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San Pablo City is a first class city in Laguna, and that province’s largest in terms of land area. It is also one of the Philippines’ oldest cities. Its biggest pride, however, is in being the only city or municipality in the country with seven crater lakes – Lakes Sampaloc, Bunot, Calibato, Palakpakin, Muhikap, and the twin lakes of Pandin and Yambo. These seven freshwater lakes were formed when previous eruptions of nearby Mt. San Cristobal interacted with groundwater to form depressions that rains eventually filled up.

As part of this year’s celebration of World Water Day, representatives from agencies who are partners in water conservation went on a tour to Lake Pandin in Brgy. Santo Angel. The trip provided quite an unforgettable experience for the participants, as it showcased an interplay among three types of mothers.

A mother’s woe: The curse and tragedy of Andin

lake-yambuA visit to Lake Pandin would not be complete without at least a short trek to its twin Lake Yambu. They are “twins” because they are the only lakes in San Pablo that are located alongside each other, separated only by a narrow strip of land. One can cross over this land through a short five-minute uphill trek before being treated with the blue water of Yambu.

Local hosts engagingly tell the story of ill-fated Andin and Ambo. Andin was the long-desired-for daughter of a mat-weaving couple who promised that if they ever had a child, they would not let her feet touch the ground. When Andin was born, the couple kept to their promise by forbidding their daughter to step outdoors.

Andin grew up to be a beautiful lady that the lad Ambo fell in love with. But one day, when the old couple went into town to hawk their mats, Ambo, unaware of the “curse”, tricked Andin into setting her foot onto the ground outdoors. No sooner had the lady’s toes touched the ground when the earth shook and spurted water that swallowed up the two, their hands still grasping each other’s as represented by the strip of land that separates the twin lakes.

Enchanting the story may be, but the real star of Lake Pandin is, of course, the lake itself.

 

Mother Nature at its best: A pristine, serene, and green lake

raft3Visitors coming in from a short hike from the main road will be greeted with glimpses of sparklingly clear green waters of the 24-hectare Lake Pandin surrounded with lush vegetation. This foliage is part of a 44-hectare microwatershed. The oligotrophic quality of the lake supports abundant plant and fish life.

Still water indeed runs deep because Pandin, one of the most pristine and serene among San Pablo’s seven lakes, has a maximum depth of 61.75 meters. It has no inlet, and is recharged by the rain and underground water while discharging into Laguna de Bay through the Prinsa River.

A tourist shells out P360 to board a raft – P180 for the tour, and P180 for a hearty lunch. Swimming in the cool waters and making that short uphill trek towards Lake Yambu are optional activities. The entire tour is camera-worthy, but tourists are warned about dropping their gadgets into the lake, whose depth makes it almost impossible to retrieve items at the bottom.

There are two stop-sites on the lake. One is an old balete tree whose vines can act as a swing to those who dare jump into the lake. The vines used to be thick enough to hide a whole raft, but typhoon Glenda (international codename: Rammasun) battered the area in July 2014 and destroyed most of the trees surrounding the lake and broke off most of the balete’s vines.

The other stop is at a small grotto on the other side of the lake. Here flows a small spring from which the members of the community can source their fresh water for domestic use.

 

The mothers of Brgy. Santo Angel: A showcase of woman empowerment

Lake Pandin’s visitors take a tour around the lake aboard bamboo rafts featuring a hut with a table and chairs. The rafts are manually pulled across the lake. But what strikes the visitor the most is the fact that the rafters are women from Barangay Santo Angel.

raftThese women are led by Cristina Abrego, president of the Pandin Lakewide Fisheries and Aquatic Resource Management Council, and an active member of the Samahan ng mga Kababaihang Mangingisda at Bangkera sa Lawa ng Pandin, an organization that never fails to amaze visitors for their showcase of “woman power.”

Abrego is also an awardee of the Laguna Lake Development Authority’s 2015 Kampeon ng Lawa. Although a nursing graduate, she has chosen to protect her beloved lake which had sustained their family throughout the years.

Along with several other women in the community, Abrego had worked beside their husbands in harvesting fish from the lake – tilapia, dalag (mudfish), bakuli (young mudfish), hito (catfish), ayungin (silver perch), and shrimp. But with fish yield unpredictable and sometimes irregular in volume, as well as the rising cost of feeds, they realized the need to identify an alternative source of livelihood to support their fishing income. Finally, a non-government organization taught them to capitalize on the lake’s beauty, and the ecotourism component was born.

The ecotourism project started out in 2005 with a raft made of seven bamboo poles able to accommodate two to three people. Today, 11 rafts are available for visitors, who are encouraged to book in advance. Peak season usually comes during Holy Week, where they receive up to more than 100 visitors.

Threats

The local communities around San Pablo have learned to accept and live with threats from nature, such as typhoons and droughts. But Brgy. Santo Angel feels more threatened by private property owners cutting off their access to the lake, as well as losing the lake itself to pollution.

Incidences of tree cutting also threaten the supply of detrital matter that act as food to the lake’s creatures, destroy the natural habitat of birds and insects in the area, as well as diminish the lake’s natural beauty. Abrego, however, says that there are existing ordinances that ban tree cutting within the Seven Lakes, and they are quick to report loggers to the authorities.

Managing the lake

fishing lakeSeveral stakeholders from the national and local governments, civil society and the private sector have come together to implement the 2015-2019 Pandin Lake Development Management Plan. The main goals of the plan are to ensure that tourists enjoy and learn from their experience with the lake, increase revenues from ecotourism and raise the community’s standard of living, and be considered as a prime tourist destination in Laguna.

The plan also aims to maintain and possibly improve the lake’s water quality, which at present is classified as “Class C” that makes it safe for fisheries and recreational activities such as boating and swimming.

The plan has also identified projects for the lake. These include: enacting and implementing policies on peace and order; establishing a knowledge center on data and information on Pandin Lake; establishing a “Cultural Heritage Center” to preserve and share San Pablo City’s culture, history and tradition; reforesting the 20-hectare watershed area; and developing an ecopark.

As with other ecotourism sites, however, the beauty, quality and productivity of Lake Pandin lies largely on the mutual cooperation among all stakeholders involved. While the women of the community struggle to care for the lake, visitors are likewise encouraged to think of ways to help preserve the condition of Lake Pandin and share its beauty to the rest of the world.

Preserving Philippine water resources

water mgt lake-pandinDepartment of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) Secretary Ramon J. P. Paje, while representing the Philippine delegation to the 7th World Water Forum held in South Korea in April, has ensured that the country’s water resources, which includes Lake Pandin, will remain “safe, sanitized, and accessible to all.”

"The Philippines ensures that the vast water resources of the country will be safe, sanitized and accessible to all our citizens through initiatives on the preservation of watersheds, guaranteeing good water quality, efficient allocation and water use, eradication of water pollution, and establishment of water facilities and infrastructures," Paje said.

He also committed to support the 7th World Water Forum Ministerial Declaration through enhanced institutionalization and implementation of the Philippine Integrated Water Resources Management Framework.

"We will exert extra effort to translate our existing policies into concrete actions and align these with the 7th World Water Forum's Implementation Roadmap."

Being one of the nations most vulnerable to climate change impacts, Paje said the Philippines further commits to "strengthen our resiliency programs stressing the importance of effective river basin approaches."

He likewise told the delegates that the Philippines has also embarked on arresting aridity, brought about by extreme weather events, by enhancing forest cover and water availability to communities and sectors, particularly agriculture.###

 

® Public Affairs Office

 

 

 

 

Growing Bohol's Future

(The Philippine Starweek, April 16, 2015)

 
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