Last Sunday, March 20, I went on a day tour to explore the beauty of the Province of Rizal. It was a tiring, but fun-filled and eventful day. For only Php 800, I was able to go to various places hidden in the province of Rizal that I have been wanting to visit for quite some time. One of those sites is the Angono Petroglyphs.
The Angono Petroglyphs is found in the municipality of Binangonan, province of Rizal, just Southeast of Angono. Its existence was reported by Philippines National Artist, Carlos “Botong” Francisco, during a field trip with the boy scouts along Angono. In his report to the National Museum, he said that he discovered a rock shelter and cave with carvings and drawings that might be of historical value. In 1973, the Angono Petroglyphs was declared a national treasure by the Philippine government. It was then included in the National Cultural Treasures and World Inventory of Rock Art. To boost the public’s interest and awareness of the historical site, the National Museum built a mini museum, together with a stone path and viewing deck. In 1996, the Angono Petroglyphs was included in the “100 Most Endangered Sites of the World.” At present, it is is on the tentative list of UNESCO World Heritage Sites of the Philippines. Efforts are being made to restore and preserve this archaeological site.
Getting to the Angono Petroglyphs
Since we have our own vehicle and we don’t need to use public transport, I thought going to the Angono Petroglyphs would be easy. I was wrong. As you may know, Angono is best known as the “Art Capital of the Philippines.” So when we were asking the locals on the petroglyphs’ location, we had some troubles. Due to the variety of museums located in the area, it seems like most people we asked are not really familiar with the Angono Petroglyphs Site Museum’s location or maybe they know the Angono Petroglyphs by a different name. We were going in circles for a while. Different people have been pointing us to different directions. One would think that since we’re looking for a national cultural treasure, the locals in Angono would easily know of it. But they seem to be as confused as us. After we burned a good amount of time and fuel going around town, we decided to use Waze to direct us to the Angono Petroglyphs. And thanks to the ever reliable technology, Waze successfully and quite easily lead us to our destination.
The site of the Angono Petroglyphs is not easily recognizable. Even if you’re in the right location already, I can imagine how easy you can pass right through it. There’s only a very small signage beside a dirt road that will lead you to the Angono-Binangonan Petroglyphs site. So if you plan to go here and you have your own vehicle, save yourself some time and use Waze. If you don’t have Waze, make sure you come there prepared with maps. Based on our experience, the locals are not that useful when it comes to directions. Do your research first.
The Angono Petroglyphs
Upon arriving, We were immediately welcomed by a cave. The entrance fee is Php 20. Since it’s National Women’s Month, the girls got a free pass. Though I don’t mind paying a fee if it means more funds for maintenance and preservation of this site.
There’s no light inside the cave and the ground is really rough and rocky, so make sure you wear comfortable shoes. Once you entered, the only light you will see is that coming from the opening on the other side. By the way, I love this cave! Since we just came under the heat of the sun, the shelter and the cold wind inside is such a relief. I’m not quite sure how long the cave is since we really took our time inside. It’s really dark, but not scary dark. Bicycles and motorcycles can pass through.
We took some pictures while walking through the cave. At first I thought the carvings would be inside, but it’s so dark to actually see anything on the walls. I was afraid we were missing out on the actual rock drawings!
At this point, I was wondering where are the wall carvings? We’ve been through the cave. I looked around the wall and saw some drawings, but there’s something not right about it. They’re wall carvings, alright, but of primitive time? I don’t think so. The word “mahal” and heart drawings are very evident. We realized that we’re looking at vandals from visitors who obviously does’t care or have any understanding of the importance and value of this site. Such a shame.
It turns out the cave is just the entrance to the actual rock shelter where the real wall carvings and drawings are located. From the cave, you need to walk for a few minutes. You will then see the mini museum and the viewing deck. Now this is the Angono Petroglyphs that I came to visit.
I love how you need to go inside the mini museum first before you can go up the viewing deck. You are required to read a brief history of the Angono Petroglyphs. I like this idea because often times, visitors overlook what’s written and never really had enough understanding of the real reason they are visiting the place. Taking pictures is allowed, but video recording is prohibited. I asked one of the guides why recording videos are not allowed. He said it’s because a lot of people would record videos and upload on social media with the wrong history and information about the site. They then decided to disallow video recording. The guide is nice enough to tell us what to put as caption if ever we upload our pictures online. He said that we should state that the Angono Petroglyphs is the oldest known work of art in the Philippines.
The viewing deck serves as the rock shelter’s protection. Though it’s very sad to still see a few vandals on the rock wall. Good to see that they are now making efforts to preserve the Angono Petroglyphs and doing measures to prevent people to have direct contact with it.
The drawings on the wall was said to be associated with healing and magic. I was able to make out some animal figures, like turtle, with human stick drawings with rounded head. It is mind boggling to think that these drawings were created during the Neolithic era. The nature really has an amazing way of preserving its own. Now it’s up to man to keep and preserve it this way, hopefully.
Overall, the Angono Petroglyphs is a good place to visit. It’s a shame that this probably doesn’t get much funding to be better preserved. There’s not much to do besides look at the rock drawings and enjoy the cave. There’s no other visitors when we went, so I guess there’s still not much public consciousness around the Angono-Binangonan Petroglyphs. This still remains one of the Philippines and Angono, Rizal’s hidden gems.
Angono Petroglyphs Site Museum
Mondays-Fridays / 9:00 am – 4:00 pm;
Saturdays, Sundays and holidays by appointment
ASBMD, National Museum Central Office; 527-4192