San Pablo City is famously known as “The City of Seven Lakes”. And for good reason. Because it really has seven lakes, though not as large as nearby Laguna de Bay. And definitely NOT artificial like the one in Nuvali (in Santa Rosa City). These seven lakes are not ordinary water formations since they have a subterranean background with a “volcanic touch”.
Scientifically, the seven lakes of San Pablo are classified as “maars” or low-relief volcanic craters. Maars were formed by what volcanologists call a phreatomagmatic eruption (heck knows how it’s pronounced; I might be able to do it with a mouthful of polvorón). Such eruptions are rare; they occur only when groundwater comes into contact with magma.
The lakes have queer native names, some of which are familiar to Tagalog speakers. Nobody knows who gave them their names. But as is the usual case in our culture, legends have been passed on from generation to generation. And since hundreds of years ago, nobody knew the difference between a phreatomagmatic eruption from a scorned lady, people really had to come up with stories about their origins.
Here are the brief profiles of each lake as well as their legends.
1) Lake Bunót (30.50 hectares; 23 meters average depth)
Bunót was named after —you got it— that whatnot cleaning item that you use to make the floor as shiny and sparkling as your high school classmate’s oily face. Its origin comes from the never-ending Spanish-indio– miscommunication story. Spanish soldiers who were new to the place inquired the name of the lake from a man who was husking coconuts by the lakeshore. Thinking that the soldiers were asking for the native name of the coconut husk, the man, probably Raymart Santiago’s ancestor, innocently replied bunót.
2) Lake Calibató (42 hectares, 135 meters average depth)
Calibató was said to be the turf of a nature spirit locally known as a diwatà. The place was once a rich valley filled with wild game and fruit-bearing trees. But she was angered when natives constructed rocky pathways which criss-crossed her haven. She must have turned green and big like the Incredible Hulk because she caused an earthquake. Afterwards, she must have transformed into Ororo Munro of the X-Men to cause a severe storm that transformed the valley into what it is today: a lake, but which provides abundant fish (probably those who constructed the pathway, just a crazy guess). It is believed that the name Calibató was a combination of “Cali”, a corruption of the Spanish word “calle” or street, and “bató”, Tagalog for “rock” (sorry, no crystal meth jokes allowed).
3) Lake Mojicap (14.50 hectares; 80 meters average depth)
The story of Mojicap (spelled nowadays as Mohicap) is about a religious couple who had a very sickly daughter named Mónica. They made a promise to do anything if God heals her. God granted their prayer on condition that the child should only stay inside their elevated hut and must never set foot on mother earth. One day, while Mónica was sewing her dress, the ball of thread that she was using fell on the bamboo slat floor and slid towards the earthen ground. Her parents were out on a date so they were not around to retrieve it. The poor child had to recover the ball of thread by herself. Reminiscent of nighttime TV soaps, it was apparent that the parents were too secretive towards their daughter regarding their pre-natal deal with God, because the girl didn’t wait for her parents to retrieve the ball of thread. So upon stepping on the ground for the first time in her life, she immediately collapsed, then water spewed forth from the earth, drowning her and the entire neighborhood. Voila, a new lake emerged. For some reason, the name Mónica eventually became Mojicap (this means that actress Danica Sotto has a fair chance of having her name changed to Dajicap Sotto pretty soon). Mojicap, by the way, is my wife’s favorite lake among the rest. She finds its turquoise-colored waters fascinating.
4) Lake Palacpaquin (43 hectares; 7.50 meters average depth)
Nope, Palacpaquin has no “let’s-give-them-a-round-of-applause” (or “magpalacpacan tayo“) myth. Elders instead will tell you that it was once a river where a mysterious lady (probably a diwatà again) used to wash her long hair every full moon by the hollow trunk of an ancient tree called palacpaquin. A big fish also appears in the river every time the lady washes her hair. Hmmm… May crush yatà. Anyways, nobody dared to catch the fish, fearing that it was owned by the lady. And maybe because it was too big to be caught, if I may add. One day, a stranger suddenly thought that he’s Sherlock Holmes, so he started to investigate the mysterious lady and her queer fish pal. One moonlit night, he saw the mysterious damsel. As he approached her, thunder and lightning shook the earth, causing the river to swell. No, Thor wasn’t there (he’d rather visit a First World country). It’s just that no mortal man was allowed to go near the damsel. So in a matter of minutes, the river had become a lake. There was no more sign of the stranger, the lady, and the fish. But in their place was a large quantity of shrimp from which the popular cuisine Hipong Palacpaquin originated.
5) Lake Pandín (20.50 hectares; 63 meters average depth)
Now this lake is paradise! My personal favorite, and the most popular among travelers. And this lake has a twin: Yambó, which can be reached on the other side via raft. Or if you think you can be the next Michael Phelps, go ahead and do a butterfly stroke towards the other bank. Anyway, both Pandín and Yambó are separated by a narrow strip of elevated hill. The story of these is almost similar to that of Mojicap’s. It tells of a story of a barren couple who kept on praying for a child. One day, a diwatà (I wonder if she’s the same femme fatale from the Calibató and Palacpaquin tales) appeared to them and told them that they will be granted a daughter only if they promised not to allow her to set foot on the earth, to which the couple agreed. They named the girl Pandín who grew up to become the hottest chick in town. One day, a suitor of hers, Yambó by the name, invited her to come down from her hut while she was sewing. But Pandín, faithful to her parents’ instructions, objected. Without saying a word, Yambó immediately climbed up the hut, grabbed Pandín’s ball of thread, then threw it outside. In anger, the girl totally forgot her parents’ instructions. She angrily went down the hut to fetch her ball of thread, and to probably give Yambó a beating a la Claudine Barretto. The next thing that happened? I bet you already know — two gigantic waterfalls appeared! Joke.
6) Lake Sampáloc (104 hectares; 10 meters average depth)
Sampáloc, the largest of San Pablo’s seven lakes, took its name from a tamarind tree popularly known in Tagalog as champuy. Oh, I’m so nuts today. It’s sampáloc, actually. As I was about to say… a long time ago, a sampáloc tree grew in the garden of a stingy old hag who drove away a hungry old man asking for some fruit as a cure for his ailing grandson. Instead of helping him, the stingy old woman had him driven away by her ferocious dogs. Little did she know that the old man was actually a diwata in disguise (probably the first case of folkloric closet queenliness). As punishment for her selfishness, her garden and its surroundings sank into a colossal pit which was eventually filled with water. The new lake was called Sampáloc after the old tree. And thank goodness it is not called Champuy Lake.
On a side note, Sampáloc was the original name of San Pablo before the Super Spaniards came.
7) Lake Yambó (28.50 hectares; depth unclassified)
My arthritic hands are stiff and tired. But thanks to item# 5 (Lake Pandín), there’s no need to retell the Yambó story. So I am going to finish my breakfast now.
In closing, do I really have to describe in detail the prettiness of each lake? Sans the occasional eyesore (informal settlers, a couple of plastic water bottles here and there, pesky fish pens that are already stressing out Lake Bunót, etc.), even that would have been an injustice. All I can say is simply this: visiting all these lakes and reminiscing the scenes in your mind will surely make you hilariously happy that you would go nuts writing, or on whatever it is that you are doing.
NOTE: All photos, except for Lake Calibató, were taken last 16 April 2012. The photo for Lake Calibató was taken the next day.