By James Veloso I Published: June 10, 2020
(First of a series)
Scattered around San Pablo City are Laguna province’s most prominent natural wonders: seven small lakes that are not only popular tourist destinations but also a source of livelihood for locals.
The seven lakes – Sampaloc, Bunot, Palakpakin, Mohikap, Pandin, Yambo and Calibato – are what scientists call “maars”, or low-profile volcanic craters, situated between the extinct volcanoes of Mount Makiling in Calamba City and Mount Banahaw in Quezon.
The craters were formed by phreatomagmatic eruptions, where ground water comes in contact with hot magma pushing up near the Earth’s surface.
For centuries, the lakes were the chief source of livelihood for San Pablo residents.
Fish pens abound in the area, especially the largest and most accessible Sampaloc Lake.
In recent years, the lakes have also been turned into popular tourist destinations, prompting conservation experts to warn that pollution and overfishing could threaten the lakes’ pristine beauty.
The lakes are a source of curiosity for old-timers. How could there be lakes inside a landlocked area?
Over time, of legends on the origin of the lakes, the most famous being that of the Sampaloc Lake.
According to local folklore, Sampaloc Lake was once a very fertile land on the northern side of the city.
Here, a well-to-do couple once owned a garden of tamarind trees (sampalok). The fruits were the sweetest in the land, prompting people from far away to get a taste or crave for it.
Unfortunately, the couple didn’t want to share the rich fruit their tamarind trees were bearing.
To ensure that no one could pick the fruit, they built a tall fence around the garden and placed a fierce watchdog near the gate.
One day, an old beggar came to the couple’s house and asked for some tamarinds. The couple not only refused to give some tamarinds to the woman, they even set the watchdog to attack her.
What the couple didn’t know was that the old beggar was actually a fairy in disguise, sent by the gods to test the couple’s hospitality.
As the “beggar” walked away from the garden, she touched a tamarind tree and uttered a curse on the couple: “You shall be punished for your selfishness!”
That night a fierce storm broke out over the area.
The following morning, the couple woke up to find a vast lake over what was once a row of tamarind trees.
The water was so transparent that, when the couple rowed out into the lake, they could still see the tamarind trees at the bottom of the lake – drowned by their greed.
(To be continued)