Wawa Dam


MONTALBAN GORGE. Wawa River cuts through the primeval rock after the thousand-year process of erosion to form the majestic limestone walls. There is also the local folklore which tells that the Montalban Gorge was created by the mighty Bernardo Carpio. According to the legend, Bernardo was a love child of Infanta Jimena and Don Sancho Diaz. When the forbidden love affair between his sister Infanta and political rival Sancho was discovered by the King Alfonso, he ordered the imprisonment of Infanta and the murder of Sancho.

The young Bernardo was able to escape the furious King Alfonso only to be discovered later. But the boy has grown as a giant. The cruel king wanted Bernardo to suffer the same fate as with his parents so he ordered a shaman to have him locked-up until he meets his death deep within the hallows of the mountain in Montalban. The shaman was able to lure Bernardo into the trap. It is said that whenever an earthquake occurs, it is caused by Bernardo trying to escape from the bowels of the mountain.



NAUUMPUGANG BATO.  A sequel to the legend revealed that Bernardo broke free by successfully pushing the grinding mountains of Pamitinan and Binacayan apart.

Water gushed out from the other side of the mountain which formed the river channels of San Mateo and Marikina. Below the narrow gap between the amazing limestone mountains, Wawa Dam was constructed by the American in 1909 as the primary water source for Manila.



WHERE THE ROAD ENDS, THE HIKING BEGINS. The trail to Wawa Dam involved walking on a rocky ascending trail with steep drop-offs on one side and bamboo and nipa houses on the other. These dwellings along the sides of the trail made brisk business by selling turon and samalamig to hikers.

As the winding mountain trail became narrower, we could see from one side the steep slope and the running river further enhanced by huge white boulders where the locals have built makeshift huts of bamboo and nipa that tourists and campers could use for a minimal rental fee. A few walks further, we had a view of the amazing Wawa Dam also with huts huddled close together at the foot of dam looking similar to the luncheon scene at Villa Escudero.



OLD OBSERVATION DECK. On our way to the upper part of the dam, we walked through two tunnels carved out from the mountain’s limestone wall to reach the old observation deck. Here, we had spectacular views of the majestic gorge, the gorgeous upper river and the narrow chasm.

The height of the deck from the lake below is a dizzying vertical drop but Howie Severino made history recently perhaps to be the first journalist and blogger to have jumped off from the deck’s ledge into the upper river. It may be a feat for Howie but for a group of local children, diving off from the observation deck is part of their swimming routine in Wawa Dam.



WAWA RIVER. We crossed the iron bridge that connects the observation deck to the upper river. There were makeshift huts filled with families having picnic, friends exchanging stories, and even a group singing their hearts out around a videoke!

We were so excited to take a plunge into the river but we realized that we did the most unforgivable thing we’ve ever done for this trip of forgetting our bathing suit or at least to bringing extra clothes.



WAWA DAM. Wawa Dam ceased operation in the 1960’s when the Ipo-La Mesa-Angat watershed was established. Since its decommissioning, the dam’s lower river and upper lake were frequented by local tourists and campers for its ethereal beauty and extremely cheap almost free accommodation.

During summer months, the dam’s spillway is converted into a picnic area much like a version of the popular luncheon scene at Villa Escudero. Although the trip down to the picnic site close to foot of the dam is arduous but it cost practically nothing to enjoy the man-made falls. The water pouring from the reservoir in the upper lake to the dam wall and the gurgling water around the primordial rock boulders on the river provide a refreshing treat to the senses and to the spirit.



PAMITINAN CAVE. Tired and thirsty, we rested in one of the bamboo stalls selling sweet turon and ice-cold samalamig along the side of the trail. We asked the tindera about the Pamitinan Cave. She pointed at the limestone wall across her stall where two caves are visible from her stall’s window.

A year before the start of the 1896 Revolution, Andres Bonifacio with eight men fled to the mountains of Montalaban, to Pamintinan Cave on a Good Friday. Bonifacio inscribed on the cave wall what could have been the first cry of Philippine Independence. According to the local tourism office, the cave wall still bears the inscription Viva la Independencia Filipinas!

EPILOGUE. The Pamintinan Cave is just one of the several cave systems in the Montalban Gorge. Other caves are said to be where the Japanese soldiers have retreated and spent their last defense during the final days of World War II. A marker by the cave entrance is visible from the trail. Guided tours into the caves are arranged at the Montalban Tourism Office.


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43 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. Hi,

    Kindly guide us how to reach Wawa Dam from Marikina City?? I stay in Rancho, near OLOPSC. We will bi going there through bicycle, so not only direction, but also your feedback regarding if it’s steep (high roads) & hard to bike there?? Pls advise & you can email me at swaleh.mustikhan@gmail.com

  2. Good Morning Sir/Maam, I am an Electrical engineering student from TIP Manila. and ask ko lng po if there are communities na walang supply ng kuryente near the vicinity of Wawa Dam. We have a thesis po kasi that we should need to supply electricity to maybe 5-10 houses khit for lighting purposes lang po. so, i am asking if meron po bang mga houses dun na walang kuryente so that we could initiate our research project as soon as possible po…before February 2013. Maraming Salamat po! thanks for a very informative blog about Wawa dam.

  3. Hi we are scheduled to go there tomorrow, just wanna ask if is it safe to bring our camera there, like DSLR. Thanks

    • Yes Bryan. It’s safe. Ingat!

  4. Gud pm… ask q lng kung pwde mg’overnyt d2 o kya my private place o place b n pwde mkpg’overnyt…tnx

  5. hi sir ah..gusto ko lng po maginquire regarding sa entrnce fee and sa cottage fee kung magkano at kung pano mapuntahan yun palce nyo,

    • if i may answer : ) as far as i know, wala pong entrace dun, may table lang po na ni re rent. dont know if 200 pesos or less pa ata. This is a public place kaya anyone can go there. Sa Marikina, may mga jeep na going montalban. HIndi pa ko nakapag commute going there pero im sure the people in montalban will tell you how

  6. Hi,

    Just wanna asked if its applicable to go there by night around 9 pm..and any entrance fees? or cottage so we can put and stay our things?electricity?

  7. pwede po ba mag dala ng sariling food?

    • pwede naman Dane. basta clean as you go. please wag magtapon sa river kahit ano. Have fun -Glenn

  8. hello po! like you, my family really love outdoor activities such as camping and swimming….may i ask lang po, is it safe to bring my kids ages 4,6 and 9 to wawa dam? and is there a place to camp/stay for overnight? wala po bang mga NPA sa area? tsaka san po safe iwan ang sasakyan? tnx a lot and i hope ma push thru yung tree planting nyo…more power and God bless!

    • hi. how much is the house u rented?thanks!

  9. Malumot po ba ung mismong dike?

    • yes.

  10. my family just came from there yesterday..We stay there for a week since monday till black saturday..We rent a house there for 6 days..WE rent a floating house and Balsa also..I up to the mountain and See the tree house..Wow it is very nice..Not everybody know about the tree house.. and we really had a nice time. very nice view and fresh air. magnificent rock formations, awesome caves. a very welcome new sight for one whose weekends are often spent in malls.
    rentals for bamboo cottages and the “balsa” are P100 each. no entrance fee to the dam. there are variety stores along the way. there are also some stalls where fish and vegetables are being sold. commodities are relatively cheap compared to commercial resorts. there are cottages in the lower part but small portions of water for swimming. swimming is best in the upper part because there are no rock formations. “balsas” (bamboo rafts) can be rented if you want to paddle along the water.

    • Thank you Mariah for sharing your wonderful trip to Wawa Dam. The place has a lot tourism potentials. I just hope tourism activities in the area will be properly regulated by local authorities and agencies. As per our last visit, we saw litter left by irresposible tourists in the river, trapped in between boulders. I already sent a letter to DENR stationed in the area and copied Rizal Provincial government as well as Senate Committee on Environment headed by Senator Miguel Zubiri.

      Sharing the letter I sent to Susie Belen of DENR satellite office at Wawa Dam:

      Hello Susie,

      We’ve met at the DENR office in Wawa Dam last Sunday, March 20. I mentioned to you my intention of conducting a tree planting activity on the site this coming Saturday, March 26 as one of the activities for my birthday celebration. However, I find your recommendation of having it on the rainy season instead on the summer months reasonable and practical. With that, I will schedule the activity tentatively on June or August of this year.

      I am glad that DENR has put up an office near Wawa Dam aimed to monitor this protected area. As per our last visit, we observed that plastic cups, rubber sandals, bamboo rods, etc. clutter the river and most of these waste materials are trap in between the huge boulders on the river. I think these are left by some irresposible tourists who rent those make-shift bamboo huts along the banks.

      I have nothing against making Wawa Dam a tourist destination. In fact, this should be encouraged and promoted. While some locals make brisk business by selling food, putting-up videoke machines, and having makshift cottages rented for a fee, they should see to it that Wawa Dam is free from clutter and waste. Those who operate these businesses should be asked to “clean-up” Wawa Dam at the end of each day. After all, they are benefitting from the tourism activities. Their operation should not be limited in just collecting fees from tourist renting the cottages they’ve set-up but also cleaning up the river and surrounding areas at the end of each day.

      I know that this can be challenging. But the effort of keeping Wawa Dam and the surrounding area pristine and clutter-free is everyone’s responsiblity. It cannot be just DENR or MTO but a joint effort between the local community and those who come to visit Wawa Dam.

      May recommedation to have instructive signages be put up on strategic locations, informing visitors not to leave or throw litter into the river. A corresponding penalty will help deter people from doing this irresponsible act and I believe that there are certain laws made for protected areas and wildlife. Daily clean-up should be mandatory to those locals making business out of Wawa
      Dam. Clean-up activities should include removing litter from the river and those that are trapped in between boulders as well as trash left in the surrounding areas.

      We’ll get in touch with you as soon as we are set to have our tree planting event on June or August of this year.

      Thank you.

      Glenn Martinez

      • was the tree planting event already finished..im interested in joining if possible..tnx

        • Jen. We have not push through with the tree-planting. Parang ang hirap kasi makipag coordinate eh.

    • Hi! Just want to ask regarding Mt. Binacayan. We have plans to go to the top, if possible.

      Kaya ba abutin yung tuktok via regular hike? Is it too steep?
      Do trails exist or do we need to have a guide?

      I’m asking these questions here since I can’t reach their tourism office.

      Hope you could help me out here. Thanks

  11. good morning, traveler on foot!

    thank you for sharing this to us.

  12. hi, I’m just moved in manila hills in rodriguez rizal, and I’m not familiar with the place so can you please tell me how to go to this place? thanks..

  13. hi
    my friends are really interested to go to wawa dam.. can you give me, a full detail.. if how much is the entrance and your cottege.
    hoping for your reply asap…..

  14. from commonwealth how can we go there? when we are at san rafael how long to get there in wawa dam?

  15. this is a reaaly amazing place..
    wow,,,super ganda po talga,,
    can i ask lng po.
    san lang po ung entrance n 2 pesos n un?
    pwede niyo po b ipost din ung mga rate ng entrance
    dun sa mismong lake, ung rate ng cottage,
    how much po ba dapat naming budget pra maenjoy namin lahat ng mganda jan sa wawa dam,,
    thank u po..

  16. Hi, we are planning to go to Wawa dam. Is there any entrance fee, how much? and do we have a tourist guide when we go there? can we bring own foods?what time is allowed to go and leave wawa dam?Hope for immediete response. Thank you.

    • As per visit last Sunday, the DENR office on the site charge us 2 pesos per person Kat. I am not sure with the camping and other rates. You can get in touch Ms. Susie Belen for more information: belen_susie@yahoo.com.

      Yes you can bring food. However, please bring your trash with you when you leave Wawa Dam. Some irresposible tourist left their litter into the river.

  17. Hi!!! My husband and I have been planning to go to wawa dam since we saw it on living asia but people we’ve asked doesnt know how to go there.. can you enlighten us? tnx!!!!

    • Hi Dith, You can reach Wawa Dam via Cubao. From Cubao take an FX along Aurora Boulevard going to Montalban Plaza. From Montalban Plaza, take a 10-minute jeepney ride until you reach the end of the road in Barangay San Rafael -here hiking to Wawa Dam begins.

      If you have a vehicle, you can follow the road in Aurora going to Marikina until you reach San Mateo Rizal then to Montalban then Barangay San Rafael.

      Alternative route (which I recommend) is via Commonwealth Avenue then Batasan-San Mateo Road. Jeepneys going Montalban and San Mateo are available in front of Ever Gotesco Commonwealth.

      Hope you find this helpful.

      • Well said “Traveler on Foot”……….I have read that at the end of the road to Brgy San Rafael, hiking starts… May I just ask, how long and how far will it take before you reach the dam? Is there a trail? Is the slope gradual or highly elevated? Thank you very much. Are there many other tourists anytime you visit the dam?

        • The hike to the Dam from the Montalban Tourism Office in Brgy. San Rafael is about 10 minutes. Very short actually Arj. The trail is rocky and along it are make-shift stalls and some houses.

  18. Traveler on foot,

    i really like your blog about Wawa Dam
    very interesting! gusto ko talagang pumunta
    this March. mmm… ligtas po ba sa akin ang bumisita
    sa Wawa Dam ng mag-isa. thank you:-)

    • Thank you Ernani for visiting our site.

      I think Wawa Dam is safe for as long as your bear in mind that nature can be unpredictable. Enjoy your visit to Wawa Dam.

  19. hi. how much is the tour to the cave?

    • Hi Glorie, there is a tourism office in Barangay San Rafael. As of our last inquiry, guides for the Bonifacio cave charged 500 pesos per head. A larger group has a different rate and I think may be cheaper since you can share the guide fee.

  20. These are great photos of this interesting place. Good job! =)

  21. This is my home, Im hopingthe area will be rehabilitated soon. Lots of timdahan along the trail is eye irritating and vandalism is rampant everywhere…
    Hope people learn to preserve nature and historic places like this…

  22. Hi,

    would like to know if camping and rappelling is possible in the area.


  23. Always wanted to go here. There is this legend that secret caves there can bring you to Tayabas and Laguna, i wonder if they’re true 🙂

    • Nold you’ve been to our place before. Wawa Dam is just 20 minute away from our home and the view going there is splendid. Feel free to drop by our place on your visit.

      There are several caves, some we have learned were miles long and can be dangerous to be explored alone. I can make an arrangement prior to your visit. I also plan to plant some trees in the area. Ondoy uprooted some to the great trees along the river.

      • Hi,

        I and my friends are planning to go to Wawa dam this weeked. Would you know if it’s safe to go there during the rainy season?


        • The hike to Wawa Dam involves walking on dirt road Ace. It may turn muddy during the rainy season.

  24. interesting place! If your in Manila, how far is it to get here?

    • You can reach Wawa Dam in less than 2 hours from Cubao Marco.

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