Rafting in Pandin Lake

Rafting in Pandin Lake
and a Side Trip to an Underground Cemetery
By Danny Tariman

My family is always on the lookout for places to go and discover.
As what we normally do before going on a tour, we do some research. We agreed to explore this time, at least one of the 7 lakes of San Pablo. Yes, it is seven!

My family on a raft in Pandin Lake
My family on a raft in Pandin Lake

We decided to go to a more rustic, a more ‘nature’ lake – the Pandin Lake, and have a side trip to the underground cemetery of Nagcarlan. We contacted Aling Siony (got her number – 09299789565 – from blogs), and reserved for my family a bamboo raft and pack lunch for 4.

We left home at about 6 o’clock in the morning. Since it was early, the drive was easy until we reach San Pablo about an hour-and-a-half later, when tricycles and jeepneys were already reigning the road. It was only in the city proper we experienced traffic. Past the city was another easy drive.

pan005We passed by Sampaloc Lake – the biggest of the 7 lakes in area. It is just behind the city plaza and you will see fish pens dotting the lake and a number of restaurants lining the perimeter. This is not our destination; we continued with our trip and about 15 minutes later, we saw an improvised marker “To Lake Pandin”. You need to be on the look as you might miss this marker.

We parked at a vacant lot surrounded by banana plants. We left our vehicle to a parking attendant who charged Php50 for parking. I think it is worth it; he watched our car while we were away.

Feeding fish at the lake
Feeding fish at the lake

From the parking lot, Lake Pandin was a good 15-minute fast walk or about 30 minutes for a leisurely, stop-and-go walk. A boy volunteered to help us carry our stuff. You just have to give him a tip. I would encourage that you take that boy, as he can help you find your way also, and give you some background about the place. Yes, I usually engage local folks to talk about their village and their people.

Swinging by the lake on a big vine
Swinging by the lake on a big vine

When we reached the lake, we were greeted by this green and quiet body of water – the Pandin Lake. The scenery is just so refreshing, the air so clean, and suddenly, you feel like slowing down. Having been a city dweller for over 25 years, this is a real ‘break’ from the hustle and bustle of city living.

Aling Siony welcomed my family to the place. She immediately offered freshly opened young coconut (not free). And yes, sipping coco-water while our feet are soaked in the lake water was simply so relaxing, so refreshing.

Before taking off for the raft ride, she ushered-in our lunch. Wow, truly an experience! Wild fern in native lemon dressing (paku sa kalamansi) topped with slices of salted eggs, fresh tomatoes and onion rings; charcoal-grilled “St Peter’s” fish (inihaw na tilapia), fresh-water shrimps cooked in thick coconut cream (hipon sa gata), steamed rice wrapped in banana leaves, and naturally-ripened banana for our dessert. How about that for lunch?

Our lunch (clockwise from top) fern, tilapia, rice & banana, shrimps
Our lunch (clockwise from top) fern, tilapia, rice & banana, shrimps

We finally moved with Aling Siony as our “raft-woman”. We slowly and relaxingly travelled across to the other side of the lake. I like the feeling – as if my watch stopped – an unhurried, peaceful, calm life.

We enjoyed our lunch with bare hands; yeah, I enjoy the food the more eating with bare hands. After eating, we just rested in the quietness of the lake. We fed fishes swimming near the raft; my children tried riding the ‘swing’ – a big vine hanging from a tree. We had a look at the neighboring lake – the Yambu Lake.

Moving a bit forward on our raft, we went to a lake corner where an image of Mama Mary is enshrined on top of a rock. This little corner drips with fresh, clean potable water streaming from roots of trees! I washed my face here and wow, so exhilaratingly fresh and cool!

The entrance gate to the underground cemetery
The entrance gate to the underground cemetery

From this lake, we drove some 20 minutes further to Nagcarlan, Laguna. We visited the underground cemetery. It was a nice experience, really. The niches were literally under the ground. The place

The underground cemetery
The underground cemetery

has very well-maintained landscape.

On our way home, we bought a lot of home-made goodies which Nagcarlan is known for. There a lots of them – from local biscuits to chips, to sweets.

Tip: if you have more time, you can drive next town further to Liliw, Laguna. The town is noted for durable yet cheap footwear!

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