Who knew that 2 hours away from Metro Manila lies a serene and peaceful nature retreat where you can eat with your hands while enjoying a relaxing ride on a bamboo raft? It's called Pandin Lake and it is part of San Pablo, Laguna's famous (but not too known) Seven Lakes system.
IN THE KNOW
When I started researching about the Seven Lakes of San Pablo, I found out that these lakes are actually volcanic craters part of the San Pablo Volcanic Field found in between Mount Makiling and Mount Banahaw. It sounded both crazy and scary but these are craters of ancient volcanoes that are already extinct by this time. The seven lakes are:
Lake Bunot – with view of Mt. Cristobal
Lake Kalibato – farthest from Metro Manila
Twin Lakes of Pandin and Yambo – most famous, cleanest to swim in
Lake Sampaloc – largest, undergoing rehabilitation due to human exploitation
The most famous are Pandin and Yambo known as twin lakes which offers bamboo raft rides and pristine waters where you can swim in. The other lakes were used as fish pens and others were being rehabilitated due to pollution and negligence in the past. The Laguna government is now promoting the lakes as part of their ecotourism campaign.
A quick search on my Facebook showed a good friend who recommended I use Waze and pin “Pandin Lake Parking Lot” as my destination. This will take you to Mang Tirso’s private land (Php50 whole day parking fee) which he uses as a parking lot for visitors to the lake.
A short 2 hour ride from South of the Metro will take you along South Luzon Expressway (SLEX), and exit Sto. Tomas via STAR Tollway. From here you will pass by several Laguna towns (beware of traffic along Alaminos) and your landmark will be the San Pablo Church (a baroque styled church with a big dome). From here, follow the Maharlika highway until you reach the Pandin Lake Parking Lot.
On a busy weekend, several men and boys are standing on the roadside holding up posters for bamboo raft tour for visitors. We contacted Aling Siony (+63929 9789565) ahead of time to make sure we get reservations – turns out because of inclement weather the days prior, there was not much influx of visitors. But I would suggest you reserve ahead of time if coming on a weekend.
A bamboo raft tour is 2hours which you can request to be extended with additional cost of P100 per hour. The raft has 2 boat men/women who will maneuver the raft until the end of the lake. The cost per person is P250 (no food), and P400 (with food). I love the food we were given here, very fresh and local Filipino dishes which reminds me so much of my childhood memories spent in the provinces.
Steamed rice in Banana Leaves
Grilled Fish (Tilapia, fresh from the lake)
Ensaladang Pako (green fern) with salted egg, onions and tomatoes
Shrimp Okoy (Crispy deep fried shrimp fritters)
Banana as desert
For an additional Php40 per person, you can have grilled pork belly; and additional Php25 for fresh coconut
Bamboo Raft Tour
Before getting to the raft station, there is a kilometer walk (roughly 15mins) that you need to take. It’s fairly easy but you need to prepare if you are travelling with kids or elderly especially the upslope portion. We saw 2 motorcycles for rent who can carry elderly people going up, but this really depends on your companion’s capabilities. Mang Tirso also offered his friend’s services to guide us to the lake – but this is purely optional and any tip is appreciated by the local guide. It is a good thing we did because there were no signs along the pathways.
Getting to the port area, we were greeted by beautiful smiles of the locals offering a tour. When we mentioned we booked with Aling Siony, they showed us the way going to her hut and also offered information should we need to use the toilet to change into swimming clothes. Once ready, you will be escorted to your raft (be carefully as sometimes the soil is slippery). The boat men use a rope to pull the raft to the other side where guests can relax, eat and swim.
Swimming is allowed in designated areas of the lake and you are required to wear a life vest. The boat men are good swimmers, but are not licensed life guards so it is best to always take precaution. There are also schools of fish in the lake, and a lot were swarming near the rafts, perhaps to grab a bite of food that fell.
Yambo Lake Viewing
Right beside Pandin Lake is its twin sister, Yambo Lake. But they are divided by a mountain so in order to view this, you would have to climb up a steep path. Our daughter managed to climb up, but it is not something I would recommend for smaller children or for elderly companions as they may slip on the rocks. For those who would make the effort to climb would be rewarded with a gorgeous view of Yambo Lake while enjoying the gusts of wind on your face. Yambo Lake is as pristine and is larger than Pandin Lake.
AGUIVENTURE FAMILY TRAVEL TIPS
There is only one toilet available in the area and this is at the bamboo raft port side. You have to pay Php5 per use of the toilet as contribution to the maintenance of its cleanliness. While water is available, you would need to bring your own tissue paper and soap.
If you availed of food on the raft, you will be eating with your hands as encouraged by the locals (a traditional way of eating in the Philippines), but you can always request or bring your own utensils.
Waterproof your stuff - put your valuables inside zip lock bags or dry bags.
Wear waterproof shoes or sandals that can get. You are most likely to get your shoes and feet wet because of the structure of the raft.
WHAT a lovely way to spend our morning with friends – Pandin Lake offers a chill and laidback hideaway while you float on the lake and eat a sumptuous lunch. It is a really good choice for a short day trip from Metro Manila.
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