A city that was submerged to build one of the biggest dams in South Asia in the 1970s has re-emerged.
The once-bustling Old Pantabangan town in Nueva Ecija province, the Philippines, was sunken and not seen for almost half-a-century.
It was abandoned in the 1970s when floodwater from the newly created dam submerged the town and its environs.
However, a chronic lack of rain across parts of Southeast Asia has caused water levels in the reservoir to plunge.
To travelers 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 church, once a place of prayer, is now an ominous symbol of the country’s power shortages in the past decades and its desperate search for a solution that inundated an entire town.
There is also an old infrastructure and old cemetery found in the said sunken town.
Former residents and tourists are now returning to the ruins, while Catholic devotees organized a mass in the old Augustinian Church.