It was day 4 of our Eastern Mindanao trip and we were headed to Surigao del Norte for our much awaited Bucas Grande tour. We started our day early, waking up at around 3 AM to catch the 4 AM bus bound for Butuan City.
Aboard a non-airconditioned Bachelor Express bus, we left Bislig City at around 4:15 AM. I paid 244 pesos for my fare. I had no more idea what went through in the next two hours as I fell asleep and woke up to find that we were already in San Francisco, Agusan del Sur. Though we didn’t have anything to visit in Agusan del Sur, I felt happy to have set foot on the province even for just a short while. San Francisco is quite a progressive town which made me feel I am missing the ‘city’ life. Well, my home city Tarlac is not really a bustling city, but it is way livelier than the towns and city we’ve visited in the past 3 days.
|Stop over in San Francisco, Agusan del Sur|
We stopped at the integrated transport terminal first, then at San Franz bus stop a few minutes later. My friend and I had our breakfast there and traveled again for another 3 hours until we reached Butuan City. Upon arriving at Butuan City Bus Terminal, we transferred to a bus bound for Surigao City.
We wanted to check out Lake Mainit first before heading to Surigao City so the night before our trip to Surigao, I researched on the possible drop off points where we could get a great view of Lake Mainit. I chanced upon Pinoy Traveler’s entry on Lake Mainit and learned that Almont Lake Resort in Kitcharao, Agusan del Norte is a good spot to enjoy the view of the lake. Hmm, so Kitcharao it is. We paid 122 for our trip to Kitcharao aboard an airconditioned Bachelor Tours bus. I just slept my time off in the bus and woke up an hour later, not wanting to miss the town of Kitcharao.
|View of the lake from the provincial road|
Another hour had passed and we were now in the town of Jabonga where we already got a nice view of the lake. We were getting close, I thought to myself. The next town is actually Kitcharao. Upon reaching Kitcharao, my friend and I didn’t want to ask the conductor where Almont Lake Resort was. We thought it would be easily recognizable from the main road. We were so wrong. We had arrived in Kitcharao proper and just a few more minutes we’ll be in a different town so I supposed we had already passed by the resort. We got off the bus and asked tricycle drivers for directions going to the resort. Most of the people we asked didn’t know where the resort is located. One particular driver knew the place but didn’t want to take us there because it was quite a long trip back. Instead, he drove us near the town proper for 14 pesos and talked to a habal-habal driver to take us to the resort.
|Trees blocking the view|
|Peeking through trees|
To our surprise, the habal-habal driver told us that the resort had already closed down in 2011. But before we got all frustrated, he offered to take us to the eco-park being constructed up the hill called Little Baguio in Brgy. San Roque. Our excitement was fueled again and for only 50 pesos (for the entire habal-habal), we drove up towards Lantawan Eco-Park. By the way, Lantawan Eco-Park is a current project of the municipality of Kitcharao and the provincial government of Agusan del Norte that is aimed at promoting a greener environment. It is set to open in September 2012.
|If you can't avoid the trees, use them as borders|
|Cottage at Lantawan Eco-park|
In about 10 minutes we were already at the eco-park. I’ve observed that the place still needs a lot of work. Anyway, on with our viewing of Lake Mainit. We got a bit disappointed because there isn’t any good view of the lake in the eco-park because of all the tall trees surrounding the area. I got content with peeking through the tree trunks just to get a satisfying view of the lake. I hope there will be plans of even just trimming the trees so that the eco-park can offer a spectacular view of the lake. My friend was really determined to take photos of the lake in its widest view so he asked the driver if there is any other place we could go to.
He told us that he’d take us to Almont Lake Resort for additional 50 pesos and he’d try to talk to the caretaker to let us in for a short photo session. There was no assurance that we’d be allowed to enter though. We traveled for 10 minutes and reached the resort. The reason why we missed it earlier is that there were no longer signages outside the resort. When we arrived, the caretaker was not in the resort. Our driver tried to find him but he wasn’t successful. He told us to just get in and just make sure we don’t spend too much time inside the compound.
|Brownish water in this area|
We wasted no time and got inside. On our way to the back of the resort, I saw that the building is in a very bad state. We started taking pictures under the hot noontime sun. I couldn’t tell whether the view was spectacular or not. Perhaps because of its size, the water is not calm. There were waves approaching the shore. What I would say is interesting about the lake are the variety of natural elements present. There were limestones, lilies, an islet, and some other interesting plants.
Lake Mainit is the fourth largest lake in the Philippines and the second largest in Mindanao. It also holds the record as the deepest lake in the country at a maximum depth of 223 meters. It has a shoreline of 62 kilometers and has a surface area of 173.4 square kilometers.
|View in between|
The provinces of Agusan del Norte and Surigao del Norte hold jurisdiction of the lake. Four towns in each province share the lake: Jabonga, Kitcharao, Santiago, and Tubay in Agusan del Norte and Alegria, Mainit, SIsion, and Tubod in Surigao del Norte. Locals living near the lake earn a living either by growing several species of fish or by agricultural production around the lake’s perimeter. There are also some migratory fishes and birds in the vicinity of the lake.
|Houses and boats|
Various efforts through the Lake Mainit Development Alliance are now being undertaken to preserve the lake and conserve the resources available in the lake.
In case you are traveling from Butuan to Surigao or in the other direction, Lake Mainit deserves a quick visit. There may not be lots of things to do there, but simply gazing upon the natural wonder will make you stop and say, “God’s goodness is like the lake—wide, deep, and flourishing.”
|Not so calm|
After about 20 minutes of taking photos, we bid Lake Mainit goodbye and hopped on a van going to Surigao City. We didn’t expect that we’d get cramped inside the vehicle. Just imagine filling the van with almost 20 people! Oh well, that’s part of the adventure, I think. We paid 60 pesos for the 1-hour trip going to Surigao City Integrated Transport Terminal.
|Touch of pink|
|The author and the bus. Photo by Xian|
Source: Lake Mainit Development Alliance