Ambuklao Dam, a beautiful monstrosity?

Ambuklao Dam in Bokod, Benguet is a sight to behold with its thundering flow of water

Kayaking is possible in the catch basin of Ambuklao. CLICK TO ENLARGE

From a distance, Ambuklao Dam in Bokod, Benguet looks like a mirage. An apparition amidst the ruggedness of this part of the Cordillera. But it’s thunderous waters crashing below the dam’s gates nudges you back to reality.

Last January 2010, I was invited by the North Philippines Visitors Bureau to join a media tour of travel writers and bloggers to experience North Luzon for seven days starting in Cagayan province all the way to Pampanga to sample the various local cuisines and experience the attractions offered by the various provinces along the route. The long uphill climb from Baguio to Ambuklao Dam is one of the spectacular routes in Benguet, but probably second only to that of Halsema Highway minus the redolent stench of chicken dung along the road. Pantabangan Dam can be seen along the route. Deep vales and soaring misty mountains just take one’s breath away and at the same time, the crisp cool air perfumed by stands of pine trees makes it one of the most enjoyable and unforgettable routes. Just be careful after the rain as soil is loosened and landslides are commonplace.

But then, once you get past these, upon entering the vicinity of Bokod, denuded mountains and silted rivers takes the icing on the cake. That’s why when one get’s a glimpse of Ambuklao Dam, one just has to stop and gaze and contemplate the beautiful monstrosity of such a structure. So alien in its surroundings but provides a respite from all the drab ruggedness.

Captivating scenery of the rugged Cordilleras and the dam as seen from the top

Looking down below the dam. CLICK TO ENLARGE

A gap between the mountains where the mighty Agno River used to flow freely has been plugged to become the Ambuklao Dam commissioned in 1956 and is the Philippines’s first hydroelectric power plant that contributes to the Luzon grid. It irrigates the fields of Pangasinan province in the southwest.

Walking through the roadway at the top of the dam is quite an experience. You’re but a small entity amidst the gray structure of cement with its series of spillways down below regurgitating volumes upon volumes of water that comes crashing down, misty with aquaeous sprays.

The dam's catchbasin is just scenic

The dam’s catchbasin is perhaps a welcome site in Bokod with its emerald still waters providing a sharp contrast against the denuded and parched mountains surrounding it. The wind is not as strong when we were there but is enough to generate clean ripples on the surface.

This is also a good reason to indulge in kayaking which is offered here. Multicolored plastics that when on the water, provides a pleasant and colorful scenery. Not adventurous enough? One can just walk up the dam and contemplate the gush of water. The vertical lines formed as it surges down is zen like. Nevermind if it ends in a roiling break and foam and sprays.

Estan Cabigas is freelance photographer, blogger and writer based in Makati City, the Philippines. A true blue Cebuano, he makes stunning images and meaningful photo stories. His work has been published in local and international publications including National Geographic Magazine, Geo (Germany), Sunday Times Magazine (London) and other publications. He is also a peripatetic traveler and has traveled to all 81 Philippines provinces. I'm open for work, collaborations and inquiries, including hotel, restaurant and site features and reviews.


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  4. Zack
    September 30, 2010 @ 15:06


    So what would you recommend for camping by the dam? Is it safe to camp there?

  5. winnie
    January 11, 2011 @ 14:38

    been to ambuklao dam 2 days ago, its really captivating….i would love to sit there the whole day and just see the scenery.

  6. christine joy tom
    August 16, 2011 @ 18:46

    good evening! i would like to ask how to contact the AMBUKLAO DAM because we would like to visit it for our field trip this coming month! thanks! hope for your urgent response ^_^

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