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Freshwater appreciation via Lake Pandin

Zest Magazine heads to Lake Pandin in San Pablo, Laguna.



Yeah, whenever we think of going swimming, we almost always think of going to the beach. In the Philippines, this is not at all surprising, considering that we have – as Charlene Gonzales once (in)famously stated – 7,108 islands (during low tide), less one if it’s high tide. But not as emphasized (though definitely high time that we should) is the abundance of other bodies of water in the Philippines, aside from saltwater. I’d say that for every El Nido (in Palawan) is a Lake Agco (at the foot of Mt. Apo, the country’s highest peak)…

At least this was the very thought running through our heads when we raced to Lake Pandin, a body of water somewhat trapped somewhere in San Pablo in Laguna. Rustic comes to mind when here, with everything seemingly slowing down, as people (okay, tourists!) are paddled into the midst of the lake. And while there, everything becomes… poetic, particularly when the sun hits the waters, when just about everything turns green – mossy sans the reflection (as if something is lurking underneath) and then somewhat neon-ish when reflecting the sun’s rays (reminiscent of… Flubber, or merpeople, or the radioactive goo that turns mortal beings into superheroes/villains).

And with Lake Pandin, yes, there are (other, non-saltwater) bodies of water, indeed, that deserve to be discovered…

Lake Pandin is a somewhat “new” tourist destination that (get this) an all-woman organization started to tap after they realized it can help them make a living to help with the expenses in financing their families. In 2005, a total of 18 local women formed the Samahan ng mga Kababaihang Mangingisda at Bangkera sa Lawa ng Pandin because – as their prexy Cristina Abgrego said – “naisip naming maghanap ng kabuhayan para tulungan ang mga naghahanapbuhay sa mga bahay namin (we thought of finding a way to earn to help those who make a living for our homes).”

These women were, incidentally, already making some form of living catching fish from Lake Pandin, since most of them live in the area anyway. The formation of the association was, instead, a “leveling up” of that “making a living”, Abgrego said.

And so using the balsa (bamboo rafts) that they had, they started “touring” people into Lake Pandin.

The “tour” is simple:

  1. When you reach the bank of Lake Pandin, there’s a waiting area where you do the transacting for the tour (e.g. pay the fees, choose the type of tour).
  2. The bamboo rafts have bangkero/bangkera (man/woman who does the paddling) assigned to them.
  3. After agreeing on the payment/actual payment of fees, you are then queued. It’s a “first come, first served” arrangement, so tourists who arrived early will board a balsa You don’t get to choose the bangkero/bangkera (normally); instead, you’d board the available balsa that’s there (and have its accompanying guide/s) when it’s your turn.
  4. A “waiting period” happens when stuff need to be put onboard – e.g. food that you paid for.
  5. The guides do not paddle; instead, they just pull a rope (tied from one end of the lake to the other), which then brings the bamboo raft into the lake. There are “stops” – e.g. where the swing is (at the opposite end of the lake, coming from the take-off point), in the middle of the lake (where you can do some swimming), and so on.
  6. No swimming is allowed without a life vest. As per Abgrego, at least two tourists drowned in a different lake near Lake Pandin, so the local government told them (sounded to me like “threatened”) that their local effort will be forcibly closed if something like that happened there. There is, however, this awareness that it somehow seemed like a veiled threat that their effort to be sustainable – because it proved successful – will be taken from them so that the earnings will then go directly to the local government…
  7. While in the lake, you can eat the stuff you paid for (part of the package); go swimming; sunbathe; fish; or… do nothing.
  8. After two hours, the “tour” ends. You’d be taken back to the bank where it all started, and… so long/until next time.

The association now has 12 bamboo rafts – more than enough to tour the tourists who flock to the place particularly during summer; and more than enough to help support the now 22 members of the association.

And – by the way – they don’t just have all women members now; there is also a transman (there used to be two, but the other one moved overseas already), as well as four men (since they still consider the transman as “one of the girls”) who “do things women won’t do,” Abgrego said, “like replace the bamboos in the rafts.”

Truth be told, there’s not much in Lake Pandin (and so not much to do there).

That is, you don’t come here to – say – go swimming the entire day, picnic with the entire family (again for the entire day), or have water activities (e.g. wakeboarding or kiteboarding or whatever). The trip there will be very specific – i.e. go out in the water to swim for a few hours, grab some chow, then head back home. Now, if this isn’t your idea of “fun”, then Lake Pandin is obviously not for you.

But if the intention is to experience something largely undeveloped; to be in a still-rustic place; to be able to help (empower) a group of women who prove that adage that “if you teach a woman to fend for herself, she’d fend for her entire family”; to mingle with #KaraniwangTAO (and they even have a #KaraniwangLGBT, well-respected, as per the women we spoke with); or to be in a body of water that CAN charm, give Lake Pandin a chance to be experienced.

We “lost” a rainbow flag in (the waters of) Lake Pandin. The wind blew so hard, one of Outrage Magazine’s rainbow flags fell in the water. No chance to retrieve it, so it’s there somewhere…
If you happen to find it, you may want to hand it over to the LGBT member of the association overseeing the tour (as Abgrego said: “We’re happy we have them here”). Else, give us a call/yell. Or… just enjoy how a rainbow is not part of the green waters of Lake Pandin…

Lake Pandin1

Lake Pandin is located in San Pablo, Laguna. As soon as you reach San Pablo, there are tourist guides who will offer (for a minimal fee, of course) to bring you to the take-off area of Lake Pandin. At that take-off area is where the paying of the actual fees happen – usually from P350 per person per trip, or (if there aren’t many people) from P400 per person per trip. The payment often includes a meal (usually rice plus three kinds of viands, bananas, and bottled water).

M.D. dela Cruz Tan is the founder of Zest Magazine. And no, the initials (i.e. M.D.) do not make him a "medical doctor" (as many have erroneously thought in the past); he is actually a graduate of Bachelor of Arts (Communication Studies) of the University of Newcastle in New South Wales Australia (just don't ask when, he says). He can: photograph, do artworks with mixed media, write (of course), shoot flicks, community-organize, facilitate, lecture, research (with pioneering studies under his belt)... this one's a multi-tasker, who is even conversant in Filipino Sign Language. Cross his path is the dare (read: It won't be boring).

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Airbnb’s Siargao Superhosts will ply you with tips and tricks on how to live like a local

Once an undiscovered hideaway for surfing enthusiasts, Siargao is now a growing tourist destination that has retained its quintessential island charm. The unique community fostered between locals, business owners, and tourists is what makes the Siargao experience so appealing — its one-of-a-kind energy draws guests back time and time again.



The Philippines is home to more than 7,000 islands and it’s no surprise that some of the world’s most beautiful beach destinations can be found in the archipelago. While Boracay, Palawan and Cebu are well known amongst beach lovers and island hoppers, Siargao has been quietly making a name for itself. This year, Time Magazine hailed the surfing paradise as one of the World’s Greatest Places in 2021, alongside 99 other extraordinary destinations to explore.

Once an undiscovered hideaway for surfing enthusiasts, Siargao is now a growing tourist destination that has retained its quintessential island charm. The unique community fostered between locals, business owners, and tourists is what makes the Siargao experience so appealing — its one-of-a-kind energy draws guests back time and time again.

First-time visitors may be overwhelmed by the wide variety of activities to explore, restaurants to try and breathtaking scenery to capture. But fret not! Siargao is home to amazing Airbnb Hosts who go the extra mile to provide you with tips and tricks on how to live like a local, whether you’re planning to stay for the weekend or for a couple of months.

Tarzan’s Treehouse hosted by Julio and Cyd

Tarzan’s Treehouse is a passion-driven eco-friendly project by Hosts Julio and Clyd. Built mainly with natural materials including wood, bamboo and nipa, the treehouse offers floor-to-ceiling windows providing breathtaking views of the sea and lush palm trees all around. From the cosy hammock to attic bedroom and outdoor patio, guests will truly enjoy exploring every nook and cranny. What’s more, Julio and Clyd have jotted down a list of  their favourite local suggestions including top restaurants, motor bike rentals and airport transfers in a small notebook awaiting you in the treehouse.

Modern Tropical Home hosted by Cecile and Mark

Nestled halfway between General Luna and Cloud 9, this beautiful two-storey  residence hosted by Hosts Cecile and Mark is both comfortable and stylish, and comes furnished with a lounge, fully-equipped kitchen and dining room, and a gallery style loft bedroom with a spacious work desk on the second floor.  Cecile and Mark live just next door, and are quick to attend to any guest requests and provide you with freshly picked coconuts daily. On top of it all, the stay comes with two of the friendliest dogs  — Mowgli and Baloo — who can accompany you on long walks along the beach!

Native Beachfront Cabana hosted by Grace

Surrounded by palm trees and beautiful scenery, this rustic cabana is the perfect spot for family get-togethers. Enjoy private access to a secluded beach away from the hustle and bustle of Siargao, and gorgeous sea views at dawn and dusk. Host Grace and her family cook delicious local meals for their guests too, leaving you with a unique experience you’ll never forget.

Triangle Palms Native Villa hosted by Edward

Designed to resemble a traditional Filipino home, Triangle Palms’ villas will provide guests with a memorable experience filled with lush greens and birds chirping, and leave the place feeling rejuvenated. Host Edward will also provide you with a list of the best restaurants and attractions around the island, and arrange personalized island tours for a truly unforgettable island experience!

Mao Mao Surf hosted by Marco & Chara

Mao Mao Surf’s eco-friendly jungle huts come equipped with modern tropical interiors and surfboards for beach-loving guests. Situated just five minutes away from popular surf spots and restaurants but still far enough from the noise, guests can enjoy a cozy bonfire under the stars. Hosts Marco and Chara will serve up delicious breakfast every morning, and hook you up with awesome surf trainers for some serious wave lessons!

Airbnb hosts like Julio and Cyd, Cecil and Mark, Grace, Edward and Marco and Chara are sharing their places, stories and love for Siargao with the world through hosting. These Siargao Hosts, together with Airbnb’s community of passionate Hosts, are dedicated to creating a world where anyone can belong anywhere, providing healthy travel that is local, authentic, diverse, inclusive and sustainable.

These Hosts have also all committed to Airbnb’s 5-step Enhanced Clean process, a set of standards developed in partnership with experts to ensure safety and peace of mind for guests.

For anyone interested in hosting with Airbnb and opening their homes to the world, Airbnb’s new platform upgrades have made it easier for anyone who wants to host. To explore more about hosting with Airbnb, get started at

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The perfect road trip seating plan based on zodiac signs

These personality types can be most apparent when many individuals with different star signs are placed in a small space together for a length of time, like a road trip.



Photo by Matthew Henry from

If you are heading on a road trip this summer, have a Virgo behind the wheel, a Libra in charge of music and make sure there isn’t an Aries in sight.

Experts at LeaseElectricCar are offering advice on how to use astrology to navigate a road trip car seating plan to ensure the smoothest journey for all.

There are 12 zodiac signs in astrology which are divided into the 12 months of the year. Each star sign belongs to one of four elements: fire, earth, water, and air. According to astrologers, each element reflects a quality of human nature and contributes to our personality make up.

These personality types can be most apparent when many individuals with different star signs are placed in a small space together for a length of time, like a road trip. 

Driving and star signs are linked through the origins of astrology. The planet Mercury, which rules Virgo and Gemini, is named after the Greek God of communication and swiftness. 

This Greek connection has been linked by astrologers to a heightened ability to navigate by those with a Virgo or Gemini placement.

Experts at LeaseElectricCar said “Everyone enjoys a road trip, whether that is exploring new places, travelling with friends or a family get together but there is nothing worse than an incompatible group all sitting in the same car together for hours. 

“To prevent personality clashes, backseat driving and unhappy passengers, we have figured out the best seating plan for a smooth journey based on the zodiac signs.”

This is LeaseElectricCar’s seating plan for the smoothest road trip based on Zodiac signs alone. 

Driver’s seat: Virgo

Ruled by mercury and attributed to being one of the most grounded signs with a practical and systematic approach to life, it can only be right that Virgo’s are given the front spot. This earth sign will thrive in the responsibility of getting the group to the destination by following the safest and most logical route.

Virgo’s are perfectionists and are led strongly by their compulsive need to follow all rules. Their low tolerance for rule breaking makes them the perfect candidate for back seat driver which could ultimately end in conflict when pointing out the mistakes of other signs.

Avoid having an Aries in the driving seat.The ruling planet of Aries is Mars, the god of war, which is very telling when it comes to many of the signs’ attributes. Although gifted with undeniable confidence and the ability to attack a long road trip with the utmost energy, Aries can be hot-headed and impulsive which may end in never-ending road rage.

Passenger’s seat: Libra

There is one important job for the zodiac in the passenger seat…music! When it comes to deciding who gets DJ duty on the road trip, pick a Libra.

Libras are arguably one of the most generous signs and they avoid conflict at all costs, meaning they will often go out of their way to appease the needs of the group surrounding them. Knowing Libra’s, they will have pre-planned the road trip playlist ahead of time and made sure to include favourites from everyone in the car just to please them all! They will feel a great sense of pride in keeping everyone happy. 

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Middle row: Cancer, Taurus and Pisces.

Best friend placements water sign Cancer and earth sign Taurus are being assigned middle row spots in this car plan. Astrologers often encourage friendships between these two signs due to their perfect balance of similarities and differences. Both Cancer and Taurus like to take part in projects rather than lead them, making them the perfect non-conflict driven passengers for sitting behind the driver.

Whilst most compatible with each other, both signs have a friendly nature that allows them to get on with a wide range of signs which will allow them to talk to everyone and make everyone feel included in the car chats. 

Sat next to Taurus and behind the driver should be a Pisces. Compatible with both Cancer and Taurus, this is the perfect sign to complete the middle row. Regarded for being among the most sympathetic of the zodiac’s, Pisces are sure to be understanding and conscious of the driver’s needs whilst also having the perfect time to bond on the car journey with their compatible counterparts Cancer and Taurus. 

Back row: Leo and Sagittarius

On the back row, a fiery, exciting yet compatible duo is required. This is where Leo and Sagittarius come in! Leo and Sagittarius are fire signs and when placed together their energy radiates off the other. Their fiery nature means they might not be most compatible for the middle seat however they will truly thrive away from the driver’s seat and in the back where they can be free of the responsibilities that come with sitting at the front.

Leo’s entertaining nature is sure to impress, with plenty of jokes, anecdotes and stories coming from the back seat to keep the whole car entertained! 

Sagittarians are the most sociable out of the pairing and should therefore be sat behind Cancer. The Sun sign will bring out the often reserved water sign Cancer and will encourage conversation within the middle row to ensure a bonding road trip experience. 

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Tips to steer clear of animal-borne diseases this summer

After you’re done with the fun, wash your hands thoroughly with soap and water, even if you didn’t touch an animal directly. Keep an eye on children to make sure they wash their hands thoroughly.



It’s state fair season across the country. In addition to the food and games local fairs have to offer, livestock shows and petting zoos are always popular attractions. According to veterinarians, it’s important for people to know that some animal-borne diseases can be transmitted from farm animals to people and pets. Those attending state fairs and petting zoos should be aware of the health risks, and preventive measures you can take to be safe when petting and feeding animals at these and other fun venues.

Dr. Douglas Kratt, President of the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) says, “It’s always good to take precautions when you’re in close proximity with animals because they and their environments can transfer germs that can make you or someone in your family ill.”

Examples of zoonotic diseases—those that spread from animals to people–include Salmonella, E. coli, campylobacter, Lyme disease, West Nile Virus, and rabies. Just like with colds and flu, if germs get on your hands and you inadvertently put your hands in your mouth or nose, you could get sick. The most common symptoms one could experience are vomiting, fever, diarrhea, and cramps. And, while most people recover without a visit to the doctor, some may need a doctor’s visit or hospitalization.

Dr. Kratt offers these tips to help you, your family and your four-legged friends stay safe when you’ve been around zoo or farm animals:

  1. Don’t eat or drink near areas that house animals.
  2. Park strollers outside animal barns and pens, so as not to transfer germs to the wheels and take them home with you.
  3. Use hand sanitizer when you can, which should be readily available these days, especially if there’s no soap and hot water accessible.
  4. After you’re done with the fun, wash your hands thoroughly with soap and water, even if you didn’t touch an animal directly. Keep an eye on children to make sure they wash their hands thoroughly.
  5. While there is little evidence that animals can spread COVID-19 to people, in some situations it can spread from people to animals. People suspected or confirmed positive should avoid contact with pets, livestock, and wildlife.

For more valuable information about pets and pet care visit

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