If you need assistance or information on how to go about your itinerary, you may visit the San Pablo Tourism Affairs Office at the 2nd floor of the new city hall. I went there to ask for some leaflets/brochures with road map of the city and to inquire about road conditions/ accessibility of the other lakes and waterfalls. Unfortunately, they didn't have printed materials, but the amiable Administrative Officer for Tourism Affairs was nice enough to answer my questions.
We went for Visita Iglesia at the San Pablo Cathedral on several occasions. It is also known as St. Paul Cathedral, being named after its patron saint, St. Paul the Hermit. Pilgrims frequently hear mass at this Jubilee Church to gain plenary indulgence, then they "relive" the passion of Christ in the outdoor Stations Of The Cross.
Like other churches in Laguna, the first chapel had thatched roof when it was built in 1586. Repairs, renovations and improvements were made by the Augustinian Friars in the 1600s until the 1700s. The church structure was completed in 1721 by Fray Francisco Juan de Elorreaga, OSA. The administration was later turned over to the Franciscans in 1794 under Fray Andres Cabrera, OFM, who added other features like "the brick-stone wall in 1796, the tower in 1801 and the Cruzero in 1912."
With the installation of the Diocese of San Pablo in 1967, the church gained the status of a Cathedral, being the seat of The Diocese of San Pablo, the only diocese in the Province of Laguna. In 1986, the altar, ceiling and dome were renovated, but you can still admire the remaining original architectural details of the Cathedral. It is an Augustinian piece of neo-classical architecture. I particularly feel nostalgic when I see its 4-storey octagonal bell tower.
There is so much to capture in photos: the views, the people, the flora, butterflies, etc. Don't be irritated if children distract you; they are just naturally curious about what you are trying to shoot. If you want to take close range people shots, ask permission from the individuals before you take their pictures.
Although there are tricycles at Sampaloc Lake, you can opt to go around the lake by renting a bike or tri-"sikad" (bike with sidecar) for only P30 per 30 minutes. That way, you can bike around for a leisurely sight-seeing while burning calories.
I learned that fishing in the lakes are allowed, provided you DON'T FISH WITHIN THE FISHPENS. It would be prudent to ask permission from the Barangay Captain or fishpen caretaker before you go fishing.
There were so many joggers when went to Sampaloc Lake recently. It seems there is a conscious effort for health buffs to wear nice jogging attire. However, they didn't look pleased to see a camera aimed at them so I didn't take their pictures.
I noticed that there were also a lot of people, young and old, who simply enjoyed walking around the lake. There were some senior citizens who paced their steps, trying to go a short distance but soonafter returned to their starting point.
Usually first in the tourists' itinerary is Sampaloc Lake, being the city's biggest lake found within the city proper.
Sampaloc Lake was a real beauty until the 1960s. Being the biggest of the 7 lakes in San Pablo City, Sampaloc Lake was undoubtedly a good fishing ground that provided livelihood to many people. Sadly, the proliferation of fishpens became uncontrolled, and many houses were built in the lake area, obstructing the panoramic view of the lake and nearby mountains. It was a popular place for family/group activities so with the rising popularity of the lake, some enterprising folks put up restaurants serving fresh fish. In no time, they "mushroomed" on the lake banks.
I was told that sometime in the 1970s, with the abuse and over-exploitation of its resources, Sampaloc Lake lost its grandeur. There was a problem in the ecosystem; there was an alarming incidence of fish kills due to water pollution. The water smelled terribly bad, turning off tourists and even locals who used to go there for fresh air and relaxation. The "death" of Sampaloc Lake saddened everyone, but it triggered a wake up call for citizens to unite and make a move to restore the lake's original beauty. (I will write about it in the Customs and Traditions Tip.)
Today, you can witness the fascinating, serene restored beauty of Sampaloc Lake: no more eateries and houses obstructing the view, fewer fishpens, lotuses in full bloom dotting the lake banks, young kids swimming again in the much cleaner waters, white migratory birds flying yonder, and soft bluish images of the mountains making an awesome background to the lake view, with clear reflections on the clean lake. Now, it abounds with tilapia, bangus, carp and several species of shrimps.
When you go to Sampaloc Lake , you'll see a nice view of Laguna mountains like Mt. Nagcarlang, and the mystical mountains of Mt. Banahaw and Mt. San Cristobal.
While relaxing at one of the mini-parks in Sampaloc Lake, I watched with fondness the beautiful pedigree dogs running or walking with their masters. I was told by a couple beside me that every morning, many locals bring their pet dogs there for exercise, such that it looked like there was always a parade of dogs. San Pablo City is a pet-friendly city.
On our way to Sampaloc Lake , I couldn't help but notice Dona Leonila Park, a mini-forest park just across the old City Hall. It looked vibrant with lush trees and beautifully landscaped gardens. Why it was named after the wife of former President Carlos Garcia, I don't know for sure if Dona Leonila hailed from San Pablo, or if it was during the term of then President Garcia that she initiated that park. (I will update this tip when I have accurate info.)
I decided to drop by the park for a brief look-see. There were many people hanging out in the benches in the garden, some students at the picnic tables, some men snoozing on the benches under the trees in the mini-forest, people who seemed like government employees and other folks standing by the kiosks for snacks, and children screaming with joy at the playground. I noticed children playing on an elevated concrete stage which is probably used for public programs/events.
Before the beautification of Sampalok Lake, it was at Doña Leonila Park where locals and tourists rested and hang-out after visiting the fabled lake. I know there was a viewdeck at the Park we used to go to view Sampaloc Lake but somehow, I couldn't find it anymore. I tried to look for it but it started to shower so I had to hurry back to the car. I'll take a picture of it next time.
Hangout with your friends or loved ones at the Real Coffee Club in Colago Avenue, San Pablo City (if you're passing through Maharlika Highway, it's almost across SPC Medical Hospital). Also try our pasta, sandwiches, cakes, pastries, and more! We also provide FREE WiFi!
Sampaloc Lake, at 104 hectares and 27m deep, is the biggest of the seven lakes. A couple of attractive hotels and restaurants are already operating along the lake's perimeter near the city center. Currenly the locals' meeting place for biking and jogging or simply wandering around, the area has the potential of becoming an IN-place for nightlife where restaurants and bars may prosper. For now, bikes with sidecar are available for rent (P30).
Pristine Pandin Lake is perfect for a picnic. Clean and green is what best describes this scenic lake -- clean water and green surrounding -- just 10 minutes up north towards neighboring Nagcarlan town. Scary at 63m deep, the 20-hectare lake is the twin lake of the bigger Yambo Lake (28 hectares), which can also be viewed by climbing the lowest and narrowest portion of the ridge that separates the two lakes. The local women's association offers lake tour on a bamboo raft for P180 per person. Rafts without the bangkeras (lady paddlers) may be rented for P500 (not advisable though, for safety reasons). Meals and accomodation can also be pre-arranged through a certain Ka Tano (Cellphone #: 09299789565).
Every year, on Good Friday, life-size and almost life-size statues are paraded around the city plaza.
Religious icons of Christian origin are dressed up, propped on carriages called "carozas", are then decorated with flowers and equipped with flood lights. These carriages are pulled/pushed by devotees who do this every year.
Thousands of people flock to the streets to watch this parade. It officially starts around 5:30pm when the afternoon sun starts to go down, and shadows are cast, and the portable flood-lights make the statues more dramatic. But the people start coming as early as 3:00 in the afternoon just so they can secure their coveted/preferred street corner.
Visit Good Friday Procession and find out more about this fascinating feature.
The tradition probably dates back to the days when the devotees would pray or sing hymns while walking their "patron saint" around the plaza. Some of the "newer" devotees nowadays look like they just want to walk around to parade and display themselves rather than the religious statues.
Total Gas Station in the National (Maharlika Highway) Highway in barangay San Rafael, San Pablo City is buidling up quite a reputation. A reoutation not only of cheaper gasoline prices than other stations but also being a pit stop for a quick bite at it's 24 hour convenience store or a place for hanging around and drinking and eating italian food at night due to it's pizzerria and free wi fi access. It has now been a favorite hang out of San pablo City Natives who crave for italian style pizza's while surfing the net free via Wi Fi.
WHen in Sampaloc Lake, one usually takes picture or eat at the numerous native restaurants at the Lake Shore. In one of the Restaurants here, they offer a bamboo raft ride in Sampaloc Lake. the ride takes 10 minutes around the still waters and between the many fishpens. A Bamboo Ride Cost 50 pesos.