Lake Hopping in San Pablo City | Laguna

At the crack of dawn on Saturday, Cathy and I were already at the JAC liner terminal in Buendia, Taft, waiting for our travel companion Abigail, who had been hammered from a night of drinking the night before. Despite this, Abigail arrived only a few minutes after six a.m. It was my first time meeting her, and the awkwardness quickly turned into familiarity, as if we'd known each other for a long time, especially when she took out the Tanduay Rum from her bag while we were having breakfast at Cafe Lago.

San Pablo Travel Guide

Cathy was our unofficial point person for asking for directions. She does it with ease, using her charm and flashing her sweet smile. She was — according to her — in the initial phase of backpacking training with myself as her boot camp Sergeant. I told her it is fun to get lost sometimes - but to make things easy for her first training session, we opted to go to nearby Laguna first. I expect her to travel alone to faraway places like Mindanao, Batanes (hopefully with me) and Japan, where she fell in love on the country's culture on a trip with her sister a year ago.

Cafe Lago

After three hours, the bus we were riding down San Pablo City dropped us off near the highway near the San Pablo Medical Hospital. We then took a tricycle ride to the San Pablo Cathedral. We couldn't go inside because it was being used for a wedding. We took another tricycle ride a few minutes later to Cafe Lago, a nice little garden restaurant with a beautiful view of Lake Sampaloc.

I ordered Longsilog, Cathy ordered "suman," and Abigail, a vegetarian, ordered garden salad and Rum Coke. While the ladies get themselves acquainted, I walked around the area and discovered a better view of Sampaloc Lake. I saw people fishing in the lake, jogging by, and others enjoying a quiet morning picnic with their families.

We returned to San Pablo Cathedral after breakfast and boarded a jeepney bound for "Ilog" (you can also take a jeepney bound for Liliw) and instructed the driver to drop us off at the road leading to Lake Pandin in Baranggay Sto. Angel. We had already planned our trip with Ate Siony (mobile number: 09299789565), the head of the Lake Pandin community tourism office. We paid around 360 pesos per person for a bamboo raft with lunch (180 pesos without lunch). When the driver dropped us off near the highway, a lady was already waiting for us, and she led us on a short 10-minute hike to Lake Pandin.

I remember coming down the slopes and having a sudden burst of excitement and energy that made me want to rip my shirt off, exposing my six pack abs, and jump into the calm waters. Only to discover that I don't know how to swim. Ate Siony greeted us with a warm smile, and we quickly felt at ease. She introduced us to Ate Lisa and Janet, the two women in charge of steering our bamboo raft. You see, the community around Lake Pandin is very well organized when it comes to dealing with visitors. Women are responsible for the majority of tourism-related jobs, while their husbands focus on their regular jobs such as fishing and farming. As a result, both heads of families earn additional income, and the entire community as a whole can sustain itself with the help of additional tourism-related incomes.

Traveling is more than just discovering new places, making new friends, and gaining new wisdom and knowledge. It is also an opportunity to help a community, even in small ways, by providing services such as tour guiding, ordering lunch, and purchasing locally made products. It helps to empower them, and when that happens, they will be the first to make efforts to take care of their environment, and soon eco-tourism will be much easier to achieve because the locals will ensure that everything is taken care of and nothing is abused.

We barely touched our lunch of fried tilapia, small shrimps, eggplant, and pako (seaweed salad) because we were too engrossed in the moment of being maddeningly encapsulated by the feeling of paddling towards the center of this 20-hectare lake with a maximum depth of 63 meters.

Abigail Bautista

Every visitor, including Aquaman, is required to wear a lifevest. However, this non-swimmer has no complaints. Abigail and I were the first to enter the water, while Cathy stayed on the raft, claiming that she does not fear the open sea or surfing the big ass waves of Baler and La Union, but she is afraid of lakes where she can't see the bottom. She may have a point, because I could feel little fishes between my legs, which could turn into a scary scenario if you've seen movies like "Lake Placid."

Lakes in Laguna

The surrounding green forests give the impression of seclusion. The lake water is clean and nearly as cold as usual. It rained briefly, just enough to disturb the many species of creatures that live in the forests, some of which let out shrieks or tweets that could be heard over the stillness of the lake. Lake Yambo is located just behind Lake Pandin and is accessible via a two-minute hike. Only a small hill separates the two lakes.

Travelers will find the province of Laguna to be very interesting. I grew up going on summer vacations to this province, but only to the usual destinations like swimming pools and hot springs resorts. Now, I'd like to explore more of this province, such as taking the "Viaje del Sol" trail, which features Spanish Colonial Churches that adorn each city and town in Laguna. Exploring Laguna is a no-brainer; it is a must-do, which we have begun on this weekend trip. Around 2 p.m., we packed up and left for another destination in Laguna, bringing our butts to Nagcarlan.