Weekend Warrior’s Guide To Montalban
Every urbanite look forward to Saturdays to unwind after a weeklong toil in the concrete jungle. And every true-blue adventurer would seek solace in nature—hike the mountains or soak in a body of water, be it a sea, falls or river.
Just half an hour away away at the eastern doorstep of the metropolis is Rodriguez town (formerly Montalban), Rizal province, often overlooked by the executive class looking for glitzy hotels and restaurants. The good thing is that this old-time getaway is unbelievably inexpensive and you can enjoy an eventful weekend even if payday is still somewhere down the road.
Here are some of the must-see places of this leisure and adventure weekend haunt.
1. Pamitinan Protected Landscape
Montalban’s iconic attraction, the place is loosely called “Wawa”, named after the sitio of Bgy. San Rafael where the twin mountains of Pamitinan and Binacayan proudly stand. According to Pinoy folklore, this twin peak is where the legendary giant Bernardo Carpio was trapped and prevented them from colliding. The 608-hectare Instagrammable Landscape covers Montalban Gorge, the Pamitinan Cave where Andres Bonifacio together with 7 Katipuneros declared independence from Spain on April 12, 1895, a year before the Philippine Revolution broke out. The cave still bears Bonifacio’s inscription of “Viva La Independencia De Filipinas” in one of the chambers. The mountain is also a favorite for rock climbers because of its limestone crags and breath-taking panorama at the top. A recognizable feature in the area is the American-era Wawa Dam which used to provide water supply to Manila until 1962. The dam is ideal for picnics, bathing and hydromassage. You can also do a river cruise and interact with the Dumagat tribesmen as boatmen and tour guides.
Mounts Binacayan and Pamitinan | Photo by Jojo Dueñas
Montalban, which incidentally means “white mountain”, is an outdoors person’s paradise with its array of mountains which are ideal even for greenhorns. Among the peaks worth conquering are Hapunang Banoy, Paruwagan, Susong Dalaga, and Balagbag, which is part of the Sierra Madre range. If it’s your lucky day, you might spend a good portion of your trek spotting TV, movie and sports celebrities along the way. Tucked within those mountains are caves with amazing stalactice at stalagmite formations.
While scaling mountains, you might as well do a related adventure—chasing waterfalls—which abound in the town because of its rugged terrain. Dip in the rejuvenating ice-cold pools from the falls of Puray, Biteng Uhay, Payaran, Tu-Ay, and Karugo tucked in the lush vegetation which shuts you off from the outside world.
Avilon Zoo bird show
4. Avilon Zoo
Foray into this man-made safari, which is perhaps the biggest and best in the country. This 7.5-hectare animal park started in 1992 by Joaquin Gaw as an offshoot of his hobby of collecting exotic animals. A good number of these animals were imported from various countries, with the zoo built painstakingly built over a period of years before being opened to the public. It boasts a collection of nearly 3,000 animals comprising of 500 species, which include, mammals, birds, reptiles, amphibians, fishes, and plants with emphasis on Philippine endemic species. A much-awaited activity is the regular bird show which is usually done for groups.
Coco Mountain Resort
Rancho Luisito Resort
5. Inland Resorts
If you are with kids, you can cool off in the scores of resorts which are surprisingly innovative and to some extent, sophisticated. Among the noteworthy resorts are Costa Abril known for its wave pool, Rancho Luisito for its zipline, giant pail and slides, and outdoor wall, and Noah’s Park for its hanging bridges and team-building facilities. Coco Mountain, themed like an Australian surf camp, is a favorite chill out place for its grilled specialties and open-air bar fronting a stunning mountainscape.
7. Hilltop View
Get a commanding view of the undulating terrain of Montalban and neighboring towns at night at Hilltop Garden, a Greek-motifed events place, which has a gazebo for social events and a spacious one-bedroom suite for overnight stay.
Kristal-G Chef's Special Pizza
6. Food Trip
It might not be your ideal destination for gourmet food, but Montalban surely has a couple of interesting homegrown dining outlets you can write home about. Kristal-G Ristorante which serves Italian-Filipino Cuisine and all-time favorites is a hands-down choice for its cozy interiors, good food, and acoustic music. Its sister café, Coffee & Pastry Shop by Chef G, is the local brand where you should get your caffeine fix. Tia Goye Kutsinta is one of the oldest and most recognizable stores in town which offers the famous Pinoy kakanin—kutsinta and bibingka galapong—which is perhaps the best-tasting you can sink your teeth into. Ivy Kris looks like the typical airconditioned canteen, but wait till you have sampled their dishes, especially its desserts like halayang ube, cassava cake and leche flan, and merienda food like puto pao, palabok and halo-halo. A local favorite is a nondescript carinderia in Bgy. San Rafael called “tilapyaan” which only offers sinigang na tilapia for lunch. There are also a couple of kambingan eateries which serve an assortment of goat dishes such as papaitan and kaldereta.
Street Dance reliving Bernardo Carpio's legend
Aside from weekends, the best time to visit is during tourist events where is an array of activities where you can mingle with the locals. Pamitinan Festival, held on the third week of December, which celebrates the municipal foundation day of Montalban is worth looking forward to with the motocross tournament, Hammock Festival, and the street dance showdown depicting the legend of Bernardo Carpio. Manggagawa Festival is a local fest on May 1 in honor of St. Joseph the Worker, patron of Bgy. San Jose, and features street dancing competition where laborers and the barangay’s way of life are highlighted. For history buffs, there are commemorative events every April 12 and November 30 at Pamitinan Cave to memorialize the libertarian legacy of Andres Bonifacio.
8. Rodriguez House
Take a glimpse of the ancestral home of the eminent Senate President and statesman, Eulogio “Amang” Rodriguez, whom the town is named after. Built in the traditional Spanish bahay na bato (stone house) architecture, this so-called “living museum” has undergone very little physical repair over the decades, and is inhabited by the descendants of late patriarch of the political clan. The mansion showcases his memorabilia including a portraits, personal effects and vintage car at the ground floor.
For more information, contact Rodriguez-Montalban Tourism on Facebook.