Nueva Ecija

You can visit the old Pantabangan town in Nueva Ecija that reemerges amid droughts

Iya Gozum

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You can visit the old Pantabangan town in Nueva Ecija that reemerges amid droughts

A 300-year-old Pantabangan town reappeared after El Niño phenomenon caused the water to recede, on April 24, 2024.

Angie de Silva/Rappler

The old sunken town is considered a cultural heritage zone

MANILA, Philippines – Remnants of the old Pantabangan town in Nueva Ecija has reappeared after water in the Pantabangan Dam receded due to an El Niño-induced drought.

When the Pantabangan Dam was built in the 1970s, the town submerged under water. Since then, the abandoned town would reemerge whenever water levels are extremely low.

Slate, Rubble, Archaeology
REMNANTS. A visitor checks out the remnants of the heritage site. Pantabangan’s tourism office urges visitors not to litter and take away bricks or other fragments from the site.

This is the fourth time the town reappeared completely, said Karessa Castro Cortez, an employee at the assessor’s office of Pantabangan.

“‘Pag hindi po ganoon kababa ang tubig ‘yung krus lang po ng lumang simbahan ang nakikita dati,” Cortez told Rappler.

(When the recession of water is not that low, you can only see the cross of the old church.)

It is now considered a cultural heritage zone through a local ordinance and attracts tourists when it reappears.

While they allow visitors in the heritage site, Pantabangan’s tourism office reminds the public not to litter, bring food, get fragments of the structures, or set up camp.

Land, Nature, Outdoors
EXPOSED. The soil in the centuries-old town, now exposed to the sun after it reemerged, is rough and cracked.

Among the remains of the old settlement are St. Andrew Parish Church built in the 19th century, an old public cemetery, Norma’s Auditorium, and the stand of a statue of Jose Rizal.

Visitors have to pay an ecological fee of P30. They would have to take a boat ride from Pantabangan Dam to get to the sunken town, which will cost P150. Another boat ride is needed to get to the old cemetery. Visits are limited to 40 minutes. The heritage site is open from 6 am to 12 noon.

Rubble, Architecture, Building
BURIED. All remains in the sunken public cemetery were moved to a new cemetery before the whole town was flooded with water from the dam.

Pantabangan Dam, built on Pampanga River, is one of the largest reservoirs in Southeast Asia. Around 1,300 people had to be relocated to give way to the dam’s construction. –

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Iya Gozum

Iya Gozum covers the environment, agriculture, and science beats for Rappler.