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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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Embrace the city’s pulse with Citadines Living

Citadines emerges as a haven for those seeking a genuine city living experience, blending comfort and convenience seamlessly. The brand invites you to embark on an urban adventure, so you don’t just visit the city, you get to live it and explore infinite possibilities.



As travel and hospitality continue to evolve, Citadines emerges as a haven for those seeking a genuine city living experience, blending comfort and convenience seamlessly. The brand invites you to embark on an urban adventure, so you don’t just visit the city, you get to live it and explore infinite possibilities. 

Citadines: Fostering the Love For Cities

More than just a place to stay, Citadines embodies a lifestyle crafted for guests in search of a home away from home. With a global presence, Citadines stands out by creating a space where comfort, convenience, and style come together for the love of cities. 

Citadines adds its unique charm to prominent destinations through various properties in the Philippines, including Citadines Bay City Manila, Citadines Salcedo Makati, Citadines Millennium Ortigas Manila, Citadines Cebu City, Citadines Amigo Iloilo, Citadines Roces Quezon City, and upcoming locations like Citadines Bacolod City (opening on March 2024) and Citadines Paragon Davao (opening on December 2024).

Each location acts as a gateway for exploration, providing convenient entry to corporate offices, entertainment districts, dining venues, and vibrant shopping centers. Whether it’s the dynamic streets of Makati City or the business hub of Quezon City, Citadines creates the perfect backdrop for a fully engaging urban adventure.

Citadines Benavidez Makati: A Modern Oasis

Citadines Benavidez Makati blends modernity and comfort with its 207 meticulously designed units, ranging from the cozy Studio Deluxe to the expansive Two-Bedroom Premier. Guests are welcomed into contemporary interiors featuring fully equipped kitchens, plush bedding, high-speed Wi-Fi, and state-of-the-art flat-screen TVs. The property’s unique charm extends beyond its physical spaces as a dedicated team of “Citazens,” local experts ready to unveil the city’s hidden gems, are available to help guests through their stay. 

Culinary delights await at Catalogue, the property’s all-day dining restaurant, offering a tantalizing fusion of local and international cuisines. With a thoughtfully curated menu spanning various regions and cultures, Catalogue elevates the dining experience, contributing to the overall sense of comfort and sophistication at Citadines Benavidez Makati. The rooftop swimming pool and fitness corner with panoramic city views further enhance the urban oasis, catering to both business and leisure travelers.

Citadines Roces Quezon City: A Haven in the Former Capital

In the pulsating corners of Metro Manila’s largest city and former capital, Citadines Roces Quezon City takes center stage with 185 thoughtfully appointed apartments – from spacious studios to comfortable two-bedroom units. Each space is curated with modern amenities, ensuring a comfortable and enjoyable stay for every urban explorer.

The interiors of each apartment incorporate clean lines, contemporary furnishings, and a harmonious color palette to create an ambiance that is both inviting and stylish. The design inspiration draws from the pulsating rhythm of urban life, with nods to the rich cultural heritage of Quezon City. Subtle touches echo the vibrant art scene and historical landmarks, creating a seamless blend of modernity and tradition within the living spaces.

Citadines Roces Quezon City takes pride in its array of facilities designed to elevate the overall experience. The fitness center, equipped with state-of-the-art equipment, invites guests to maintain their health and well-being even amidst a busy city schedule. The swimming pool, residents’ lounge, and rooftop bar with panoramic city skyline views become extensions of the living space, providing opportunities for relaxation and socialization. Whether it’s a refreshing dip in the pool, casual conversations in the residents’ lounge, or sipping a drink while enjoying the cityscape from the rooftop bar, each amenity adds a layer of richness to the urban living experience.

Loven Ramos, Director of Brand and Marketing of The Ascott Limited Philippines, expressed the brand’s vision: “Our goal is to curate spaces that inspire a genuine connection with the heartbeat of cities, creating an environment where guests not only reside but truly thrive in the love for the dynamic energy, cultural richness, and endless possibilities each city holds. With Citadines, we aim to cultivate a deep appreciation that transforms stays into love stories with the cities we call home.”

Both Citadines Benavidez Makati and Citadines Roces Quezon City embody the brand’s commitment to fostering love for cities, inviting guests on business or leisure trips to not just visit the city but live in it – whether it’s for a night, a week, a month, or a lifetime.

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Dining Out

Lanson Place Mall of Asia, Manila announces offerings



As the Chinese New Year approaches, Lanson Place Mall of Asia, Manila invites you to welcome the Year of the Wood Dragon with a delightful fusion of romance and tradition just in time for Valentine’s. This 10 and 11 February 2024, experience the vibrant festivities that will set the stage for a prosperous year ahead.

The heart of Lanson Place will come alive with the rhythmic beats of the traditional lion and dragon dance, ushering in good energy and fortune. Guests are welcome to join the traditional performance starting at 10:59 AM on 10 February, creating an auspicious atmosphere for a year full of joy and abundance. Following the ceremony, guests are welcome to join us at the 3F lobby and Cyan Modern Kitchen for the ceremonial Yee Sang or Prosperity Toss, a symbolic ritual headed by Executive Chef Kristine Oro, beckoning luck and good fortune leading the guests to a Prosperity Feast at Cyan Modern Kitchen.

CYAN Modern Kitchen: Tradition Meets Romance

Take the chance to win lucky prizes from the Tree of Luck and Love when you indulge in a delectable lunch or dinner for every single transaction of P8,888 at the CYAN Modern Kitchen, setting in motion a year of good luck.

Treat yourself to a delightful meal at Cyan Modern Kitchen to please your senses and revel in the captivating ambience while savouring a sumptuous Chinese New Year lunch buffet or an equally enticing dinner buffet for PHP 2,888 net per person.

As the sun sets on the Lunar New Year celebrations, Lanson Place transforms into a haven for lovers. A romantic evening waits for a Valentine’s Day experience with a specially curated 4-course dinner, followed by a tempting dessert buffet for PhP 3,800 net per person. 

Let the contemporary charm of Cyan Modern Kitchen captivate you, where floor-to-ceiling windows frame the scenic vistas of the Manila Bay, the city skyline, and the courtyard, crafting dining spaces that define Lanson Place Mall of Asia. Celebrate in the warmth of February by sharing moments of laughter, love, delectable fare, and abundance with your loved ones this 10 to 14 February 2024.

Extending the celebration through a relaxing stay? Lunar Escape Room Package, rates start at PHP9,888+++ per room per night for two persons inclusive of welcome amenities, buffet breakfast, lunch or dinner buffet at Cyan Modern Kitchen.

Embrace love with our Valentine’s Room Package, rates start at PHP 10,900+++ per room per night inclusive of welcome amenities, buffet breakfast, and 4-course Set Dinner for two persons at Cyan Modern Kitchen.

Grab these promos for the booking period of January 28 to February 8, 2024 through the official website now, and indulge in the perfect blend of tradition and romance at Lanson Place Mall of Asia, Manila. 

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Philippines as the country with the world’s largest bats

“The Philippines has 79 recorded bat species, half of them endemic,” explains Dr. Mariano Roy Duya of the University of the Philippines Institute of Biology (UPIB). North America, with a land area that is 66 times larger – has but 45. We have an incredible diversity of bats since each of our 7100 islands is geographically unique. And of course, we have the largest bat of all.”



By Gregg Yan

Did you know that the largest bat of all is found only in the Philippines? Planet Earth has 1400 known bat species and the Golden-crowned Flying Fox (Acerodon jubatus) earns the top spot for size and weight. Known locally as kabog, it is endemic or found nowhere else but in the Philippines.

Strikingly patterned with a golden cap, reddish fur and chocolate-brown wings, adults weigh over a kilogram and can boast of a wingspan nearly two meters across – longer than most people are tall.

“The Philippines has 79 recorded bat species, half of them endemic,” explains Dr. Mariano Roy Duya of the University of the Philippines Institute of Biology (UPIB). North America, with a land area that is 66 times larger – has but 45. We have an incredible diversity of bats since each of our 7100 islands is geographically unique. And of course, we have the largest bat of all.”

Once widespread throughout undisturbed lowland forests across the country, hunting and deforestation – particularly from slash-and-burn upland farming or kaingin – have whittled down bat populations.

Dumaguete-based filmmaker Rhiyad Maturan and I were recently invited by the Energy Development Corporation (EDC) to film a thriving kabog colony inside the Bacon-Manito Geothermal Project, a heavily forested geothermal reservation nestled between the provinces of Albay and Sorsogon on the island of Luzon. Though the area is now verdant and alive, it wasn’t always so.

“Believe it or not, that entire mountain range was once logged-over,” says Ed Jimenez, corporate relations head for EDC’s Bacon-Manito Geothermal Project, pointing at well-forested hills nearby. “The only trees left were the ones loggers ignored. To bring the mountains back to life, we worked with the local communities to help reforest this area while providing them with an alternative source of income. Decades later, the organizations we helped form, like the Alliance of Bacman Farmer’s Association Inc. Agriculture Cooperative (formerly ALBAFAI) and the Bacman Host Community Multi-purpose Cooperative (BMPC), have become some of our most passionate champions. Even the grandchildren of the original members are helping us plant trees, promote community-based conservation and protect these forests.”

Aside from bats, Bicol’s forests also shelter wild deer, pigs, monkeys and birds – most of which were driven to remote areas by decades of hunting and forest loss.

“I learned to shoot kabog with an airgun when I was still a kid,” recalls Joseph ‘Doy’ Gabion, a former bat hunter. “Bats are easy to hunt by day because they hang upside down from their roosts. When the roosts were eventually protected by EDC and its conservation partners, we hunters had to wait until the bats flew out to their feeding grounds. Back in the 1990s, my uncle and I would wait for them to pass to be able to catch two or three bats a night. Kabog meat has a slightly woody taste.” Doy has since stopped hunting and now volunteers with the Armed Forces of the Philippines’ CAFGU Active Auxiliary Unit II to help protect the very animals he once hunted.

The kabog colony moves from one area to another within the Bacman reservation and we chanced upon them roosting on a grove of pine-like Agoho (Casuarina spp.) trees. “We have about 700 kabog individuals here now, our flagship fauna species for this site,” explains Forester Neil Miras, EDC Bacman’s watershed management officer.

Representing iconic wildlife found in its geothermal, solar and wind sites, EDC’s Flagship Species Initiative (FSI) aims to popularize some of the nation’s lesser-known forest denizens. The eight other flagship species include the Philippine Warty Pig (Sus philippensis)Visayan Hornbill (Penelopides panini)Apo Myna (Goodfellowia miranda), plus native trees like Mapilig (Xanthostemon bracteatus), Katmon Bayani (Dillenia megalantha), Red Lauan (Shorea negrosensis),Almaciga (Agathis philippinensis)andIgem-dagat (Podocarpus costalis). EDC has been planting native trees across the country since the 1980s.

“Though millions of trees have been planted under the BINHI Program, we should still recognize the importance and effectiveness of natural seed dispersion – either by the wind, water or by local wildlife,” explainsForester Abegail Gatdula, EDC-FSI project manager. “Flying animals like birds and bats eat the fruits of various forest trees and disperse them far and wide within life-giving guano bombs, giving the seeds a vital headstart.”  

Though not as popular as the Tamaraw or Philippine Eagle, the kabog has been quietly doing its part to make the Philippines greener. “Think of them as the ‘silent seed planters’ of nature. We never pay them but they keep working for our world,” concludes Jean Dayap, Municipal Environment and Natural Resources Officer (MENRO) of Manito in Albay.  

So tonight, please look up at the night sky to thank our uncelebrated wildlife heroes, quietly working the night shift to make the Philippines a little greener – one guano bomb at a time.

Watch our Golden-crowned Flying Fox documentary HERE.

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