Some 2,000 bamboo groves line the roadsides of Sapang Bato here and farther up to Barangay (village) Inararo in Porac, Pampanga, including the banks of the Sacobia River and its tributaries beside the Clark Freeport.
Healthy and standing at more than 10 feet, these help hide the fact that 20 years ago, everything around here was a barren landscape of ash, sand, mud, rocks and pumice stones spewed out by Mt. Pinatubo.
In 2008, Renato “Abong” Tayag Jr. started a regreening program to revive the area with his friends, his sons and their classmates at De La Salle University.
Tayag, 62, a businessman-farmer, said published accounts of his great, great grandfather, historian Don Mariano Henson, gave early clues that Angeles must be protected from floods and secured a steady supply of fresh water.
In what was regarded as an act of God, a huge boulder blocked the “Gate of Heaven,” a segment of the Sacobia River at the boundary of Sapang Bato and Inararo, sparing the city from lahar rampages after 1994. Dams built by the government help protect the city.
Then and now, Tayag said the Sapang Bato environs could spell disaster or safety for Angeles and its more than 300,000 people.
“Sapang Bato, because it is in a series of hills that are part of the Zambales mountain range, can slow down water flowing to the city if it has lots of plants that can hold it. Minus the plants, water from the Sacobia River can flow fast and [submerge] us,” he said.
“Future Angeleños can be assured of supply of drinking water if they reforest Sapang Bato now,” he said.
Tayag and the local parish pastoral council, led by Cora Garcia, first planted bamboo along the banks of the Sapang Kalawang.
The Pampanga Agricultural Colleges, through Dr. Carmelito Tarun, regularly supplied the seedlings as Tayag drew more volunteers to help. To convince them of the Sapang Bato-Angeles City connection, he brings them to Sitio (sub-village) Dudurut where they can get a perfect view of the city and nearby Clark.
Bamboo planting has done the place well. Its natural charm has been restored and the kindness of its people, including the Aeta, beckon, making it a favorite destination of bikers, off-roaders and other outdoor enthusiasts.
Koreans, Chinese and Thai tourists visit the area in groups and enjoy staying in a hot springs resort built amid lahar canyons in Inararo. Tonette Orejas, Inquirer Central Luzon