Saturday, May 13, 2017

Mt. Mabilog (441+ MASL) and Lake Pandin (Laguna)

Along the trail towards the summit of Mt. Mabilog, Mts Banahaw and Cristobal in the background

A fun, easy and newbie-friendly dayhike with a refreshing side trip is what Mt. Mabilog has to offer. Conveniently located in the city of San Pablo, Laguna, Mt. Mabilog is a mere 2 to 3-hour ride away from the metro. With Lake Pandin as the jump-off, hikers are rewarded with a beautiful scenery and a great side trip after the hike. Easily accessible from Manila via buses that ply the route to Lucena, passing through the city of San Pablo in Laguna, hikers can also add several other side trips to their itinerary like a tour of the Nagcarlan Underground Cemetery and a visit to Bunga Falls.

The following are the specs of Mt. Mabilog according to Pinoy Mountaineer: Minor climb, Difficulty 2/9, Trail class 1-3; Days required / Hours to summit: 1 day / 2-3 hours; Features: Views of Southern Tagalog mountains and lakes; LLA: 14°7’57″N, 121°21’30″E, 441+ MASL

Mt. Mabilog from afar, obscured by vegetation

Aboard a floating raft on the waters of Lake Pandin

There are several trails and jump-offs for hikers wishing to climb Mt. Mabilog. I decided to pass through the southern trail located in Brgy. Sto. Angel. I chose this particular trail because it offers picturesque views of two of the seven lakes of San Pablo, Lake Pandin which is at the jump-off and Lake Yambo which is visible from the trail. It would also be convenient as I planned to take a dip in Lake Pandin after the hike as a side trip.

From the drop-off point, a 15 to 20-minute trek is needed to reach Lake Pandin. At the roadside, children are waiting for visitors, offering guide services to Lake Pandin. Unless you really wanted to help these kids by providing them a few bucks, there is really no need to get a guide to Lake Pandin. After the short walk from the drop-off point, visitors will be welcomed by the verdant shores and emerald waters of Lake Pandin. Visitors wanting to hike to Mt. Mabilog can get guides and register at the store by the lakeshore. Although not required, I would recommend first-time hikers to Mt. Mabilog to get a trail guide as the trails can be confusing at certain points with several forks along the way.

Drop-off point. "Ticzon Subdivision Phase I" is indicated in the green street marker

One of the forks towards the lake, take the left path

A ranch a few meters away from the lake, with great views of Mt. Cristobal

Arriving a few minutes past 7:00 AM, I registered and got a guide. After resting a bit and preparing, we started the hike at around 7:30 AM. The trail is quite easy and beginner-friendly, mostly on flat ground with a very gradual ascent. A few portions of the trail are exposed but most of it passes through a mixed second-growth forest and banana plantations with several stands of coconut trees. A few minutes into the hike and hikers will be rewarded with great views of the towering Mt. Banahaw and Mt. Cristobal and the greenish-blue waters of Lake Yambo. Several exposed portions of the trail can be quite dusty with loose soil during the summer and muddy during the rainy season.

Registration Area

Along the trail a few minutes into the hike

The trail passes through a mix of second-growth forest, banana and coconut plantations

View of Mt. Cristobal behind Lake Yambo along the trail

At the last leg of the hike, the trail gets steeper but still quite moderate. There are bamboo poles installed at the last leg of the climb to assist hikers. After a few minutes of constant ascent on the moderately steep slope of the final assault, I reached the summit of Mt. Mabilog around 8:20 AM, just a little under an hour after starting the hike.

Start of the steeper portion of the trail

Final assault towards the summit with bamboo hand rails

The summit offers great views of the mountains of Southern Tagalog, most notably Mts. Banahaw and Cristobal, with the white cross of Tayak Hill visible on its slope. Several of the seven lakes of San Pablo can also be seen from the summit - Lakes Yambo, Pandin, and the more distant Palakpakin and Sampalok Lakes near the city proper. On the other side of the summit are views of Imoc Hill/Mt. Obabis, Mt. Prinza, Mt. Kalisungan and the more distant Mt. Makiling. The summit itself is a grassy, wide plateau interspersed with several shade trees and with enough space for several tents, perfect for overnight camping. After resting and snapping photos, I decided to start the descent around 9:10 AM as other hikers started coming in and the summit becoming more and more crowded.

At the summit of Mt. Mabilog, Mts. Banahaw and Cristobal obscured by clouds behind Lakes Yambo and Pandin 

Mt Obabis/Imoc Hill, Mt. Prinza and the distant Mt. Makiling as seen from the summit

Lake Palakpakin, farther away is Lake Sampalok and behind, the distant Malipunyo Range

The distant Mt. Makiling on the left and a portion of Mt. Kalisungan on the right

The descent took around 30 minutes to complete. I reached the lakeshore at around 9:40 AM, Wanting to sample the local fare, I ordered food at the store. For Php. 200.00 the meal consisted of two cups of rice, one grilled tilapia, one serving of ginataang hipon, a plateful of ensaladang pako, one bottled water and two pieces of banana, not bad at all! After finishing off the sumptuous meal, I went ahead and took a dip in the refreshing waters of the lake, swimming along with several local children and their parents and basking in the sun.

Sumptuous meal

Basking in the sun

Refreshing dip in the waters of Lake Pandin

Mt. Mabilog is another wonderful destination in Laguna perfect for a fun dayhike with great views of the mountains and a refreshing sidetrip to the lake. Although not as lofty as its neighbors, Mt. Mabilog has its own charms worthy to be explored and discovered.

Useful Information:

Trail Map: (For illustrative purposes only; may not correspond to exact coordinates)
Trails from the drop-off to Lake Pandin (light blue line) and up the summit of Mt. Mabilog (blue line)

Actual Itinerary:
4:10 AM - Departure from LRT Buendia to SM San Pablo
6:00 AM - Arrival at SM San Pablo, jeep ride to Bayan
6:10 AM - Arrival at San Pablo city proper, quick breakfast at Jollibee
6:30 AM - Jeep ride to drop-off at Brgy. Sto. Angel
6:45 AM - Arrival at drop-off, start trek to Lake Pandin
7:00 AM - Arrival at Lake Pandin, rest, register, get guide, prepare
7:30 AM - Start trek to Mt. Mabilog
8:20 AM - Summit of Mt. Mabilog, rest, photos
9:10 AM - Start descent
9:40 AM - Back at lakeshore, rest, eat lunch
11:00 AM - Swimming, photos
11:30 AM - Tidy-up, trek back to drop off
12:30 PM - Back at SM San Pablo
3:30 PM - Back at LRT Buendia

Mandatory Fees: (as of May 2017, prices subject to change without notice)
No mandatory fees, guides are optional - Php. 350.00 up to six persons
Optional raft rentals for a 2-hour lake cruise (joiners): Php. 360.00 with food; Php. 200.00 food only (I opted not to rent a raft)

How to get there: (Fares as of May 2017, prices subject to change without notice)
From LRT Buendia, ride any bus bound for Lucena and get off at SM San Pablo (Php. 127.00). Ride a jeep to San Pablo city proper (Php. 8.00). At the city proper, walk to the 7-11 near the church where the jeep terminal is located and ride a jeep with an "Ilog" sign board to the drop-off (Php. 13.00). Tell the driver you're going to Lake Pandin. At the drop off, you can hire a child guide to lead you to Lake Pandin (no fixed amount) or just follow the path and ask residents along the way for directions. The trail head to Mt. Mabilog is at Lake Pandin.


  1. Pwede po kaya ang overnight? Sir, may nakuha po ba kayo contacts ng guide or any locals?

    1. Hi sir! Ang alam ko po ay pwede ang overnight sa summit. Try nyo po tong number ni Ate Siony 09299789565 sya po yung tao dun sa registration, not sure lng po kung updated pa yung number na yan. Thanks for the comment!