Who says that one of the ancient pyramids in Southeast Asia is in the Philippines?
The discovery of ancient pyramids enable us to have a peek in the life of the past. The 2018 discovery of Wahtye’s tomb in the Saqqara necropolis in Egypt, for instance, offers a view on the life of a priest 4,500 years ago and how the Egyptians venerated cats one of which turned out to be a mummified lion cub. Netflix’s documentary, “Secrets of the Saqqara Tomb”, also reveals over three thousand artifacts, and what might be the world’s oldest traceable case of malaria.
But the pyramids of Egypt, including that of Saqqara, are humbled by the age of the Indonesian pyramid — Gunung Padang. Previously misinterpreted as a natural rock formation, Gunung Padang is a layered series of structures built over consecutive prehistoric periods. Radiocarbon dating suggests that the uppermost layer could be up to approximately 3,500 old years old, the second layer somewhere around 8,000 years old, and the third layer to be between 9,500 and 28,000 years old. There is another layer but it is said to be composed of natural rocks.
In the Philippines, another pyramid-like structure is found in Montalban (now renamed as Rodriguez) in the Province of Rizal. Montalban used to be the hideout of Katipuneros during the Spanish period and guerillas during the Japanese period. The monolithic structure is part of the Sierra Madre mountain range and one of the areas where some Japanese treasure is located. As proof, there are gold panning activities in some of the rivers in the municipality though not as publicized as the areas in Surigao and Camarines Norte.
The pyramid-like monolithic structure towers above communities, some of which are newly developed subdivisions. In most days, loud thuds can be heard from the structure and at nighttime, one can see bright lights. But don’t be mistaken — those lights do not come from unidentified flying objects (UFOs) or aliens. Both the sound and the lights come from human-made machines.
A closer look, however, shows that the monolithic structure is a quarry site for basalt, rocks, and aggregates defacing, if not flattening, a poor mountain. It is one of the seven registered quarry sites in the municipality that pours in millions of pesos a year to the national and local government chests.
Apart from its contribution to the government’s income, the quarrying sites in Montalban are also considered as a major contributor in realizing the Duterte Administration’s “Build, Build, Build Program.” For instance, based on the report of the Mines and Geosciences Bureau (MGB), quarrying of aggregates, filling materials and basalt in the Province of Rizal increased by 1.6 million cubic meters (Cu. M.) in 2019 from 5.51 million Cu. M. in 2015. The biggest increase is noted in the quarrying of basalt — a material used in construction particularly for building blocks and groundwork.
The quarrying also contributed to the economy both local and national. Based on MGB’s records in 2019, the total production value of the seven quarry operators in in Rodriguez alone amounted to P 310.9 million. The quarries also created opportunities for commerce and other economic activities.
Unfortunately, it is also considered as one of the contributors not only of deforestation but also of flooding forcing tens of thousands of residents in Metro Manila and Rizal to scramble to their rooftoops, and causing the death of at least 12 individuals during Typhoon Ulysses (International name: Vamco) alone in November last year. As former Environment Secretary Gina Lopez said, the quarrying in Montalban is one of the contributors to the denudation of the Marikina watershed. Montalban is considered a part of the Marikina watershed.
MGB, though, claims that there are efforts for environmental protection to counter the effects of quarrying. In 2018, at least PhP 214.98 million was allocated for the implementation of environmental protection and enhancement programs. A number of activities were also conducted among them the never-ending tree planting, and fun runs to raise funds. Unfortunately, these were not enough because apart from the environment-related disasters, health-related risks are also on the rise. Residents of Montalban particularly those near the quarry sites complain of respiratory track infections most of which are not officially reported to, and thus not counted by, the local health centers.
In a sense, while the pyramids of the ancient times provide us a glimpse of the past, the Montalban’s pyramid-like structure gives us a view of what will happen in the future. It is true that there is no ancient pyramid in the Philippines and, if quarrying will continue without any honest-to-goodness environment protection measures set in place, there will be no more civilization to speak of in the near future in the areas within and surrounding the Marikina watershed.