To travellers who are constantly on the hunt for underrated gems, the Nueva Ecija Pantabangan Dam is no stranger. As Asia’s third-largest dam, the site boasts of its tranquil beauty. Nowadays, locals and tourists alike visit the spot for water activities such as jet skiing, kayaking, and rafting.
But on 26 Jul 2020, Pantabangeño Krystha Recio found the site under a completely different light. Evident in their photos that quickly went viral, Krystha and her sister Kashiee captured a dry Nueva Ecija Pantabangan Dam. Its low water levels paved the way to the reemergence of the sunken old town of Pantabangan.
During summertime, the water level of the Pantabangan Dam decreases enough to reveal the cross of a sunken Catholic church. “Dati po, yung lumilitaw lang is yung krus,” Kashiee confirms. “Pero ngayon, lumitaw na rin po yung lumang sementeryo, bantayog ni Rizal, gate ng lumang school, at iba pa.”
The history of the Nueva Ecija Pantabangan Dam
In 1973, the government announced the submersion of the old Pantabangan town to create one of the largest dams in Asia. The new Nueva Ecija Pantabangan Dam has since supplied hydroelectric power and water irrigation to farmlands of Central Luzon.
Along with the construction of the Pantabangan Dam, the town centre and seven other barangays were submerged. Submitting to this development, thousands of residents were forced to relocate to higher ground.
As El Niño hit Nueva Ecija a decade later, some areas of the old town reappeared. But over the past few years, the old Pantabangan has remained sunken.