An Exciting and Appetizing Way to the Sun in San Pablo, Laguna

My closest friends at work normally see each other every week (the cue is just a text to each other, “Location?!” then we meet up in a Starbs hideout) but we hardly have a chance to go out of town together. These three girls are travel junkies and we’ve been looking for a sure-fire fun roadtrip this time. Finally, one Saturday, we decided to go for an easy drive to San Pablo, Laguna.
We went off to a not-so-planned roadtrip, with only a map from a website description of Viaje del Sol (Way of the Sun) adventure guiding us. I only Googled about it that morning and good thing I was able to contact Mr. Mandy Marino, an environmentalist and promoter of San Pablo lakes and the brainchild of Café Lago in San Pablo City. We left Alabang almost 10:00am already and arrived Café Lago by the Sampaloc Lake about lunch time. (Of course, if you want to maximize your day trip, you HAVE to leave Manila early morning.)
Sampaloc Lake with the view of the blue mountain — Mt. Cristobal

(You might get distracted by the good view of Sampaloc Lake and miss Café Lago. It’s in front of the pumpkin slide facing Sampaloc Lake.)

Café Lago is inside Mr. Marino’s wonderful abode, where he turned the receiving area to a quaint café. He was very accommodating and we had a good chat with him while we waited for the lunch to be served to us. He shared the places to visit in the area and also his causes that made the San Pablo lakes beautiful once again. Sampaloc Lake, in particular, used to stink and was polluted and congested because of the bars, night clubs, and squatters beside the lake. Mr. Marino was instrumental in slowly turning it back to its original beauty. He organized a group of advocates to protest and call the attention of the local officials. Thanks to volunteers like him who gave back to the environment, friends and families can now spend relaxing weekends like this beside the lake.

Thanks and good job Mr. Marino!

Two of my lovely travel buddies who I call Pards and Sweets.

Inside the homey café
Top to bottom: Fresh fried tilapia, cream dory sa gata and lengua.

After a sumptuous lunch, Mr. Marino gave us the Viaje del Sol map and contact to our tour guide in the lakes. San Pablo is known for the City of Seven Lakes so we never missed to tour two of its lakes — Pandin Lake and its twin Yanbo.

We kinda got lost looking for Brgy. Sto. Angel where we would meet our tour guide for Pandin Lake. We finally saw a vacant lot where a small ‘Pandin’ sign is posted. We quickly changed to our swimming clothes in a little house in the lot (with the permission of the owner) since we knew we’re going to take a dip in the lake. We trekked the trail to the lake under the hot sun for a good 15 minutes. It was just like an oasis seeing the cool, pristine lake ahead.

We hopped on a bamboo raft as we explored Pandin Lake with several women paddling our raft. It’s these women who are wives of the fishermen and lived nearby managing the lake tour. Asked why it’s mostly women who are guiding the tourists, they feel that female guests may feel uncomfortable if men are driving the rafts especially they wear something skimpy for swimming. That’s how they respect tourists.
The tour has a fee of P180 each, which includes a fresh buko juice. Being a beach person myself, it’s only now I appreciate the different feeling inside a green, tranquil lake.
Refreshing hues of greens and blues in Pandin Lake
After we crossed over the other side of Pandin Lake, we stopped over a plateau for a five-minute hike to see the glimpse of the twin lake, Lake Yambo. After going down from the top, we rested under a balete tree, which was our jump-off point for a swim in the lake.
Manang “parking” our bamboo raft under the tree.

Diving to the serene lake!
Pards was joining the Subic International Triathlon and Iron Man in Cam Sur, so it was good warm-up and practice for her to swim from the end of the lake to the start, while we paddled the raft going back, keeping an eye on her.
By sunset, we were in Sitio de Amor Farm Resort to do some “ocular” in the place. It’s an orchard fit for garden weddings, bed and breakfast, or team building sessions. Apologies to the owners if we were gate crashers. They don’t accept walk-ins and it’s by appointment only. Nevertheless, the husband owner was still kind enough to accomodate us and tour us around despite the hour.
Sunset view in the infinity pool of Sitio de Amor Farm Resort

Inside one of the dining areas.
We then had our dinner in the Spanish ancestral home turned fine dining restaurant, Sulyap Gallery Cafe. Its interiors and furnitures are all antique types with a vintagey feel and romantic ambiance. Obviously, it doesn’t have aircon but the cool breeze from the windows makes the experience more relaxing as we ended of our Viaje adventure.

Why not bring your date here next time?
While our orders were being prepared, we went inside Sulyap Arts and Antiques to look around the antique collections like wooden furnitures, carvings, and religious icons.

Old school cameras!
As for the food, they weren’t really memorable for me. Can’t believe I actually forgot what we ordered. Anyway, it’s still something you shouldn’t miss if you’re in for an art and culture tour.
I know we still missed a lot of establishments in the Viaje del Sol in Laguna and Quezon. A day is never enough to visit all of them. But at least we’ve explored places new to us where we’ve enjoyed every minute of it!
* * *
For more details of the Viaje del Sol routes, visit:
For Pandin Lake tour arrangements, call Mr. Mandy Marino: 0917-5016694.

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