Angono in Rizal is probably not on the top of rider’s list of places to head to on a weekend, being relatively near Manila. Often, you’ll find yourself at a standstill or crawling through mind-numbing traffic rather than revving your engine as you would on the twisty mountain roads of Marilaque or on your way to Tagaytay.
But the environs of Angono, known as the “Art Capital of the Philippines,” has its share of attractions for those looking for something new and interesting to do. One weekend, Art and I decided to take a leisurely ride here to visit some folk art restaurants and the Angono-Binangonan Petroglyphs. Even though Bingangonan is Art’s hometown, I never previously visited the site.
The steep uphill road going up to the Petroglyphs can pose a bit of a challenge to cyclists, but for motorcycle riders, it can be a pleasant ride with great lookout points of the scenery of Rizal below. The road to the Petroglyphs also diverges to Thunderbird Resorts, a high-end hotel, with a swimming pool and a casino, which Art and I had previously visited by car. That morning, we were just content to ride around the empty roads around the resort.
Though famously known as the “Angono Petroglyphs”, the exact location of the oldest known artwork in the Philippines is at a point that borders the towns of Angono and Bingangonan in Rizal. Technically, it’s now called “Angono Petroglyphs in Binangonan” or “Angono-Binangonan Petroglyphs” to reflect the shared ownership.
Visitors can’t bring in cars and motorcycles into the artificial cave leading to the site, so it’s best to park your bikes right outside and make your way on a short 5-minute walk through the cool tunnel. Mountain bikes seem to be allowed, as we spotted a group of mountain bikers who were visiting the site before heading to the nearby bike trail called the Thunder trails.
There’s a tiny national museum right beside the site, which houses some artifacts and where you can read about the history of the place. According to the marker at the site, the human and animal-like figures engraved on the rockwall made of volcanic turf are considered the oldest known art works in the Philippines, dating back to circa 3,000 B.C. It was only in 1965 that they were discovered by the late renowned muralist and National Artist, Carlos “Botong” Fransisco during a field trip with a troop of boy scouts.
From afar, the cave walls look just like any other cave surface, but if you look closely, you’ll notice the engravings of stick figures resembling human and animal-like figures including turtles and lizards. According to museum information on display, there are “127 drawings of animate figures, generally with a circular or domelike head on top of a vee-shaped torso.”
The drawings are engraved into the volcanic turf which was soft enough to be worked by a denser piece of stone. Of the one hundred twenty seven figures, fifty one are said to be distinct types, suggesting that the engravings were done by many individuals.
The Petroglyphs are considered a highly significant cultural landmark because it is the oldest known work of art in the Philippines. It is included in the list of the National Cultural Treasures of the country and World Inventory of Rock Art. It was also declared as one of the most imperiled historic sites in the world by the World Monuments Watch and the World Monuments Fund.
Overall, a visit to the Petroglyphs by motorcycle is very doable for a half-morning budget trip. Travel time from Marikina to Rizal can take about 1-hour depending on the traffic and visiting the Petroglyphs and museum itself is good for about 30 mins. The museum is open from Monday-Sundays 8:00 am – 5:00 pm (Holidays by appointment). Entrance fees cost P20 for adults and P10 for students.
Angono-Binangonan Petroglyphs National Museum is located in Brgy. Bilihiran, Binangonan, Rizal. (02) 527-4192.