cashew Nuts, or locally called as Kasoy, and it is available in different flavors too!
Night Life? Not a problem! Just head straight to Sumulong Highway and enjoy the dozens of bars nestled together. Not only will you have a good time, but the place is quite romantic as well as it provides a landscape view of the entire Metro Manila. The night view is something to watch out for.
The Antipolo Cathedral
Formerly Montalban, Rodriguez is the northernmost town in the Province of Rizal and holds many popular tourist spots like the Avilon Zoo (Montalban Zoological Park), Wawa Dam, Pamintian Cave, among others.
I went to Avilon Zoo previously to check out the exotic and native fauna that the establishment holds. There were a lot really as it boasts of having the largest land area for a zoo and biggest collection of animals in the Philippines. It houses 3,000 specimens of exotic wildlife representing more than 600 species of birds, mammals, reptiles, amphibians, freshwater fishes. Unfortunately, all of them are in cages.
Wawa Dam – Nestled over the Marikina River, it used to be the only source of water for Manila until Angat Dam was built. Now it’s good for a lot of sightseeing and photo-ops.
These gigantic boulders could be found in Wawa Dam in Rodriguez, Rizal
In Rodriguez you would be able to find two mountains (two white rock mountains of boulders with a very steep gorge in between) that look like a mountain split into two. According to a famous Philippine legend, mythical strong man Bernardo Carpio had an extraordinary strength, strong enough to split the mountain in his time. On the Montalban Gorge, white rocks and boulders are scattered along the river banks. Also found in Rodriguez is the Pamintian Cave, an important Filipino historical site where Andres Bonifacio, the founder of the revolutionary group Katipunan along with 8 other Katipuneros declared independence from Spain in 12 April 1895, a year before the Philippine revolution officially started. The cave still bears the inscription: “Viva La Independencia Filipinas”.
The author by the pond inside Avilon Zoo in Rodriguez, Rizal
The style of the St. Jerome Parish Church in Morong reminds me of some of the Baroque-style churches I’ve visited before. Its heavily decorated tower rises above everything, appearing as if it is guarding the church, and it very well may be! It’s always spiritually fulfilling to visit a new church whenever I reach a town I’ve never been to before.
St. Jerome Parish Church in Morong, Rizal
I also passed by the town of Teresa on my way to Morong. A popular destination among passersby would be St. Rose of Lima Parish. One might ask what the significance of the church is. Teresa, way back in the Spanish colonial period, was formerly called Santa Rosa, in honor of its patron saint – St. Rose of Lima.
Saint Rose of Lima Parish Church in Teresa, Rizal
Closest to Marikina, the municipality of Cainta is very accessible from Metro Manila via Marcos Hiway. Cainta serves as the secondary gateway to the rest of Rizal province from Metro Manila. Cainta became one of the most urbanized towns due to its proximity to Manila. Legend has it that the town name came from a rich woman called Jacinta. This old lady was very dear to the hearts of the townsfolk due to her kind-heartedness and genuine love for the people. They called her Ka Inta, thus Cainta.
I made it a point to visit Our Lady of Light Parish Church to give my thanks, and ask for guidance for all my other travels this 2013.
Our Lady of Light Parish in Cainta, Rizal
Because of its proximity to Manila, the Province of Rizal has a great potential to be a regular weekend destination for many. I hope more people would be able to rediscover Rizal. I was pleasantly surprised about how much there is to see and do there and yet it doesn’t even get the promotion it deserves. I know Rizal is such a wonderful place and now this experience really made me believe that the main problem here is not lack of beauty, but lack of promotion. We have so much to offer with our 7107 islands; with each one having its own distinction.
I hope you guys get to enjoy Rizal as much as I did. It is a province, but it’s relatively easy to go there and get around it as well. For me, Rizal has always often been overlooked because of its very close proximity to Manila (some don’t even consider it as a province due to its highly urbanized cities) so I hope that with this guide, people will be able to appreciate Rizal’s wonders more, and also like me, be gone for the weekend.
This Gone for the weekend trip teaches us two things: 1.) The Philippine culture is something to be proud of and 2.) You don’t have to go too far to enjoy nature’s marvels!
The Sierra Madre Mountain Range can be seen from a lot of points in Rizal
A beautiful sight in Rizal. Do you know where this road leads to?
Where to go next? Hmm…
– Erik Gatmaitan is the author of https://www.pinoyrider.com – Journeying the Philippines SOLO on a motorbike.
Follow his adventures on his website or through his Facebook page at http://www.facebook.com/PinoyRider