Phreatomagnetic eruptions in the Laguna Volcanic Field are a double-edged sword to the city of San Pablo. Water coming in contact with hot magma pushing up near the Earth’s surface caused eruptions that left in their wake a delightful landscape pocked with seven lakes. These lakes’ natural beauty has been written about many times by visitors who are drawn to the freshwater’s cool blue or green waters backdropped by Mount Banahaw and Mount Cristobal in the distance.

These scars of destructive events long ago are now quiet pleasures that have continued to be the attractions for a city that is otherwise a mere stopover in a long Southern Luzon road trip known as Viaje del Sol. These lakes – Sampaloc, Bunot, Palakpakin, Mohicap, Pandin, Yambo and Calibato – all welcome visitors with their serenity and would conjure Minnesota (not that I’ve been there) if not for the palm trees and the bamboo rafts.

A man goes for the early catch at Lake Sampaloc.
Children find Lake Sampaloc’s early morning coolness conducive to playtime.

The largest and most accessible – hence most popular – among them is Lake Sampaloc, which is located just behind the city hall. It is the city’s playground, with locals biking, jogging, strolling or angling along its shoreline. Dozens of food stalls line the lake as well.

Due to unregulated development in its surroundings, Lake Bunot has become the most spoiled among San Pablo’s lakes.

Lake Bunot lies a few kilometers east and is also one of the most accessible, but its renown is less on tourism than a supplier of freshwater fish.

A fisherman starts the day’s work at Lake Palakpakin.

North, far from the main road, is the Lake Palakpakin, which also supplies freshwater fish to residents.

Located farthest from the main road, Lake Mohicap is nonetheless one of the city’s water supplies.

Further north lies Lake Mohicap, which can be accessed from the road.

A tourist raft waits for passengers at Lake Pandin.
The bucolic surroundings of Lake Pandin lend credence to it being tagged as the most pristine among San Pablo’s lakes.

Near the border with the town of Nagcarlan are Pandin and Yambo, two lakes separated by a narrow strip of land. Getting to the lakes from the main highway is a long walk, but young guides waiting by the park area are eager to help. Pandin in particular is popular as a picnic site, with tourist rafts lining its south shoreline. Tours of the lake and prepared lunch can be requested in advance.

Left, Lake Pandin’s twin, Lake Yambo, is obscured by foliage. Right, young guide Justin on a trail between Pandin and Yambo.

Bypassing the rafting tour, going to Yambo means a light trek where a guide becomes helpful. Nonetheless, the price of cost-cutting is a limited view of the lake due to thick foliage.

Left, rafts rest at the shore of Lake Calibato. Right, a floating house in the middle of the lake is dwarfed by the palm tree-stocked hillside.

The Lake Calibato at the opposite side of the main road involves walking past a scenic quarry and shallow stream snaking through a forest.

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