Our tour of San Pablo’s Seven Lakes continues! On a visit to Nina’s aunt and uncle who have retired to a quiet home at Hacienda Escudero in Tiaong, Quezon, we took off for Lakes Palakpakin and Mohicap. Our third and last day was reserved for the Twin Lakes of Pandin and Yambo. We’ve been to Lake Pandin before but since we enjoyed our first trip here last year we did not mind going back. Besides we haven’t yet been to Lake Pandin’s twin, Lake Yambo.
Lake Pandin’s moss green waters during late summer, 2014
Lake Pandin is located about a kilometer away from the national road going to Nagcarlan (Werner Schetelig Ave.). There is a signboard along the road that’s hard to miss. If you’re taking a private vehicle to get here you can leave your car at the parking lot beside the signboard and follow the trail to the lake. A year ago you can hire motorbikes to get you to Lake Pandin from this point but this time we learned that motorbikes are no longer allowed along the trail. Apparently they frightened the horses using the same pathway. (Why not offer rides on the horses instead?) In any case we negotiated the distance in less than 20 minutes of leisurely walking.
Clouds Over Lake Pandin
There’s not a lot of houses around the lake and very few fish pens – the few we saw even looked abandoned. Several portions of the perimeter surrounding the lake are thickly forested. The waters at this time of the year is a deep shade of olive green. At the end of the dry season last year when we first visited this lake, the waters were a more pleasant-looking moss green. In either case the color of the water is an indication that it’s a deep lake – 180 feet at its maximum. The whole scenery lends some credence to the claim that Lake Pandin is “the most pristine” of the seven lakes of San Pablo.
A floating hut on Lake Pandin
The first sight that greeted us as we covered the last few meters of our trek towards the Lake Pandin is a cluster of thatch huts on bamboo rafts sitting at the water’s edge. The huts on bamboo rafts we saw can be rented to tour the lake. A few years back the fishermen and their wives in the area organized themselves to offer rafting services to tourists. The rafts are sent across the other side of the lake by paddling or by using a system of towing ropes. During weekdays when the fishermen are busy, their wives are the ones who manage the rafts. Lunch is also offered. You can enjoy a meal of paco or fiddlehead fern salad, grilled tilapia, shrimp cooked in coconut milk, steamed rice in banana leaves and fresh coconut juice while crossing the lake on the raft. The lake tour costs P180 per person and lunch is an additional P180. (Lately they offer grilled pork for an additional amount.) Last year we also added a serving of halo-halo for snacks. Life vests are included – a necessary accessory because of the depth of the lake.
One of our raft men pulling our floating hut into place
Visitors are rafted towards a quieter and more pristine portion of the lake. Here the rafts dock at a point close to a huge tree where guests can enjoy swinging from a thick vine hanging from the tree. This is the area where guests are allowed to swim (and are required to wear life vests for protection). There’s also a small grotto nearby that is almost concealed from view until the raft comes closer.
The opposite side of the lake where vegetation is thicker
But probably the main reason why rafts cross over to this side is that it’s the launching pad for a short trek towards a vantage point from where Lake Pandin’s twin – Lake Yambo – may be viewed. Only a thin strip of elevated land separates the two at this point and we only needed to do a short but steep climb to reach the vantage point. It was fortunate that the land was dry when hiked up this hill; rains could easily turn the ground into a slippery morass, making the climb up more difficult.
Lake Yambo viewed from the vantage point
Slippery or not though, the climb is well worth it. Once you reach the top you get a nice panoramic view of Lake Yambo. Rafting is supposed to be offered at this lake but it seems that the trail going down there has been fenced off. It is possible to do a longer overland hike to Lake Yambo from Lake Pandin but that would take longer than 30 minutes. There is another way inland though, namely a paved road from the nearby town of Nagcarlan. We saw the entrance to this road on a previous trip to this town. Now, looking down at Lake Yambo from a vantage point, we did see a concreted road ending near the water’s edge at Lake Yambo – another trip we can do in the near future when we happen by these parts.
Lake Yambo and its verdant surroundings
The rafting tour is what makes the Twin Lakes unique from the other 5 lakes in San Pablo. Despite this enterprising step to cater to tourists, the people here have managed to keep the lake clean and beautiful. We’re hoping it would remain that way for years to come.