Knocked out by 12 and out and about by 5:30 AM. It was a road trip weekend for me and my two amigas, Mia and Rian, and we were off to see the Twin lakes of San Pablo, Lakes Pandin and Yambo. Equipped with a GPS and a venti cup of Americano, we set off to nature.
San Pablo is also known as “The City of Seven Lakes” and what usually takes 2 hours to get there from Manila took us roughly around 4 hours to travel due to food and grocery stopovers and an unreliable GPS–okay, maybe getting lost was our fault. By 10 AM, we have reached our destination in Ilog (Brgy. Sto. Angel)
A group of kids were there on standby at the parking lot to guide us on our ten-minute hike to Lake Pandin.
Lake Pandin is the most promoted lake among the seven lakes of San Pablo because it is said to be the most pristine. Only a strip of land separates Pandin and Yambo hence, earning the name “twin lakes.” Both are considered oligotrophic, making both lakes suitable for swimming. Reservations should be made prior to the trip and the person to contact is Aling Siona of the Samahang Mangigisda ng Lawa ng Pandin at +639299789565 or +639079952983. The operating hours are from 7AM to 5PM.
The tour package which costs Php 360 includes the raft rental, the meal, and fresh air that Manila lacks. Without the meal, the rate goes down to Php180. It was actually good that we went there early because not much guests were present so the lake was pretty much ours! One detail we overlooked, however, was the duration of the raft rental. We assumed that we could rent the raft for the whole day but we were told on the spot that we could only use it for two hours—Two hours??? We begged to be extended and if it meant paying an extra fee, so be it. They allowed us to extend for two more hours since there were no other reservations made during our 2nd hour mark and we ended up paying 540 each for 4 hours on the raft.
Our raft was HUGE! It could fit up to 20 people on it and we were just three. Aling Siona told us that the raft’s rental fee is more expensive if only two people rent the whole raft–what a difference a third person makes then! Along with us were two oarswomen, Ate Marilyn and Ate Malou, who maneuvered our raft to the far end of the lake by pulling a rope that is connected from end to end.
Lake Pandin is beautiful. With emerald green water, coconut trees all around, and an elevated terrain that encloses the whole lake like a wall of greens–it felt like a secret lake with a grand view only those in it can enjoy. This was the calm and silence I longed for–To be able to sit on the edge of the raft on a sunny morning with your feet dipped in the water as you stare into nature and listen to nature’s hymns–birds nearby singing, soft wind whispering to the trees, and the raft drifting in the water.
Ate Marilyn and Ate Malou made sure that we got the best experience from it. Ate Malou told us the legend behind the Twin Lakes (Pandin and Yambo) which I featured in my travel vlog in this post and ate Marilyn brought us to the viewing area of Lake Yambo, which took around 5-minutes to climb from lake Pandin, and told us about life in San Pablo.
According to Ate Marilyn, the mayor encouraged them to form a women’s organization called Samahang Mangigisda ng Lawa ng Pandin and they were to handle Lake Pandin’s tourism. That’s why you’ll notice that women operate Lake Pandin’s business. This has helped them so much in their lifestyles and in supporting their families.
Lake Yambo (also spelled as Yambu), is the other half of the twin lake and unfortunately, we couldn’t go down and swim in it since the trail going to lake Yambo didn’t look very safe.
As we returned to our raft, our lunch was served. We were fed with shrimps in coconut milk, tilapia, Paco Salad, rice, bananas, and coconut juice (Buko).
It was delicious! I particularly liked the paco salad which had a great balance of sweet and salty. You have to eat with your hands. Other than the fact that there weren’t utensils, it added to the experience of eating the traditional Filipino way..and on banana leaves too!
Swimming in the lake after eating felt so good especially with life vests (that you’re required to wear) effortlessly floating you. To just lie down, float for a while, and see the sun peek through the leaves–that’s the way to relax on a full stomach.
The water’s temperature is fairly warm but around 4 feet below the surface, the water gets too cold. There are small fishes on the surface of the lake too and thank goodness nothing from the deep water surfaced–I’m not really sure what other animals are in that water but I’m sure crocodiles aren’t part of that list! (whew!)
With our 4 hours up, we headed back to the shore and realized that it was only 2 PM–it was too early to head back to Manila. We decided to push our adventure further and visit ALL seven lakes of San Pablo, Laguna. FYI, there are no showers in lake Pandin so make sure to bring extra clothes at least to change otherwise, you’d have to air dry.
With two already crossed off the list, we headed to the farthest lake so we can see the rest of the lakes on the way going back to Manila. You can detour to all the lakes from the main road. Our third lake was Lake Calibato.
Before anyone embarks on this 7-lake adventure, it is important to know that there are no tour guides in the other lakes. When we reached the drop-off of Lake Calibato, we passed by a woman who warned us that it might not be safe to just leave the car there and we should talk to the kids playing nearby and ask some of them to guard the car and some of them to take us to the lake, which is exactly what we did. The kids enthusiastically accepted our request knowing that tips will be given afterwards. Two young ladies, Lucille & Pauline led us to lake Calibato.
To get there, we had to hike through a pathway surrounded by rocks and boulders. When we arrived, there were a few houses by the lake and with permission, we viewed the lake from their property.
Our next lakes were Lakes Palakpakin and Muhikap. We were told that you can only view Palakpakin on the way to Muhikap but we couldn’t really go down by the lake so we were only able to view it from a bridge while driving.
Lake Muhikap, however, was a tough one to find. We’ve asked numerous locals about the whereabouts of the lake and we just could not find it! My friend Mia is fond of chapels/cathedrals and along the way, she saw a chapel under construction and asked if we could stop over to say a quick prayer.
I was a bit hesitant at first because of the construction but we decided to stop and check it out anyway. This is where it got interesting–we asked one of the brothers there for the directions going to lake Muhikap and lo and behold, the staircase going to the lake is behind the chapel. Divine intervention? I think yeah!
Our 6th lake, lake Bunot, was the hardest one to find. After numerous U-turns and stopovers to ask for directions, we were led to a very narrow alley (narrow enough for us to close the side mirrors) which led us to a residential area. This was not the right way going to lake Bunot. Frustrated because of the effort it took to navigate through that alley and with the sunset closing in, we were about to give up on that lake until someone approached us and told us that there really is a path from there going to the lake but it is not the path that tourists take to see it. We passed through a steep trail with horses along the way until we reached the lake.
The only way we could see the lake is if we actually enter one of the houses blocking it. We knocked on one of the homes and asked if we could view the lake from her property and with much hospitality, she welcomed us to her home and just in time for the sky to change its color palette to violet. We had one more lake to go and we had to hurry before darkness dawns.
Lake Sampaloc was our last lake. We could only view this from a viewing deck far above the lake. The viewing deck reminded me of Luneta park in Manila–a lover’s territory. Numerous couples stood side by side admiring the peachy-pink sky that the sunset painted. Indeed it is a romantic spot to bring a date for a sunset session, only if you don’t mind being surrounded by ten more couples admiring the same beauty.
And with that, we have completed the seven lakes of San Pablo, Laguna by sunset.
It was an exhausting adventure for a day trip but one I highly recommend. It was not just about seeing the lakes but what I loved about the experience was all the hiking and the people we met along the way. The children of San Pablo were one of the highlights of our trip. They loved being asked about their hometown and the enthusiasm in their faces while you interact with them really sticks to you for a long time and it is indeed contagious. If you want to know all about San Pablo, ask the children and more than just telling you, they will gladly show you the way.