Where can we travel and still enjoy despite the rainy season? This is probably the question for most of us in the Philippines when the monsoon months arrive. As we all know, June is the start of the rainy season while July and August receive the most rainfall. This wet season can stretch to November, leaving us with no choice but to be stuck inside our homes feeling like another pandemic lockdown.
Ironically, whenever we think of travel, our mind usually wanders to new destinations outside our communities, cities, and country, making us “blind” to the wonders of local tourist spots.
Metro Manila is composed of 16 cities and if you live in one of them, then you have to discover first what’s in store in your place before venturing abroad. Remember what the late great Susan Calo-Medina always said? “Huwag maging dayuhan sa sariling bayan!”
This brings us to the City of San Juan, this tiny yet progressive city located in the heart of Metro Manila. Most of us know it because of Greenhills but it is more than just that. The city has cultural and historic significance as it is the site of the “Battle of Pinaglabanan,” considered the first major battle of the Philippine Revolution, which took place on Aug. 30, 1896.
Today, San Juan is an urban paradise which looks toward the future yet still honors its historic past. This is truly a unique city and you will be missing a lot if you just visit this city to shop, eat, or relax. Bring your family this weekend to San Juan City to learn a thing or two about our history.
Start at the Museo El Deposito, which is located just beside the historic Pinaglabanan Memorial Shrine. A lot of us are not aware but this place offers a “time travel” experience, showing us how our ancestors during the Spanish era harvested water for their daily needs. Modern infrastructure for public utilities were not yet built or invented.
The Museo El Deposito is managed by the National Historical Commission of the Philippines. It is an indoor space so even if it’s raining outside, you can have a convenient tour inside, making it an ideal weekend destination for groups of families and friends.
The museum is located in a peaceful enclave surrounded by trees, a park, and a quiet community. You wouldn’t even know that there is a historic water reservoir underneath this place that once served Old Manila. The place is quiet and not crammed with tourists, and the good news is — entrance and parking are free (just wear your facemask and show your vaccination card).
Once inside the museum, you’ll first see a short educational film about the rich history of El Deposito. One fascinating story is how the structure was built during the Spanish time despite the non-existence of modern equipment. This water reservoir back in the old days supplied water to residents and businesses of Old Manila. Water came from the mountainous side of San Mateo, Rizal and passed through huge underground water pipes, which led to this water depository in San Juan. Thus, it was called in Spanish as “El Deposito,” which literally means the depository.
After exploring the museum and seeing artifacts found from El Deposito, tourists will then go to the exciting part of this historic place, which is of course the old underground water reservoir.
As you go down the stairs of this massive underground water reservoir, you’ll see a gallery showcasing the grandeur of old water fountains and hydrants, which were abundant in the old historic districts of Manila. Opposite this gallery area is a big arching entrance of the star of the show, the once important infrastructure of a bygone era, also considered the great grandfather of all water reservoirs in the Philippines.
Its height and ceiling are truly remarkable as it was like being inside a huge medieval dungeon of European castles. The experience was also like walking inside a big cathedral dome or a massive cave worthy of exploration for the adventurous.
The lighting inside makes the reservoir more intriguing and historic, especially as you walk toward its man-made bridgeway. There is still a small deposit of water, a reminder of its use and importance in the transformation journey of Metro Manila into a modern metropolis.
Truly, El Deposito is one of a kind, a remnant of our historic past, and a reminder of the value of water to all societies. Though water is abundant during this rainy season, it’s still practical if we learn to conserve it considering the threats of climate change.
Spend a weekend, whether it is rainy or sunny, at Museo El Deposito (the museum is open Tuesday to Sunday, from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m.) to learn a piece of history and explore the value of water in our story as a nation.