[Where I’ve Been] A surreal experience at Lake Bababu in the Dinagat Islands

Jona Branzuela Bering
[Where I’ve Been] A surreal experience at Lake Bababu in the Dinagat Islands
An underwater cave connects Lake Bababu to the open sea, and it has been successfully entered by a group of experienced scuba drivers. Find out more about this destination here

In Where I’ve Been, Rappler features an unforgettable destination perfectly captured in one shot – one beautiful moment forever preserved, one beautiful story told in a photograph.

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Traveler Jona Bering makes the trip to Lake Bababu:

Where was this photo taken?

This photo was taken in Lake Bababu in Dinagat Group of Islands. 

What’s it like to visit?

Lake Bababu is an unusual lake: there is an underwater cave that connects the lake to the open sea, which has been successfully entered by a group of experienced scuba drivers. (IN PHOTOS: 8 PH lakes to add to your travel bucket list

I arrived in the lake with Survic, one of the Langit brothers, the sons of the original (now deceased) caretaker of the lake.

Tristan, his personal guide, the younger Langit, and their two dogs were behind us. Upon our arrival, I saw a group of big mamsa, a type of saltwater fish, gliding through the edge of the lake.

I was dumbfounded: the moment was so surreal. The Langit family said these fish only showed up to the goodhearted, which the little optimist in me wanted to believe in. They disappeared when the other group arrived.

Bababu’s water is said to have healing powers, according to the head leader of Philippine Benevolent Missionaries Association: Ruben Ecleo Sr.

Despite the talks of a giant barracuda inhabiting the lake, I spent a good time swimming in the water.

How to get there, how much? 

Dinagat Group of Islands can be considered an off-the-beaten destination. (READ: The author’s travel essay on this mysterious place, whose people are called langitnon.)

There is no direct flight to Surigao del Norte from Manila. The best route is to fly from Manila to Cebu, and then ship or fly to Surigao del Norte. From Surigao del Norte, board a boat to San Jose, DGI’s main town.  

You can find the boats in the bay walk where the boats to Siargao are located. Mine was a 3-day solo trip, and it cost me around P4000 all in. I am based in Cebu, so there are ships regularly ferrying to Surigao del Norte and other provinces in northern Mindanao.

Coordinate with Balay Turista, the province’s tourism office doubling as a budget hotel. For island-hopping, the boat, which can accommodate up to 10 people, costs P1500, Although I traveled solo, I shared the boat with Tristann, a traveler from Manila. 

There is a mandatory guiding to Lake Bababu. It cost us P250 each. 

More tips: 

  • Bring your gear, if you plan to snorkel.
  • Smoking and drinking in public are not allowed. Cigarettes can only be bought in pharmacies.
  • Karaoke and makeshift drinking bars can only be found in Sta. Cruz, the town next to San jose.
  • ATMs can be found in San Jose, in case you run short of cash.
  • Don’t be alarmed when you hear a loud bell ringing at 3 in the morning: it is a signal for PBMA members to pray.
  • There are a lot of islands and beaches in Dinagat, so please provide ample time to explore this new destination.
  • Do not forget to check the Island’s Castle, the mansion of the Ecleos – the province’s political and religious powerhouse.
  • For cheap eats, head to the market, a worn-out yet beautiful structure standing on the edge of the sea.
  • For more information, contact Danilo Bulabos, provincial tourism officer, at +63 9057116828 or dane_cabesas@yahoo.com.

What’s next on your list of PH travels?

Long before I started traveling abroad, it was my goal to travel the 81 provinces comprising our country. But this pursuit is rather hard. What remains in my list are the extremes: the northernmost and southernmost parts of the country. I hope I could visit Batanes and Sitangkai before I leave for my long-term travel abroad. I really want to visit Sitangkai – an island in Tawi-Tawi

My love-hate affair with places and travel writing started with Resil Mojares’ “Sailing to Sitangkai.” So going there is a spiritual journey for me: a kind of affirmation I am choosing the right path for myself. – Rappler.com 

Jona Branzuela Bering is a writer and photographer from Cebu, Philippines. When she is not traveling, she gardens, teaches, and becomes the slave of four cats. Follow her travels on Instagram @backpackingwithabook or on her blog Backpacking with a Book.

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