Pantabangan: Tranquil Sight of Pantabangan Lake
We’re on the road going to the province of Aurora and since it’s our first time to take the Pantabangan-Baler Road, we decided to have a side trip in one of the most frequently visited places in the province – the town of Pantabangan. The town is rich in culture, history and most of all in natural resources that the local government is aggressively promoting its ecotourism.
Located five kilometers from the main road, this multipurpose dam is the source of hydroelectric power and irrigation for some farmlands in Nueva Ecija. There is no entrance fee but you need to show some credentials (like valid IDs) as well as the purpose of your tour. Security is a bit lax especially for first-timers and tourists so we are able to enter smoothly. There is ample space for parking which are amply provided shade by trees.
The dam and the nearby buildings are located across the Pampanga River, in a canyon just downstream of the confluence of the Pantabangan and Carranglan Rivers.
And because it’s summer, adding the mild El Niño prevailing at that time, water levels are pretty low that we are unable to see its full beauty and no waters are being flowed at the spillway. It’s cloudy and not very warm at that time, making the place very relaxing especially when the cool breeze blows. There are viewing decks that had been constructed to further see the beauty of the reservoir.
According to what was posted in the signages here, the Pantabangan dam and appurtenant structures is the first and largest infrastructure project of its kind ever undertaken in the Philippines in the seventies. This project was constructed under contract with the Hydro Resources Contractors Corporation, a consortium of local construction firms who won the right to implement the contract work. Started on March 3, 1971, the Pantabangan Dam was completed in August 1974, seventeen months ahead of schedule, seven months ahead of its contract time granted to the contractors.
From the dam, we took the road going to Sitio Intang in Brgy. Liberty to go to the lake itself.
Pantabangan Dam actually has no natural lake per se. It can be said that this lake is artificially constructed because it used to be a part of the Upper Pampanga River flowing downstream. It became a lake only after the dam was constructed. It is considered one of the largest reservoir in Southeast Asia.
The lake has a pleasant view and a very serene landscape. You can feel the tranquility while watching the scenic view of the lake surrounded by the Sierra Madre mountains. Because it is cloudy we didn’t felt much heat although there are no cottages or barely any trees, nevertheless, it added to the beauty of the site.
It is said that the reservoir is among the cleanest in the country. That’s why it is a popular site for visiting and swimming by the locals. Not far away, we can see several boats fishing the natural wealth of the lake.
It’s almost five when we saw a cargo vessel sailing by. I was surprised that there are regular shipping routes here. That ship belongs to CE Casecnan Water and Energy Plant and it sails only twice daily – one at about seven in the morning and another one at afternoon. Among the ship’s passengers are employees of the said plant.
The place is so peaceful that you may not realize that several hundreds of houses and structures once stood on this very site. There was once a thriving town here, but when the construction of the dam is about to commence some three thousand residents were relocated elsewhere. These towns were submerged by the reservoir made by the dam.
At this time, the water level went down far enough for the cross of the old church in Pantabangan – probably the highest point of the old town – to be revealed. It’s unfortunate that we weren’t unable to go near as the night is fast approaching. But it gives a creepy atmosphere, and at the same time very sad to think that the old town of Pantabangan was submerged together with its three hundred year history.
During the 1970s, before the dam was built, the builders claimed that the project will bring significant impact to the economy and to the lives of the Pantabangueños. But what happened to the unfortunate town was just the opposite: blackouts are still common (and the hydroelectric dam is just here) and some locals still have difficulty maintaining their farming livelihood.
- Upon entrance to the gate, it is advisable to tell the guard that you are with an entire family to save you from the inconvenience of having to list your names (especially if your name is hard to spell)
- You can have a picnic inside the Pantabangan Dam compound, but make sure you will not leave any litters behind.
- You can rent a fishing gear (and a boat) at the lake, just talk to some of the locals about it.
- Pantabangan Dam
From Cabanatuan take the Pantabangan-Baler Highway. Before reaching the city proper a billboard can be prominently seen on the left side. Take the five-kilometer zigzag road going to the dam.
Note: If going here, it is advisable to use a private vehicle, because the site is quite far from the town center which makes commuting impractical.
- Pantabangan Lake:
From the town proper, take the road going to Sitio Intang of Barangay Liberty (2 kilometers)