San Pablo is known as the “City of Seven Lakes.” Although declared as a city, the presence of vast coconut plantations gives San Pablo a pastoral charm. Blessed with natural wonders, the seven lakes (not including a very small crater lake) can be accessed within the city limits.
Laguna’s First Important City
San Pablo takes its pride as Laguna’s first city. Formerly known as Sampaloc and San Pablo de los Montes, it was founded by Father Hernando Cabrera in 1678. It was annexed to Batangas in 1756 by Governor de Aranda but was returned to Laguna in 1848.
The city is an important commercial and transportation center. It links the provinces of Laguna with Batangas and Quezon. Copra is a major industry. World-class coconut processing companies sprung from its many surrounding coconut plantation including the world’s largest Franklin Baker Desiccated Coconut Factory. Recently, San Pablo has become the leading manufacturers of jeepneys as well as AUVs and minibuses.
At the heart of San Pablo City is the Cathedral. Established since 1586 under Father Mateo Mendoza, the present building was built in 1714 by Father Francisco Eloriaga on a foundation laid down by Father Juan Labao in 1680.
The Legend of Sampaloc Lake
Included in the Viaje del Sol itinerary is a tour of the fabled Sampaloc Lake. The tour can be arranged through environmentalist Mandy Marino.
Sampaloc Lake is the largest of the seven lake of San Pablo. The lake is one kilometer across and twenty seven meters deep. A four kilometer paved walk way encircles the lake. It is dotted with fish pens and cages for the bangus and tilapia cultivation.
A special variety of water hyacinth used for sandal and hat weaving is also found floating on the lake.
Several restaurants are found along the shores while the silhouette of the legendary Mount Cristobal forms a mysterious background on the east.
Sampaloc Lake is the nearest and most accessible from the city. It is also has the most popular legend.
According to the legend, the 105-hectare lake was once an orchard of tamarind trees which bore the sweetest fruit in the land. It was owned by rich yet childless couple. The tamarind orchard was fenced and guarded by a fierce watch dog.
Once day, an old woman begged the couple for some fruit. Proud and unkind, the couple turned the old beggar away. But the old beggar warned the couple not to be selfish. And when the inhospitable couple let the guard dog loose to dismissed the old beggar again, the old woman’s haggard looks melted away to reveal a beautiful enchantress. Fearful for what they have witnessed, the couple tried to apologize but it was too late. As punishment, the enchantress sent a storm that brought heavy rains throughout the night.
The next morning, a vast expanse of the water covered what used to be the couples tamarind orchard. It was said that through its clear waters, the dark mass of tamarind trees still rooted to the sunken ground, could be seen.