In 2016, I made plans to go backpacking around Laguna. I was interested with its interesting mix of history and nature. I was able to visit different spots in Laguna but in bits and pieces. One thing that I realized was that Laguna is a large region that three days is not enough to explore its beauty.
Laguna is popular for being the birthplace of the country's national hero, Dr. Jose Rizal, and a favorite destination for team building activities or family reunions because of its string of resorts that is in close proximity to Manila. But this province that lies southeast of Manila is a melting pot of history and nature's bounty - a good combination for would-be explorers to start their travel adventures.
I have visited some parts of Laguna in the past and the opportunity to explore more of its tourist spots, given the chance, is an opportunity that I woud not miss. So when the opportunity to go on a day trip around Majayjay and Liliw came up, it was a chance I dare not miss.
Majayjay is a municipality located at the foot of Mount Banahaw. The town was once known as Malay Barangay and was famous among high profile families during the Spanish period because of its scenery. Who would not be mesmerized by it with four rivers flowing through Majayjay?
At the heart of the town of Majayjay is the Saint Gregory the Great Parish Church, one of the oldest Catholic churches in the country.The church was buit in 1575 through forced labor. It now stands as a mute witness to Majayjay's rich and colorful past.
The unassuming facade of the Majayjay Church evokes the simplicity of the town. The adjacent belfry dominates the rural skyline of Majayjay so locating the church is quite easy. The retablo-like design of its exterior clearly shows the age of the church.
The very first thing that will strike you when you enter the church is its elegantly designed retablo. It is the centerpiece of the church. The intricate interior of the church is a complete contrast to its exterior. The real beauty of the church lies within its walls.
Do make sure that you knock on the front doors of the Majayjay Church and make a wish just before you leave, if you are a first time visitor.
You can call it Majayjay Falls, Taytay Falls, or Imelda Falls but whatever name you opt to call it - the two-story high waterfall is a beauty to reckon. Majayjay Falls sits in the midst of lush greenery that complements its natural charm. Interestingly, former First Lady Imelda Marcos once took the lead in the efforts to promote this tourist spot in Majayjay.
One needs to traverse a cemented pathway to get to Majayjay Falls. We enjoyed the 800-meter walk to the base of the falls surrounded by lush greeneries that also protected us from the heat of the sun. Springwater runs adjacent to the pathway so when you feel that you need to cool down, you can freely soak your feet for an immediate cool respite.
As we got closer to the falls, I noticed that tourist facilities are readiy available but do not expect much from these facilities as most of them are not that properly managed. I also noticed that they also allow camping in the area. There are a lot of nooks and crannies where you can safely camp out.
A catch basin was installed at the foot of Majayjay Falls to create a pool from the water that cascades down the falls. This is the area where visitors can take a quick dip into its cold waters. In our case, no one wanted to take a dip so we simply opted to just soak our tired feet into the icy waters of Majayjay Falls.
Liliw Shoe Industry
Mention "Liliw, Laguna" and the first thing that would come to mind are shoes and sandals. The municipality of Liliw is a competent rival of Marikina City for its footwear industry. It is known as the “Tsinelas Capital of Laguna” so you will definitely get treated with a lot of choices from the rows of its footwear shops.
We did enjoy hopping from one shop to another. Two things that you need to bring with you when you visit Liliw – you need to have the patience as you have to go through a number of shops to get to your perfect pair and size of footwear. You also need to have control as there are a lot of footwear to choose from that are affordable that you might end up bringing home a lot.
Too bad though that we got engrossed with the shopping part that we never did get to explore Liliw more intimately. Nevertheless, it was a fun experience to go around shopping and do not forget to also buy “pako” or edible ferns for your salad before leaving.
It was around 2pm when we got to San Pablo City. It was raining along the way so we had to navigate slowly through slippery trails to our last stop – Pandin Lake in San Pablo City.
Pandin Lake is one of the seven lakes of San Pablo City. Local folklore say that Pandin was once a beautiful girl who was cursed to never set her foot on land or vanish from the face of the earth. She has remained steadfast to this arrangement until he met a handsome guy named Yambu. To cut the story short, Yambu convinced Pandin to step down from her hut and as soon as her feet touched the ground, both lovers were turned into San Pablo’s twin lakes.
You can read more about San Pablo’s 7 lakes here.
Our visit this time around was going to be something different. We wanted to try lunching out aboard the rafts while cruising Lake Pandin – a source of livelihood for locals living in the area. The rate was a bit pricey, though, but we came there for the experience so we gave it a go.
With a treat of Pako Salad, Inihaw na Liempo, Inihaw na Tilapia, Fish Omelette, and Rice, our raft started cruising across the lake. We enjoyed the meal in between jokes and stories while the rain steadily fell around us. Every now and then, we asked our boatman questions about the lake and their way of life.
Our “bangkero” steadily positioned our raft by the side of the lake where we had the chance to jump into the warm waters of Pandin Lake. The waters are deep so wearing a life vest is a requirement. They have also installed a swing by the lake for everyone to enjoy but you just got to wait for your raft’s turn for its access. The funny thing was that the lake waters are so deep that you do not get to see anything underwater. We were joking around that there was probably something underneath that we dare not come face-to-face with. We have enjoyed swimming by the beach but swimming by the lake is a totally different experience.
Post Travel Notes
As our raft slowly glided through the still-waters of Lake Pandin, I was completely captivated by the hues of the sun setting on the horizon. We were lucky that the rains stopped at a perfect time for us to enjoy our cruise back to the shore and just simply enjoy the peaceful atmosphere of Laguna.
I still have a lot of spots to cover in Laguna. The road trip that I had just clearly shows that trips get to be more fun when you have a bunch of crazies around. You just got to have a great destination, a plan to get there, and a bunch of wacky antics that will keep you all awake throughout the trip. Of course, that changes when you are driving and you are all on your way home.
Laguna is a great place to start your adventures if you are just starting your travel journals. It is quite easy to get to and have a lot of exciting destinations and activities that you can enjoy.
Getting There: It is quite easy to get to Laguna as there are a lot of buses that ply the route to Laguna passes through it. You can take a Lucena-bound bus and asked to be dropped off in San Pablo City. From the Jollibee drop-off point, you can then ask the driver to take you to the jeepneys bound for Majayjay or Liliw.
Marc del Rosario
I believe in education, entrepreneurship, and caring for the environment.