Laguna offers a lot of day trip activities for those itching to go away for the weekend. One of these is Mount Mabilog and Pandin Lake in San Pablo, Laguna.
Here’s my experience doing a solo day trip in these attractions! I’ve also included a guide on how to get here too.
Solo Day Trip to Laguna
I went here solo sometime in July 2016. I’d always wanted to do this for a long time, but I could never make myself get up before 7 in the morning. Since the last weeks had delivered overcast skies and thunderstorms, I itched to get a little time off from the sun and bask under a happy sun.
From Manila, I commuted to San Pablo, Laguna. I arrived in Pandin Lake and informed the local staff that I have a reservation for lake rafting but would like to trek Mount Mabilog first.
Trek to Mount Mabilog
Mount Mabilog is a forested mountain standing next to Pandin Lake. It’s considered an easy climb in terms of difficulty.
From the jump-off area in Pandin Lake, it takes 1.5-2 hours to trek to the summit via the Sto. Angel’s trail and another 1 hour going back. Atop the summit, one can see 2 of the 7 crater lakes in San Pablo: Yambo and Palakpakin.
It was my first time to hike alone. If you’re interested in doing this as well, make sure to be prepared and read up on some useful hiking tips for solo female travelers.
The climb was easy enough. However, I made the obvious mistake of not getting a good night’s sleep the night before or having proper breakfast that morning. I underestimated the climb and overestimated my body’s capacity to endure without sufficient prep. I tired easily. I also felt light headed and at one point wanted to throw up. My guide harvested some leaves from a nearby tree called Litlit, crumpled it and gave it for me to smell. He says it will help with the dizziness and nausea. It worked like a miracle and I was surprised when after a few minutes I was already good to go.
After some more laborious minutes, we’ve reached the summit. It’s a small grassy clearing, with a view of Yambo Lake and Palakpakin Lake. Yambo Lake looks like a vast green mirror, while Palakpakin Lake is muddy.
I dropped my light backpack on the ground and laid on my back.
There were only two other groups in Mount Mabilog during my climb. It’s astonishing that there weren’t many more visiting mountaineers, unlike in other mountains near Manila, such as Batulao, Pico de Loro and the recently opened Mount Maynoba, where groups of mountaineers congest in the summit and form queues in the trail.
Perhaps it’s because of the relatively ordinary view in the summit of Mount Mabilog: there are no sea of clouds or mountain ridges in the distance.
However, I liked it here. It wasn’t crowded and Yambo Lake looked serene and beautiful. Beyond that I could see the Yin-Yang mountains: Mount Cristobal which is also called the Devil’s Mountain and Mount Banahaw which is considered a holy mountain.
I played with a cat that was prowling in the area, and after about 30 minutes of rest, I told my guide I was ready to go back.
When we arrived back at the lakeside, many of the locals looked up and there was a chorus of cheerful greeting, “Oh look she’s back!” “The woman who climbed alone!” I wanted to hug them all.
Lunch at Pandin Lake
Of course, after that successful solo climb, I had to reward myself by staying at Pandin Lake. There are packages offered here that includes a meal and boat tour to the lake.
As above, the lake area was quiet too. There were only a handful of other groups even though it was lunch time.
I enjoyed my meal on a cottage. It was simple yet flavorful, with generous servings. There were two cups of rice, sauteed small shrimps, fresh fern salad and grilled tilapia and pork chop. I loved the shrimps the best and wish I knew how they cooked it.
Afterwards, we rafted to the other side of the lake. Pandin Lake is about 180 feet deep, with fishes living on the deeper parts of the lake.
I spent a good two hours swimming in the deep-green water. Unlike beaches, it’s difficult to see anything underwater when swimming in lakes such as this one. I kept my lifevest on the whole time. In one spot, there are tree swings which are used for photo-ops or diving to the water below.
In another is a grotto beside a drinkable spring. The boatman said it has been there way before they came into the lake.
I enjoyed my solo trip to Mount Mabilog and Pandin Lake. Personally, I think this attraction deserves more attention. There are higher, more majestic mountains compared to Mount Mabilog but this one offers seclusion and quiet, which is rare in mountain destinations near Manila. Similarly, Pandin Lake seems not only a fun activity destination, but a healing point for those who’d like to find their way back to nature even for a day.
How to get here
From Manila, it takes about 3 hours to get here. Pandin Lake is also the jump-off point to Mount Mabilog.
Here are the commute directions:
- From Buendia or Cubao, ride a bus bound for Lucena (P115-120). Get off at SM San Pablo. From there, ride a tricycle to bayan (P20 per person). Then ride another jeep bound for Ilog and let the driver know you are going to Pandin Lake (P13).
- Alight in the highway. From there, there are local kids willing to guide you to Pandin Lake (P50 per guide).
1 Day itinerary to Mount Mabilog and Pandin Lake
Here’s a sample itinerary for a day trip to Mount Mabilog and Pandin Lake.
6:30AM – 9:30AM Commute from Manila to Pandin Lake
9:30AM Start trek to Mount Mabilog
11:30AM ETA summit
12:00NN – 1:00PM Trek back to Pandin Lake
1:00 – 1:30PM Lunch
1:30 – 3:30PM Lake rafting
3:30 – 4:00PM Wash up
4:00 – 7:00PM Travel back to Manila
If you are bringing a car, it’s easy to include other side trips such as Nagcarlan Underground Cemetery and Bunga Falls.
Budget and expenses
Here are the current rates (Updated as of 2020):
- Mount Mabilog guide fee: P350
- Lake Pandin rafting and lunch: P400 per person. Food includes grilled tilapia, liempo, okoy rice, pako salad, and bottled water. Optional – fresh coconut: P25.
The tour in Pandin Lake is currently limited to 2 hours. Additional P100 for 1 hour extension of bamboo raft use. There are also package rates for Pandin Lake for groups — rate depends on the number of pax.
If you also want to visit the nearby Bunga Falls, you can charter a tricycle for P200 one way.
If you’re solo, prepare a budget of about P1500 for a one-day Pandin Lake itinerary. If you’re in a group of 2, a safe budget would be P1100 per person.
Things to know before you go
- Lifevest is provided for free.
- Camping is allowed around the lake. If you are trekking to Mount Mabilog, you may also camp in the summit.
- Walk-ins are welcome. However, it’s best to reserve in advance during weekends and peak season to avoid the long queue.
For inquiries or reservation, you can contact Ms. Tina at 09079952983.
Do you have questions about this day trip to Mount Mabilog and Pandin Lake? Let us know in the comments below!
What to read next:
Interested in climbing? Here are other climbing/trekking articles:
- Mount Pulag
- Mount Kupapey (Mountain Province)
- Nagpatong Rock (Tanay, Rizal)
- Mount Mabilog (San Pablo, Laguna)
- Lake Holon (Tboli, South Cotabato)
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Katherine Cortes is a long-time backpacker and a freelance writer/editor. She likes beaches, snorkeling trips, and relaxing staycations (preferably with bath tubs!).