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

Mamerto Adan is an engineer by profession but a writer by night. He's interested in science, history, and martial arts.

Read on to learn about Élisée Reclus, who created a map of Manila in 1885 that showed a mysterious mountain. I've tracked down the elusive location of this geographic location—find out where it is!

Read on to learn about Élisée Reclus, who created a map of Manila in 1885 that showed a mysterious mountain. I've tracked down the elusive location of this geographic location—find out where it is!

The Philippines Is Home to Many Overlooked Treasures

We go on a lot of business trips at work. Most of the time, we end 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. Seeing the scenery of Sucat, Muntinlupa on my way to work or meetings just became a usual occurrence for me. You could say that I took the view for granted, without knowing that, like many places in the Philippines, it keeps a secret it itches to share.

There are pieces of history lurking in somewhat overlooked objects and places around the country, from the grandest of monuments and most ancient structures down to the well-known gin bottle imprinted with an illustrated Archangel. I mean, I never knew that the national artist Fernando Amorsolo 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 Baranggay Hall in Sucat, Muntinlupa.

Sucat Baranggay Hall in Sucat, Muntinlupa.

A Brief History of Sucat, Muntinlupa

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

But first, a brief history.

No one is totally 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 with Spanish government officials).

Being the northernmost place in Muntinlupa, it is often mistaken for 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 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. At least, almost no mention. There exists a certain map created by a Frenchman in 1885 that shows a curious landscape.

1885 map of Manila created by Frenchman Élisée Reclus.

1885 map of Manila created by Frenchman Élisée Reclus.

Who Was Élisée Reclus?

Élisée Reclus was an interesting fellow. This Frenchman advocated nature conservation and opposed animal cruelty. In fact, he refused to eat meat and contented himself with a vegetarian diet. Anarchism was his preferred political view, but his profession as a geographer earned him recognition. In 1892, he received the 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, 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 indicates the land elevation, while we can see Laguna Lake in the east.

The map gives us a glimpse of 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. It turns out there really is a mountain there: Mt. Mani. The only problem is that there is no visible mountain in Sucat today, nor any mention of Mt. Mani anywhere in modern Manila.

A close-up of the mysterious Mt. Mani, as shown on Reclus’s map.

A close-up of the mysterious Mt. Mani, as shown on Reclus’s map.

I searched for more clues about Mt. Mani but found only a few mentions. All of them point to the map created by Reclus. Overall, the sole indication of Mt. Mani’s existence is the map. 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, it is unreasonable to question Reclus’s integrity, especially since 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 or mountains. The more updated Google map supports the official map of Sucat—there is no mountain here.

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

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

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

Elevation of Barangay Sucat

Coming back to the 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 on higher ground particularly in the location of Sucat Interchange. Even when not crossing the Skyway, watching Laguna Lake from East Service Road is like viewing it from a hill.

According to the Paranaque tourism office, there are places around Sucat that exhibit elevations. An example is San Dionisio, which is already 2 meters above sea level, while Mashvell is as high as 30 meters above sea level (around 100 feet). The topographic elevations of these places indicate that it was once considered to be a mountain.

Overall, the land elevation in Sucat seems to be consistent with the location of Mt. Mani on Reclus’s map, while there is a mention of “Sitio Bundok Mani,” one of the barangays being managed by the Gobernadorcillo of Paranaque in 1700.

1885 Map of Manila compared with Google Map.

1885 Map of Manila compared with Google Map.

The Location of Mt. Mani

Based on the ground elevation and the location of Mt. Mani on 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 thousands of Philippine citizens often pass on their 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 can 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 (7 February, 2022). “Mt. Mani: The Lost Mountain of Metro Manila”. Esquire, https://www.esquiremag.ph/long-reads/features/mt-mani-the-lost-mountain-of-metro-manila-a00293-20220217-lfrm. Retrieved 2021-11-12.

2. “Brgy. Sucat”. (n.d.). City Government of Muntinlupa, https://www.muntinlupacity.gov.ph/?page_id=1948. Retrieved 2021-11-12.

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.