Monday, April 19, 2010

The Hills of AntiPolo

If you look at the satellite map of Manila, you will see that Manila basically sits on a big plain with mountains to the North and East. The eastern hills are part of the Sierra Madre range that covers the Eastern side of Luzon Island. The current hot weather makes the hills look like California Hills from parts of the city. I was curious about it so decided to venture out to see it.

I took the Marcos Highway through Antipolo City all the way to Tanay province to a small town called, get this - PALO ALTO! (Palo Alto actually mean Tall Tree). The two-lane-each-side-road was choked full of Jeepneys and trucks and a few parts were not in good condition. Most part of the roads had either small shops, building. At various points there were actually large open air markets.

If you.glance at the roadside, there appear to be nothing interesting with small shops, buildings, stalls and some points were big open wet markets. On lower elevation, the hill houses are huts or looked make-shift - poor neighhourhoods. But as you climb up the hills the houses begin to look nicer and at some places, there were even big developments including golf resorts. I saw a few hillside resort signs but they did not look very promising. In this hot weather, its not very cool in the hot sun. During the 'Ber' months it should be pretty cold though.

There are no convenient point to stop along the road although you can catch some view of the city from a few places. I stopped at these points and the wet market to get an idea what people here do and why they live on these hills. At some point in the past there were labour-intensive factories nearer to the city and these people used to work for those factories. At nearby Marikina City, they are still known for their shoe making. Many people probably still commute to those towns for work by the look of the many Jeepneys plying the route.

What you do see is a lot of hardware stores, building suppliers and auto-shops although there are not many cars on the roads. Its obvious there are construction. But the markets do not look like they have strong agri-industry. The north and eastern part are mostly mountain and secondary forest. Building roads in these types of terrain is also difficult. But I expected some sort of strong hill economy like fruits and vegetables but there are none to be seen. There is not much traffic also because the eastern part of the Island do not have much of an economy. They have some great beaches and there are good surfing to be had but when the typhoon season comes, this eastern part of Luzon Island get the worst hit especially the North.

It dawned on me why there is so little development on these hills - while its only slightly cooler in the summer compared to the lowlands, in the 'Ber' months it could be cold especially at night requiring HEATING. Coupled with the higher cost to build roads, earth moving and building walls, having homes here is either out of necessity, tradition or a luxury. Just make sense to build on the plains than it is in these hills..

No comments: