Sunday, February 19, 2012

The Seven Lakes of San Pablo Quest

Going to all the seven lakes of San Pablo really felt like a quest, with all the mini-treks, and asking for directions and looking for transportation, not to mention, bottled water. It was very tiring but definitely fun, and we did it! Yay!
Cere and I at the grotto in Pandin Lake. This is our only "group" picture. Haha
Cere and I left Manila aboard a JAC Liner bus (which has wifi. yay. Fare is at Php135.5 each) at around 7 am. Well, we agreed to meet at 6, but both of us arrived late. Haha
The trip lasted for about 2 hours. We mistakenly alighted at SM San Pablo (should be at Chowking San Pablo, the bus stop), so we had to ride a jeep to the town proper (Php8 each). We bought breakfast at Jollibee and then hired a trike to bring us to Bunot Lake jumpoff (Php30)
I find the town center quaint. And that church is so picturesque.

Colorful balloons in a motorcade. I think there'd be a presentation for Showtime later that day.
The ride was more or less 10 minutes long. The trike dropped us off a street with a sign that points to Bunot Lake. "Just go straight ahead", the driver told us and we did. When we reached the end of the street, Cere and I looked at each other in confusion. But this is a residential area. Where can we see the lake? 
The small bridge where you can get a sneak peek of the lake.
An old lady pointed a small bridge to us and told us that's where we can see the lake. There wasn't much to see from there so we asked permission to enter the back yard of the house next to the bridge. We interrupted a little girl doing her number 1 business at the back of her house. Lol and gross. =))

So anyway, this is how Bunot Lake looks like:
Bunot Lake

The lake is dotted by fishpens and surrounded with residential areas. I'm hoping these fishpens would save the lake from a Pasig River like future. I mean, you wouldn't intentionally throw garbage where you keep your food, right? Erm.

Cere and I didn't stay long. After a few shots of birds and plants in the area, we head back to the highway to catch a jeep to Nagcarlan (fare: Php 23 each).

In Nagcarlan town proper, we visited St. Bartholomew Church, which looks so old, it's really cool, and the underground cemetery, the only one of its kind in the Philippines. (Trike ride from the church to the cemetery is Php8 per person) We also passed by Nagcarlan municipal hall.
The church's facade

Inside the church.

Outside the Nagcarlan Underground Cemetery. They no longer allow interments here.

Some of the graves in the cemetery. The place was quite small. Cere and I were imagining a cavernous and labyrinth-like place where you can get lost. haha
Outside the cemetery, we hailed a trike to take us to the Bunga Falls. The driver asked for Php60 and we obliged. We asked him if he could wait for us and take us back to the highway when were done with the falls and he asked for additional fee. We agreed since the falls were really far, and trikes back to the highway looked scarce. We settled on Php 160, and we gave him an additional Php10 because we're generous. Haha.

He waited for us at the end of the cemented road to Bunga falls, and we walked from there to the falls. It was muddy and slippery since it rained a bit. The path to the falls were easy to follow, and at the end, we found the gate to the falls, where an entrance fee (Php5 each) were collected. 

There were some cottages around the falls where you can have a picnic or simply put a bag and they're for free. Yay. We wanted so much to swim, but didn't. Loser, I know. =)) But we got our feet and faces wet and the water was refreshing and cool and clean.

Bunga Falls

Aside from us, there was another group and they climb the top of the falls. One of them dived into the catch basin of the falls. So brave. =)) I guess it was deep enough for diving, but I wouldn't recommend it. Those rocks looks scary.

We had a schedule to follow, so after 30 minutes, we head back to the trike waiting for us and it took us to the jeepney stop. There we rode a jeep back to San Pablo (Php25 each) and I asked the driver to drop us off at the Calibato lake jump-off (which is along the highway). Unfortunately, the driver forgot, and we had to ride a Nagcarlan-bound jeep again and get off at the jump-off (Php8 each).
This sari-sari store needs to sell  bottled water. Srsly.
It was already 1pm when we reached the jump-off. We bought drinks from the sari-sari store there and asked for directions. A kuya volunteered to lead the way and we followed him. It was a 10-15 minute trek to lake Calibato. At first, the landscape was bare and we acutely felt the sun's heat. But the vegetation grew denser when we went down the hill to the lakeshore and the arc of trees we passed through looks really nice.
Yep, we found wonderland! :)
We were the only ones in the lake, aside from few manongs. Cere stepped into the rafts parked near the shore for photo-ops, and one of the manong called, "O, baka malaglag ah." Fortunately, the rafts, though narrow, were stable, and Cere and I were able to take really good pictures. :))
After Bunot Lake, Calibato Lake is a breath of fresh air. It had fish pens too, but the aura the lake exudes was that of tranquility and serenity. It makes me want to sleep on a hammock hanging from one of the trees in the shore. And what's wonderful, the lake sports a magnificent view of a cloud-capped Mt. Cristobal. Really lovely.
Calibato Lake with Mt. Cristobal in the background

We can only stay for 10 minutes though, because it was getting late and we have 5 more lakes to go to. We bid goodbye to the manongs and walked back to the highway.
From the highway, we flagged down a San Pablo bound jeep, which turned out to be a private jeep. =)) Fortunately, the driver agreed to drop us off at the Yambo lake jump-off, which was along the highway. We paid him Php15 for his trouble. From the jump-off, two kids offered to lead the way to Pandin Lake. The path to Pandin Lake was slightly arduous to our untrained legs (which reminds me, I haven't run in weeks! XD). We arrived at the lake after about 15 minutes, and we gave the kids Php10 each.
Pandin Lake

We were a bit hungry by then, because the only lunch we had was the burger from Jollibee and Cere's tuna sandwich, so we decided to avail of the package that was being offered at Pandin: the raft cruise + lunch for Php 360 (Php 180 for the ride and Php180 for the lunch). This is an ecotourism initiative by the locals of Pandin. The women do the paddling and aside from lunch on the raft, you can also swim (they have life jackets) and climb a hill to view the Yambo lake at the other side. 
Lake Yambo
The twin lakes were almost devoid of fish pens (the only ones there are there for the fresh tilapia that they serve to tourists) because they are groomed for ecotourism. The raft ride will take you to a grotto, where there is spring water, and to the hill where you can climb to see Lake Yambo. The climb was mild but nevertheless breathtaking in the literal and figurative sense.

After seeing Yambo Lake, we decided to go back to the shore and continue our quest for the seven lakes. One of the raftswoman, Ate Scion (shon) accompanied us back to the highway and gave us directions to Lake Palakpakin and Mohicap.
Palakpakin Lake and the bridge.

We walked along the highway until we saw a sign that says Brgy. Catalina. From the trike station, we rode a trike to Lake Palakpakin (Php 15 each). The driver dropped us off a bridge (Cere and Me: eh?). A bystander confirmed that it was indeed Lake Palakpakin. We took a few pics and then proceeded to walk towards Lake Mohicap, which according to the aforementioned bystander, was nearby. We just went straight ahead, and then after a while, ask another person for directions. We were told that there are two ways to reach the lake: one is via a trek (which was shorter) and another via a trike. The lady seemed reluctant to point the trek-way, seeing that we were two girls and it was near sundown (it was around 4pm by then). She strongly advised us to ride a trike or if not, walk the long way, following the cemented road. Cere and I approached a group of trikes, but their owners were immersed in drinking and merry-making and we could not get their attention. So we decided to just walk "the long way".
A few meters of walking, we encountered a trike who agreed to take us to Lake Mohicap for Php 10 each. After several minutes of trike ride, Cere turned to me and said: "So... lalakarin dapat natin to?" Haha LOL. It was indeed far, and we've already walked/trekked too much that day.
Mohicap Lake 

Kids playing at the bamboo bridges surrounding the fish cages.
We stopped at the lake's view point. You have to go down a hill to get a good view. The lighting's not good by that time (since it was nearing 5pm) so most of my pics were dark. :(
After snapping all the pics we want, we climbed up the hill (whew!) back to the trike waiting for us. The trike took us to Sampaloc Lake (Php15 each).
The Sampaloc Lake is the largest and perhaps the most famous lake of the seven. It's surroundings were turned into a park. There, you can eat grilled food, sit and stare at Mt. Cristobal, watch your kids play at the only slide, or talk to the stone elves (if you want to. :P) A lot of barkadas were milling around, and the place seems to be a popular dating place too (although, in my opinion, a Pandin Lake raft ride is way more romantic. Although definitely more pricey). Unfortunately, it is also the dirtiest lake of the seven (our trike driver told us), which was quite evident if you get near (but I didn't notice a bad smell). From a far, Sampaloc lake is as picturesque as the more tourist-friendly Pandin and Yambo.

Sampaloc Lake
The park.
We stayed at Sampaloc lake to rest and catch our breath. Yay, operation Seven Lakes completed, and earlier than our expected time!
We rode the same trike to the bus stop. The driver asked for Php 50 and although I thought it was too much, I decided not to argue. There was already a JAC liner bus waiting for passengers, but it was already full and we'd have to stand. Since we were really tired and looking forward to a nice sleep on the bus, we decided to wait for the next one. I bought pasalubong (broas and uraro- two of my favorites. :P) while we were waiting. Unfortunately, the next bus was also full, but we decided to ride anyway, hoping that some passengers will get off at the next stop. We were standing until Sta. Rosa. I felt so thankful when I was able to sit down and rest my legs. Haha. Cere and I got off at Magallanes. (fare: Php 125)
The chowking store at the bus stop

It was a fun, albeit tiring, trip. What I like about our destination was that they were easy to find because of the signs, and because the locals knew them (unlike in some other places I've been to where locals have no idea of the place I want to go to, even though it's famous online. *ehemDavaoehem*). >.< Even Bunot lake, despite being surrounded by houses and technically not a tourist spot, is well known by trike drivers and by- standers. The people of San Pablo were friendly and helpful and gave clear directions. :)

Next time, I'd make sure to brings lots of food and packed lunch, and water. It would have been nice to have a picnic at Lake Calibato and also, we could have saved Php 180 in Lake Pandin. But do not get me wrong, I've no regrets about the lunch (ensaladang pako, fresh-grilled tilapia, shrimp, rice and buko juice). It was really yummy, but if I was in a budget, Php 180 would be a huge savings. :D

Additional notes:
Cere and I spent about Php950 for the whole trip.
Most of the lake's jump-off were along the highway.
If you're not really interested in all of the lakes and just want to see some, I suggest: Calibato-Pandin-Yambo-Sampaloc. And oh, Bunga falls (and even the rest of Nagcarlan sidetrip) is highly recommended too. :)
Bring water! :))

Thank you X-plorer boyz, whose itinerary served as our guide. :)

Pictures: Set 1 | Set 2


  1. wow...ang ganda talaga ng mga lakes na toh..namiss ko tuloy bigla...and im really glad na nakatulong kami sa trip nyo...

    hope we could exchange links and follow each other...^_^