Weather can be a bummer at times. Just when I brought my full snorkeling gears (which I rarely do these days) as I was ready and excited to commune with sea turtles at Apo Island but found out later we can’t cross the seas because of the weather. “So where are we going now?”, Adi and Jacq, our gracious host from GoHotels handed me a brochure for Lake Balanan while having dinner. Okay, this bone-shaped lake looks interesting with a few waterfalls, I thought but I still remained skeptical. So next day, we took a drive south of the island for the town of Siaton in Negros . While I still feel glum as the weather, I kept an open mind on what we’ll see.
Lake Balanan Siaton
The drive took almost an hour before we made a sharp right turn from the main road of Siaton after a bridge. A “10k Lake Balanan” marker was there and the road started to get rough as we ascend. The mist draped scene of the nearby mountain ranges was like driving up the Cordillera mountains which I didn’t expect. Our guide in the van said Baranggay Sandulot, where Lake Balanan is located is about 400 meters above sea level.
Lake Balanan was originally a river but the major 6.8 Richter Scale earthquake last May 5 1925 caused massive landslides from the mountain-ranges blocking the flow of the river. Eventually, the water levels rose and became a lake.
A Rich Wetland
As of 2007, the lake is considered a protected watershed and is managed by the Lake Balanan Development Authority in hand with Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR). It was a pretty organised place as there are gates, registration and facility use fees. This is good in order to protect the flora and fauna which I found to be really rich having wandered around their pool area. So many plants, insects and crawlers that I’m sure nature photographers would definitely enjoy. It sure did liven up my mood as there were so much to see every step of the way. And I should mention the hundreds age-old balete trees in the area looks gorgeous.
People of the Lake
At first we though we couldn’t make it to the lake as the road was impassable. Good thing one of the locals we saw fishing showed use a way through a very short hike to reach the actual lake. And as we emerged through the forest trail, everyone seemed relieved seeing the lake looking so atmospheric from the thin veil of rain and fog.
There were a number of fishermen in the area as well, even kids. I was just amused on how they were doing and the small tilapia fish they caught which I learned later where for their own consumption. Our guide told us that the people here used to live by the lake but eventually relocated nearby with the help of Gawad Kalinga. It is also these same people who are responsible for keeping the environment of Lake Balanan clean.
We just had a memorable lunch of their native tinola (uniquely mixed with coconut milk) prepared by the locals in the eatery there. We were not able to take a boat to the lake nor visit the waterfalls on the other side of the lake since the rain started pouring again. We made our way back to our van soon. Such a short time to stay for a long drive from Dumaguete. I liked the lake since it seems so peaceful there. I guess it’s another case of “I have to go back” again there.
Lake Balanan is located in Baranggay Sandulot in Siaton, about 1 hour and 30 minutes away from Dumaguete.
To go there via public transport, ride a Siaton bound bus from the Ceres bus terminal in Dumaguete and once in Siaton, asked to be dropped at the habal-habal station. From there hire a habal-habal (about Php 100+) for roundtrip per person.
There are lodging facilities at Balanan Nature Resort for groups. A treehouse (Php3000), lodges (Php 1500-2000). The park has an entrance fee of Php 50 for adults and Php 30 for children and students.
Ferdz Decena is an award-winning travel photographer, writer and blogger. His works has found print in publications such as Singapore Airlines’s Silver Kris, Philippine Airlines’ Mabuhay, Cebu Pacific’s Smile and Seair InFlight. He has also lent his expertise to various organizations like the Oceana Philippines, Lopez Group Foundation, Save the Children and World Vision, contributing quality images for their marketing materials.