The return of the ghosts… Drought dries up dam to reveal centuries-old town in the Philippines


The ruins of an almost 300-year-old town have resurfaced as searing temperatures in the Philippines partially dried up a major dam.

Philippines - Drought dries up dam to reveal centuries-old town
Philippines – Drought dries up dam to reveal centuries-old town

Pantabangan town was submerged in the 1970s to build a reservoir.

But it emerges from the water on extremely rare occasions, when the weather is dry and hot.

It comes as almost half the country is experiencing a drought, with temperatures reaching highs in several areas.

This is the longest the town has ever been above water since the dam was constructed, Marlon Paladin, an engineer with the state agency that operates the country’s dams, told news agency AFP.

The extreme heat has disrupted the daily lives of millions as schools are shut for days and office workers are advised to work from home.

And it could still get marginally hotter in the coming days, Benison Estareja, a meteorologist at the state-run weather bureau Pagasa, told BBC News.

“The general impact of climate change on the Philippines is warmer temperatures. The heat that we are experiencing, it could steadily increase in the coming days,” Mr Estareja said.

The Philippines is in the middle of its warm and dry season, which is exacerbated by El Nino or the unusual warming of surface waters in the Pacific Ocean. The archipelago nation’s entire east coast faces the Pacific.


The South East Asian nation is one of the most at risk countries in the world from the effects of climate change. Its wet season can bring about monster storms, like Super Typhoon Haiyan in 2013, one of the most powerful in history.

“We are seeing that our dam levels will drop, including in Pantabangan and other areas,” Mr Estareja said.

The water level there has fallen by nearly 50m from its normal high level of 221m, based on official data.

The ruins began to resurface in March as the area had been receiving almost no rain, Mr Paladin told AFP. The re-emergence of the ruins have drawn tourists to the town, some 202km (125 miles) north of the capital, Manila.

Aside from the Philippines, Bangladesh has also enforced class suspensions that have affected 33 million students.

In Thailand, 30 people have died of heatstroke between January and April 17 this year, compared with 37 in the whole of 2023, the health ministry said. Across the border in Myanmar, temperatures have soared above 45C.

Extreme heat of this kind is going to become ever more common in South-East Asia… Couple this with stronger and more destructive typhoons especially in the case of the Philippines, things are looking bleak. [BBC]

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