It’s the middle of summer, and everywhere you go, you see crowds of people flocking to the usual destinations. Being one who detests crowds of tourists,  I enjoy discovering new places, yet untouched by commercialism (or in some cases, forgotten). On this day, me and my friends set forth to a destination guided only by Google Maps and an iPad.

View Mapanuepe Lake, Zambales in a larger map

Mapanuepe Lake is a freshwater lake located in the province of Zambales in the Philippines. The lake was created after the cataclysmic eruption of Mount Pinatubo in 1991. Lahars following the eruption blocked the drainage of Mapanuepe River, south of the volcano, flooding Mapanuepe Valley together with its settlements. – from Wikipedia

This destination was suggested to me by Eman Lacuata… who after a camping trip with his friends said that this would be a nice destination to write about. He wasn’t kidding. I

I made this trek with 3 of my Kaladkarin Friends, RD Cimafranca, Patrick Mineses, and Jonathan Guevara

Getting There

The lake is easy to spot on Google Maps (oddly does not appear on Bing Maps). Just look for Mt. Pinatubo, and below it is a huge body of water next to an area marked as “Lahar Field”. Google Maps was more reliable than my car’s GPS which cut out right after we we entered the dirt road from Castillejos.

From Subic… take the National Highway (Subic-San Marcelino Road) towards San Marcelino (this road is familiar to anyone who has gone to Pundaquit/Anawangin Cove). When at Castillejos, proceed out of the town and take the road which turns to the right (see map).

Take the first main dirt road on the left. Pretty much follow that  to the town of Aglao. Take note that as of this writing, there are NO signs which will either point you to Aglao or Mapanuepe Lake.

This dirt road stretch should take you between 40-50 minutes travelling at a comfortable 30kph for the most part. There are potholes/puddles of water you obviously will want to avoid. For most of that stretch the road looks like this (see below… notice the water puddles I mentioned):


As I said, there no street signs. Every now and then you will encounter a small town/settlement and you will need to decide at the crossroads which path to take. The GPS on the iPad was a big help on keeping us on the right path. While the photo above shows a wide road… there are sections which are wide enough just for 1 vehicle (and no room to u-turn).

Suggestion. When you encounter a choice between the wide dirt road or a narrow lahar road (see below)… take the lahar road. It is smoother.


Halfway there you will start climbing a mountain. Oddly enough there was a very long stretch along the zigzag road that was paved.  It’s a nice stretch and you will be the only vehicle there for kilometers. Maybe (just maybe) with the rare occurrence of a loaded jeep or motorcycles.

Past the paved roads, you will catch a glimpse of the lahar fields (Pinatubo should be out of view at this point on the extreme right). I checked into Foursquare here creating “In the middle of nowhere, Zambales”… yes oddly enough we had a decent signal from Globe way out here with 3G!


And then… you finally reach “Barangay Aglao, San Marcelino”.

(Note: As much as we wanted to add this site to Foursquare, we had no signal)


The town was actually a very nice an quaint little town. Very clean and an obvious effort to make it that way.



When you get in, there is a check point. Be sure to be nice and stop and fill up a log book. Don’t be anxious when you see everyone staring at you with that “who are you and what are doing here” look on their faces. It is obvious that visitors are rare.


If you do miss the checkpoint, you may be stopped along the main road by a barangay official who will ask you if you logged in. At first we were a tad on edge when they approached us, but remember you are a guest in their town, so be nice and courteous.  All they want is for you to write your names in their log book for records purposes. I went down and filled in our names, where we are from, and our plate number.

They didn’t ask for any fee (which honestly I think they should). The Barangay Tanod (seen above) told us that some groups come and set up camp without even asking permission at the Barangay Hall. So if you plan on visit. It would be nice to seek them out, introduce yourselves, and engage in some banter before proceeding.

The place does receive a few visitors… a lot of foreigners drop by every now and then. They have no established tourism yet, so the townsfolk won’t really know what to do with you yet (until they get wind that they could make money of this… again, I think they should).

The tanod told us where we could proceed and what to do.  And we were off.


A little later down the road we got to the lake.


And then… the view.


The lake was awesome!


That mountain behind me in the distance is Mt. Pinatubo.


Mapanuepe Lake, Zambales

There is ample room for tents for camping if so desired.



We spent the next hour just relaxing. The breeze was so relaxing. I just wanted to enjoy the view.


I then remembered I forgot to bring my camping hammock which would have been perfect on the branch at a nearby tree.


… but that didn’t stop RD from relaxing on a comfortable looking rock.


There were boats in the area. We talked to two guys with a motorized boat (not sure if they were fishermen by occupation, but they had a boat). They weren’t sure what the protocol was but they offered to take us around the lake for P500… which was quite reasonable.



As the day drew on… something ominous. While in the middle summer, we’ve been having some funky weather lately. So while I was walking around the rim of the lake… I heard thunder coming from Mt. Pinatubo. No, Pinatubo did not come back to life and was threatening to erupt, but it became apparent that it was raining over Pinatubo. 15 minutes later, the skys above us were starting to darken. Even the townsfolk started mobilizing and getting ready for rain.

Mapanuepe Lake, Zambales

That sad, I am borrowing a few photos from Eman Lacuata’s awesome trip a few weeks earlier with his group.

They were able to borrow some row boats at no charge to go around the lake.

Photo by Elmer R. Pedrezuela courtesy of Eman Lacuata

They were able to swim in the lake

Photo courtesy of Eman Lacuata

… and when nightfall came… camp on the grounds.

Photo by Elmer R. Pedrezuela courtesy of Eman Lacuata

Due to the weather during our trip, we were not as fortunate. Perhaps on another trip.

On the way back, we took an alternate route over a lahar dike


… to appreciate the lahar fields.


The trip back to Castillejos was quicker at just around 40 minitues from Brgy. Aglao.


It was definitely an awesome destination. Too bad the weather got in the way. Incidentally, it was good we left when we did. After arriving at Castillejos en route to Subic, it started to rain.