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Did You Know That There is a Lost Mountain in Sucat, Muntinlupa?

Mamerto Adan is a feature writer who is back in college once again. Science is one of his favorite topics.

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We do a lot of business trips at work. I mean, it’s part of my job, and most of the time we ended up in different parts of Manila. And even before I got my present job, I once worked as a clerk in Quezon City. For the people living in South Luzon, like me who resides in Laguna, you can’t reach Manila without crossing Sucat first. To see the scenery of Sucat, Muntinlupa on my way to work or meetings just became a usual occurrence for me. We could say that I took the view of the said place for granted, without knowing that like many of the places we have in the Philippines, it keeps a secret it itched to share.

There are pieces of history lurking in somewhat overlooked objects and places around the country. From the grandest of the monuments, to the most ancient of structures and down to the well-known gin bottle with an illustrated Archangel. I mean, I never knew that it was the national artist Fernando Amorsolo who designed the Ginebra San Miguel label? And going back to Sucat, Muntinlupa, did you know that there is actually a mountain there, hidden among the structures and bridges?

Sucat, Muntinlupa

Sucat Baranggay Hall.

Sucat Baranggay Hall.

It’s hard to imagine that there is a mountain somewhere in the urban barangay Sucat, Muntinlupa. People often associate the place with South Luzon Expressway, Metro Manila Skyway, villages, subdivisions, condominiums, commercial establishments, and not to mention the surrounding places, like Taguig and Paranaque. Mountains aren’t something one will expect in Sucat.

But firstly, a brief history.

No one was sure when Sucat was established, as there is no record of the exact date of its founding. To begin with, the barangay name Sucat came from the Malay word sukat, which means to measure. It got its name thanks to the mayor of Maynilad (the old Manila) Don Juan Posadas and his family. Prior to its establishment, the Posadas family measured the place several times, and acquired the lands they measured (having connections the Spanish government officials). And being the most northernmost place in Muntinlupa, it is often mistaken as a barangay in Paranaque. To further add up to the confusion, an SM branch in Barangay San Dionisio, Paranaque was named SM Sucat, simply because it is ahead of the former Sucat road. The great Laguna Lake also lies near Sucat.

Like many of the places in the Philippines, it also witnessed certain historical events, like the battle between the Spaniards and American forces in the later years of Spanish occupation. Nevertheless, digging into the brief history of Sucat reveals no mention of mountains. Almost. Because a certain map created by a Frenchman in 1885 showed a curious landscape.

1885 Map of Manila

The map itself.

The map itself.

Élisée Reclus was an interesting fellow. This Frenchman advocated nature conservation, and opposed animal cruelty. Infact, he refused to eat meat and contended himself to vegetarian diet. Anarchism was his preferred political view, but his profession as a geographer earned him recognition. In 1892, he received Gold Medal of the Paris Geographical Society.

And this renowned French geographer also published a map of Manila in 1885, titled Environs of Manilla. The map is part of his book titled “The Universal Geography: The Earth and Its Inhabitants.”

What is interesting here is that it showed how Manila was back then, which is basically just Intramuros. Manila was limited to the said place, as the surrounding areas were just undeveloped wilderness. Well known cities like Makati, Muntinlupa and Paranaque were mostly wooded areas. The map also has indications of the land elevation, while we could see the Laguna Lake in the east.

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The Map gave us a glimpse of the 19th century Manila, and how it differs today, much like going back in time. And curiously, a mountain is shown just north of Muntinlupa, a place identified as Sucat today. There is a mountain there named Mani. The only problem is that there is no visible mountain in Sucat today, nor any mention of Mt. Mani anywhere in modern Manila.

The Mysterious Mt. Mani

Mt. Mani showed in the Map

Mt. Mani showed in the Map

I tried to search for more clues about Mt. Mani, and there are only few mentions. And all of them point to the map created by Reclus. Overall, the sole indication of Mt. Mani’s existence is the map. With that said, there are no known sketches, photographs, or even accounts of the mysterious mountain, as if it just disappeared in history. And being a prolific geographer, we cannot question the integrity of Reclus, and he had nothing to gain from fabrications.

Referring to the modern-day map of barangay Sucat offered no further clues. What we see is a flat urban settlement without signs of hills nor mountains. The more updated Google map supported the official map of Sucat. No mountain here.

People could only wonder if Reclus is lying, mad, or telling the truth. But again, there is no point questioning his integrity. And as the history of Manila showed us, features and landscape could change. A forest or wetland could evolve into urban areas thanks to rapid modernization. Maybe as the places in Manila progresses, Sucat being one of them, there are certain land features that got lost in the urbanization. But the clues on the whereabouts of the mysterious Mt. Mani lies on Sucat’s land elevation.

Elevation of Barangay Sucat

Sucat is on high grounds. Image from Google Street View.

Sucat is on high grounds. Image from Google Street View.

Back to present day, when I’m doing business trips to places in Manila, or simply when doing road trips to Paranaque, I can’t help but notice how some areas in Sucat seem to be in higher ground, particularly in the location of Sucat Interchange. Even when not crossing the Skyway, watching the Laguna Lake from East Service Roard is like viewing it from a hill. According to Paranaque tourism office, there are places around Sucat that exhibit elevations. Example is San Dionisio which is already 2 meters above sea level, while Mashvell is as high as 30 meters above sea level (around a hundred feet). The topographic elevations of these places indicate that it was once considered as mountain. Overall, the land elevation in Sucat seems to be consistent with the location of Mt. Mani in the map, while there is a mention of “Sitio Bundok Mani,” one of the barangays being managed by the Gobernadorcillo of Paranaque in 1700.

And We Found It

1885 Map of Manila compared with Google Map.

1885 Map of Manila compared with Google Map.

Based on the ground elevation and the location of Mt. Mani in the map, we could say that the missing mountain is buried in the Skyway, in the Sucat Interchange to be exact. When viewed from above, we could see how the ground rises to form a small hill.

Yes, this is Mt. Mani. Image from Google Map.

Yes, this is Mt. Mani. Image from Google Map.

And there you have it, we found Mt. Mani. It’s the hill under the Skyway that we often pass on our way to work. The presence of a lost mountain also explains the steep climb any first-time motorist must endure when crossing the Interchange. But at least we could say that we climb a mountain each time we go there.

What Mt. Mani looks like. Taken from Google Earth.

What Mt. Mani looks like. Taken from Google Earth.

References

1. Limos, Mario Alvaro (07 February, 2022). "Mt. Mani: The Lost Mountain of Metro Manila". Esquiremag.ph.

2. "Brgy. Sucat – City Government of Muntinlupa". Retrieved 2021-11-12.

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