Sunday, September 14, 2008

*108. MOUNT ARAYAT NATIONAL PARK

AIN'T NO MOUNTAIN HIGH ENOUGH. Excursionists from Red Star Stores gather at the foot of the dormant volcano, Mt. Arayat, where the Mount Arayat National Park, established by Pres. Manuel L. Quezon in 1933, can be found. Dated 2 March 1941.

Long before the supermalls changed Pampanga’s landscape and became favorite family hang-outs, everyone’s choice destination for natural relaxation was Mount Arayat National Park. Scene of many excursions from many decades past, the park was actually conceived by Pres. Manuel L. Quezon, who, in the early 1930s, took a liking to the lush, soothing environs of the fabled mountain. After all, the accessibility of the 3,564 foot mountain and its unique geographical position offered limitless possibilities to restless urban dwellers. Spanish friars recognized the revitalizing qualities of Arayat, even setting up tiled baths in BaƱo to soothe their tired spirits in the medicinal spring waters.

Pres. Quezon himself led the way towards the establishment of the park by developing his own hacienda in Arayat. His Kaledian estate was where he sought refuge from the pressure of his work, often retreating there together with wife Aurora Aragon. He began transforming Arayat into a tourist area, what with places of natural interest like springs, slides, rock formations, dotting the place.

On 27 June 1933, the national park was thus established. Plans were set in motion for the park’s immediate development. Buracan Lake, for instance, a picturesque sanctuary of flora and fauna west of the mountain was looked at as a health resort. A certain section lying within the vicinity of the lake and the Quarry Reservation was to be turned into a landing field for airplanes. Also, as a wildlife reserve, all form of hunting were prohibited in the area.

The post-war years saw the park increasingly becoming popular tourist haven. Company tours and excursions from Manila and nearby provinces were regularly organized. Public utility buses included Arayat in their travel routes to take advantage of the growing number of mobile Filipino tourists.

Today, Mount Arayat National Park—even if it has degenerated into a local resort with little infrastructures— has a few attractions to offer. It boasts of a picnic site with lush greeneries, two swimming pools fed by natural spring waters, recreation halls and various plant and animal life like monkeys, civets and native birds. Run by the government, the park’s latest attraction is the Tree House, a cluster of huts and houses ideal for private gatherings. The park also is the perfect starting point to scale the mountain peak. The peak has a view deck from where one can take in the view of the plains and fields of Pampanga, including the famed Pampanga River and the Zambales mountain ranges.

In 1993, the national park was declared a tourist spot by the enactment of Republic Act 7690. Still, the park has been overshadowed by more high-profile destinations—including private resorts--considered safer and more modern. In an effort to revitalize tourism again in Arayat, Rep. Rey Aquino, in response to the has urged the House of Representatives to declare the mountain an eco-tourism haven. It is hoped that in the near future, fair Mount Arayat can reclaim once more its stature as a natural monument, whose beauty and grandeur radiates throughout the great Central Plain.

(*NOTE: Feature titles with asterisks represent other writings of the author that appeared in other publications and are not included in the original book, "Views from the Pampang & Other Scenes")

2 comments:

Abigail Flores said...

My search of old photos of Mt. Arayat National Park took me to your site, and I realized that I've encountered your name, sir, in several research projects of Arayat and its environs. Thanks to your works I've completed several writing assignments during my college days.
FYI, I live near the Mt. Arayat National Park (right beside it actually) and I'm sorry to inform that it is now temporarily closed to visitors. I live here since birth, and both my parents have worked in the park (my father is a former DENR employee) and so it saddens us to see how the park has deteriorated in the last few years. There's talk about plans to revive the park and hopefully it will push through.
Another FYI, sir, we do have old photos of the park, though not predating your photo here. If you have plans to publish another book about Pampanga, please free to contact me. Thanks for educating us about our history.

alex r. castro said...

That's too sad. I recall my one and only visit to Arayat Park in my college days, and I enjoyed taking a dip in the pools immensely! It wasn't even crowded then, and the people were truly nice!