Row, row, row your raft

In a world where a fast-paced professional life is complemented by an even faster personal one, it’s not exactly surprising to see more and more “titillating” activities being offered nowadays. Thrill-seeking is the new requirement in searching for a hobby, even when it’s for purposes of relaxation. Yup, now, only large rushes of adrenalin will suffice for the driven and goal-oriented citizens of today.

So amid the wake-boarding, long-boarding, bungee-jumping fad, Jason and I found ourselves going against the tide and traipsing to a secluded lake lost in the middle of Laguna.

Ahoy there! I love love love our raft. There are bigger ones for larger groups available.

Lake Pandin is a two-hour drive plus a 10-15-minute trek from Metro Manila (QC). The lake is one of seven in San Pablo Laguna and is open to tourists looking for a serene and scenic getaway. I heard about it from my boss who dared me to write about it. I arrived all set with my (borrowed) pen and paper but upon seeing the lush greenery, smelling the crisp air, and feeling the cool water, I changed my mind. This was a place for relaxation, after all.

I texted Sir Mandy Marino (09175016694) and Mang Tano (09079829310) for a reservation for two one week before our trip. They replied immediately with a set of directions to the meeting place where the guide, Mang Tano or his wife, Ate Sion, who’d walk us to the lake, would be waiting. A few days before the trip, Mang Tano texted again for confirmation.

Prepared for another one-hour trek (just like our hike during immersion in Remedios), I wore sneakers, donned a light knapsack, and ate lots of carbs (okay, so I ate McDonald’s french fries, they’re sort of potatoes) for what apparently was a short but uphill walk that takes the more practiced locals only three to five minutes.  Mang Tano offered me his large umbrella. It was exactly noon and the sun was brighter than ever. I declined and gave it to Jason instead, he in turn had to juggle it with his camera gear and pack. I prayed five days for this sunshine, no way was I going to disrespect it by covering myself up.

In between catching our breath and dodging horse/cow manure, Mang Tano told me stories about Pandin. Pointing at the shrubbery around us, he told me that those weeds and grass fought the Japanese in the 40s. I took a step back wondering if the plants I recklessly trampled on would reach out and swallow me. Mang Tano clarified that the weeds were sharp and scratchy preventing the Japanese attackers from passing through them. The bruised invaders would run away saying “Ang tapang naman ng mga Filipino, pati ang mga halaman lumalaban.”

Mang Tano also apologized for the random horse/cow droppings. Little hills in their own right. There were strict rules about farmers cleaning up after themselves, but the manure apparently was a grey area. Shifting to more pleasant topics, Mang Tano flattered me by saying that I was the first guest who didn’t fall behind during the trek. I thanked him, trying to hide my huffing and puffing.

When we finally arrived at the lake and a welcoming group greeted us warmly, as though we were old friends. We took the tour on a wide bamboo raft with a sturdy wooden cottage installed at the center.

Lakeside! We needed the ceremonial photo-taking before we left! I wish we stayed until the sunset.

The lake is small at 20-hectares, 180 feet deep. Considered to be part oligotrophic, Lake Pandin serves as livelihood for the local residents–they make a living out of fish and produce from the lake, in addition to the money they get from interested tourists. The lake is as unassuming as can be–there’s nothing but clear, the clearest, green water and trees for miles.Planted at the lakeside are the small nondescript houses of the residents and workers of the lake. There are no other activities for recreation except swimming, cautiously with life vests, and looking at the fish beds in different areas of the lake.

There was only one other group apart from us that day. A group of colleagues who'd been there since 6 am!

Five women rowed our raft for us.They are part of the Samahan ng mga Maliliit na Mangingisda ng Lawa ng Pandin. Apart from Mang Tano, the whole lake is managed by these strong, animated women who row while their husbands tend the fields. Their hours start as soon as the earliest guest arrives and they leave only after the last guest leaves.

The women of Lake Pandin! ❤ Girl power!

Our jovial group of paddlers took turns pointing and commenting at different areas of the site. They even took us to the opposite end of the lake where fresh water flows.  Two statues of the Virgin Mary aptly guard this site for clean drinking water..

To maximize our trip, Ate Choleng, on of our paddlers, even took our small party up over a hillside to Lake Yambo, said to be Pandin’s much-larger twin, lovers actually as mentioned in their legend. It was a steep, muddy climb that required much balance and precision. The steps were a little bigger than my feet and the rails were bamboos haphazardly poked through the soft soil which made climbing awkward. After much caution, we made it to the top in one piece.

Jason looking dreamily out at Lake Yambo.

The peak of Mt. Malauban, which serves as a barrier between the twins, was as far as we could go to see Lake Yambo. There were precarious steps leading down the larger lake but even without Ate Choleng’s warning, they were obviously too unsafe to use. The trail even disappears halfway down the mountain. Ate Choleng said that the hillsides and plantation were privately owned but the lakes were run by the government. Planning for more activities were also in the works, she said.

Lake Pandin promises serenity for only 180 pesos per head. And that ridiculously cheap amount is enough for a whole day’s stay–swimming, hiking, or just plain floating around. It makes for an exciting lazy afternoon, just listening to nature and awing at the fresh air. For an extra 180 pesos, one could even have a feast of seafood (shrimp, fish), rice, and dessert (buco or banana), pre-ordered during reservation.

We only stayed for a couple of hours since I stupidly forgot to order food and Jason’s (plus the driver) tummy was grumbling like crazy. We left with the promise that we’ll come back, bringing more friends. On the hike back to the car, Mang Tano told us that they also offer ovenight stays for only a thousand pesos for the entire group, even adding that there were clean baths and plumbing. I asked him if business has been good and he proudly replied that the quiet lake has steadily been gaining popularity especially since the advent of blogging. Just the day before, five buses full of tourists visited. Seven buses arrived the day before that.

So if you’re someone looking for a place to just think (or not even) or rest, or for a quiet adventure, have a “productive lazy” day away from everything, Lake Pandin is a wonderful choice.

***

Some facts about Lake Pandin:

1. There’s signal for Globe and Smart subscribers… too bad Sun.

2.The legend goes: Pandin was a beautiful women forbidden to come to earth. Yambo was her lover, who, by cunningly throwing her ball of yarn to the earth, lured her in. As punishment, they became lakes. Not that harsh–they could have been dirty canals.

3. The management has a strict rule: basura mo, iuwi mo (take your garbage home) to maintain the cleanliness that’s quite rare nowadays.

4. You can buy fruits here as pasalubong! Jason and I bought lanzones for our families back in Manila. (Buco costs the same here though).

5. It’s awesome.

Other photos:

Jenelle (sic?), one of the paddler's daughters (seen in photo) entertained us during the ride.

The secretary. We just took one turn but you can stay the whole day, eating, sleeping in your raft.

Wet Chucks! Cool water seeps through the raft, making it harder for me to climb up the mountains.

Happy me. Thank you for coming with me, Jason. I love you.

P.S.

Moment of vanity, my photo is the largest. Hahaha. You may click on the photos to enlarge. 😀

2 responses to “Row, row, row your raft

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