Monday, October 28, 2013

Norzagaray, Bulacan and Its Places of Interest

Pinagrealan Cave. NAPOCOR Hilltop. Angat Dam and Hydroelectric Power Plant.
A Weekend Trip to Norzagaray
By Heinz Lopez Alvarez, Jr.

An awesome trip does not have to be expensive and does not always mean traveling to a place far from the metro. The truth is, there are beautiful places that are just within our reach. One perfect example is Norzagaray, Bulacan.

"Garay" is a town that is on the faster lane of the road to economic growth. It is a humble town but must be very proud of its potential tourist attractions like the NAPOCOR Hilltop that is tagged as "Little Baguio of Bulacan"; Angat Dam and its hydroelectric power plant that an important water reservoir and power generator for the Manila metropolitan area; and, Pinagrealan Cave, a historic wonder of nature. 

The question is, have we visited all these? The answer is yes.

Pinagrealan Cave

The date was October 26, 2013 and the weather was perfect for any outdoor activity. We assembled at a fast food chain in Robinson's Pioneer, where we also waited for our lone guest during this trip, Rhenzie Bahatan. She is the daughter of Ms. Ermie Bahatan of the Philippines' Response to Indigenous Peoples and Muslim Education (PRIME), who is a dear friend to The BACKPACKERS.


When completed at around eleven o'clock, we all boarded a bus bound for SM Fairview, where BP Weng waited for us. After some last minute shopping for food and socials need-to-haves, we rode a jeepney bound for Bigte in Norzagaray, Bulacan. We got off at the Rotunda, and that was where we hired two tricycles that brought us to the entrance of this famous and historic wonder of nature. To sum it up, it's roughly a 2.5 hours to travel from where we assembled up to our first stop - Pinagrealan Cave.

It was actually not the first time for some of us to enter this particular cave. But, we did not mind re-exploring. And besides, it would be an easy spelunking... perfect for first-timers, actually.

Exploring Cave Pinagrealan.

Compared to other caves that The BACKPACKERS have tried, Pinagrealan is the shortest course and the easiest as well. As a matter fact, we were walking up straight most of the time while inside it. But personally, what made me convinced to re-explore it, aside from the cold temperature and the amazing rock formations inside, was the historic element of this cave.

It is documented that Pinagrealan Cave served as a camp for Katipunero Revolutionaries during the war against Spain in 1896, and was General Emilio Aguinaldo's (first President of the Philippines) hideout during the Filipino-American war in 1898. Also, when the country was liberated by the American Forces, the Japanese Imperial Army utilized it as a sanctuary.



It is called "The Little Baguio of Bulacan". Politically speaking, it is actually San Lorenzo in Norzagaray, Bulacan. Either way, it deserves that title.

Right after exploring Pinagrealan Cave, we again hired two tricycles that brought us to Hilltop - a small community that is inside National Power Corporation's (NAPOCOR) managed area. It was an afternoon in October so the air was already cooler, but i imagined that this part of Bulacan has that low temperature all year round because of its altitude and of the healthy forest that surrounds it.

The plan was to stay overnight at NAPOCOR Guest House. Doing so requires an official permission from the management; hence, Lead Ivan secured a permit for the Group ahead of time. We passed two guard posts before we were able to actually access the community. The guards did check if our names were listed and even asked us to present our ID's. Once inside the community, we were drove straight up to the guest house where BP Leah (then was a guest) and Tita Arlene (Ivan's aunt who happens to be a resident of Hilltop, an elementary teacher for the community, and our contact person at NAPOCOR Guest House) were waiting for us.

Weng, Heinz, Isabel, York, Leah, Resty, Rhenzie, Ivan, Angel and Rexie at the Guest House's view deck.

NAPOCOR Guest House is huge. It has spacious air conditioned rooms (probably at least six that can accommodate four to eight persons), a large receiving and a dining area. The house itself is perfect for occassions attended by a good number of visitors. But what's more captivating is the view that one can enjoy from the front porch. The house is literally facing Angat Dam. So imagine sitting by the porch and scanning a breathtaking view of the blue dam that is surrounded by mountains under the blue skies while the cold breeze constantly makes you feel comfortable. We all liked the place.

We spent the rest of the afternoon just chilling. Others played scrabble, others went to bed for a nap, and some helped prepared dinner. Fried fresh tilapia was served for dinner, which we all enjoyed.

A Birthday Surprise

I was one of those who (i thought), went straight to bed right after dinner. All i wanted that night was to take a rest. I fell asleep. It was the feeling that someone entered the room that woke me up. And BP York was not successful in his plan to scare me. It was funny to see him crawling on the floor with his attempt. So he got no choice but to just order me to go out and transfer to the girls' room. Socials, i thought. So i did.

 "Happy birthday!" filled the girls' room as soon as i opened the door and turned the lights on. There was a cake in the middle of the room. I blew the candle, thanked everyone, sat down, and they started reading those messages that they have collected from my family. It will always be one of the most memorable birthday celebrations i had because it was the first time after so many years that i had a cake made just for me and it was one of those times when my friends exerted efforts in putting things together that made me feel important. I could not thank them enough!

Angat Dam and Hydroelectric Plant

Rising up from bed on that Sunday morning was almost difficult because we never get that kind of good sleep in the city. But we all had to. To see Angat Dam up close and to visit the Angat Hydroelectric Plant were in our Itinerary for that day. So right after breakfast, our journey began.

It was a long walk from the guest house down to the dam. But it was worth it. We got to take some great photos with the deep blue dam as our backdrop. And the fact that we were able to see the actual reservoir of water that we consume back home in Manila, was awesome!

Getting closer to the dam.

We were lucky we have Tita Arlene with us in that weekend trip. It was so easy for her to convince a resident to let us hire his jeepney that brought us to Angat Hydroelectric Plant. Ivan's plan was to let us experience riding a glass elevator that would bring us down the lower floors of the power plant while seeing how deep the water of the dam is. D*mn, it could have been so effing awesome! But, unfortunately, it was not available that time. So we went ahead and instead enjoyed the mist coming from the waters that have passed through the plant's powered facility and were splashed into the air. It looked like a mini Niagara Falls to us. And We felt like little kids once more!

Kids at heart while at Angat Hydroelectric Plant.

This weekend trip did not only give enjoyment to us, but also the chance to mingle with the people of Hilltop, Norzagaray and its neighboring small communities. After all, we as a Group, travel not only because of our desire to reach places, but also to know more about its culture and people.

Finally, we would like to suggest - the next time you plan to travel, and yet you cannot afford to consume your weekdays for it (?), find interesting places that are just a couple of hours away from Manila. You will be surprised!


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