MANILA, Philippines – A weekend getaway does not need to be far. Just a two and a half hour drive from Manila, one can find peace in the province of Laguna.
The tranquil scenery of lush green coconut trees surrounding the 24-hectare Lake Pandin captivated me. Beyond the beauty that this lake holds is a touching story on how a crisis opened up opportunities for the community in Brgy. Sto. Anghel in San Pablo City.
With all her might, the 36 year-old Lolita Sales — on the bamboo raft — paddles through the calm waters towards a grotto, where they get their water supply. Ate Lolita says that the spring from the mountain is their only source of water. She then recounts how 16 women paddlers brought life to their dying livelihood.
High price of fish feeds yet low number of fish catch brought problems to the fishermen of Pandin. Their wives didn’t let this problem bring them down. Through the help of environmentalist Mandy Mariño, the women rowed their way to a sustainable livelihood — tourism.
“Sinuggest ni Mr. Mariño na gumawa kami ng mga balsa kung saan pwedeng sumakay ang mga turista. Dun nagsimula ang pagbabalsa namin (Mr. Mariño suggested that we build bamboo rafts which tourists can ride around the lake),” says Ate Lolita, also the auditor of the Samahan ng mga Mangingisda sa Lawa ng Pandin Farm-C (SMLP).
Ate Lolita shares that the organization bought 35 bamboos which cost Php 120 each. The fishermen were the ones tasked to build the bamboo rafts while their wives serve as the tour guides and paddlers.
Since 2006, they have been welcoming tourists who want to unwind and relax in the lake. The SMLP now has 7 bamboo rafts. Each raft can accommodate 20 guests.
For Php 360, a guest can enjoy a ride in the bamboo raft while eating fresh catch of grilled tilapia, shrimp in coconut milk, paku, banana and drink fresh buco juice.
After eating, one can jump out of the raft and swim. Everyone is required to wear a life vest when swimming in the lake, which has a depth of 180 feet. Swimmers are not exempted.
While sharing how tourism changed their lives, Ate Lolita beams with pride and joy. She was once a vendor but confesses that she likes entertaining guests in Pandin.
In Lake Pandin, the women are like the spring coming out of a mountain rock. They brought hope in a time of hopelessness. – Rappler.com
(Follow the author’s travels at http://www.tripadora.com.
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