Dinagat Islands: The Enigma of Bababu Lake
|The mysterious marine lake of Bababu and the longest underwater cave in the Philippines!|
The mystique of Dinagat Islands certainly extend far beyond the capital of San Jose, where the Philippine Benevolent Missionaries Association (PBMA) of Ruben Ecleo, Sr. is based. In the next town, we reached a large natural pool that PBMA members believe possesses curative powers. For decades, PBMA members have trekked the jungle of Basilisa to swim and collect its healing waters.
Scientifically speaking, Bababu Lake – the largest of four marine lakes in Basilisa town – is also a unique body of water. Although composed mostly of seawater, it has a 20-foot top layer of rainwater. These two layers of water do not mix because the lake is protected from the wind by towering chalk-white limestone walls draped in riotous foliage. The name of the lake area was derived from the Cebuano words baba sa buwaya or crocodile’s mouth, referring to the shape of Babas Cove, the inlet that funnels to a small white-sand beach where the lake trail begins.
At the trailhead, before starting our hike, we paid our respects at the tomb of Peter Langit, the late caretaker of the lake, appointed by no other than the “Divine Master” himself, Ruben Ecleo, Sr. The hike to the lake from Babas Cove took us only 30 minutes. Upon reaching the lakeshore, a fallen bitaog (ball nut) tree dressed in yellow algae completed the eerie atmosphere. Amusingly, I later learned that, according to local folklore, the boat of a selfish fisherman was once dragged down to the lake’s abyss by a giant barracuda sent by angered nature spirits. Had I known this story beforehand, I wouldn’t have felt all too confident taking a quick dip in its deep, emerald waters from a lonesome bamboo raft.
|View of Babu Lake from the hiking trail|
The enigma of Bababu Lake runs deep. In January 2013, an international team of technical divers, after months of exploration, traversed an underwater cave tunnel that connects the lake to the sea. Measuring 650 meters in length, this underwater cave is now the longest one recorded in the Philippines to date. “There’s a mystery and haunt about the place,” says Jake Miranda of Surigao Dive Club. Together with co-diver Lyndon Cubillan, he recalled the otherworldly human-shaped stalagmites and geometric rock features they saw inside; and how, during one of their recent expeditions, two of their teammates strangely found themselves back in the lake while making their way through the tunnel towards the sea.
Respecting the mysterious lake, the pioneering team wants to help protect the area and develop it responsibly into an eco-tourism destination not only for cave diving but also for bird watching, kayaking and other sustainable outdoor activities.
|Pretty white-sand beach of Babas Cove, where the trail to Bababu Lake begins|
HOW TO GET THERE: From Surigao City, board a ferryboat to San Jose (PHP 100, 1.5 hours). First trip leaves 6:30 AM daily. Habal-habal motorbikes (PHP 10-12/ride) are the only means of transport around town. Island-hopping tours can be arranged through the tourism office. A full-day tour of Lake Bababu and the islands of Basilisa on an outrigger boat, good for up to 30 persons, costs PHP 3,500 (price negotiable).
WHERE TO STAY: San Jose is a comfortable base to explore Dinagat Islands. The Bahay Turista Mini Chalet at the tourism office has accommodation that starts at PHP 500 for double A/C rooms with private toilet and shower. One can walk to the guesthouse (15 minutes) or take a habal-habal motorbike (PHP 10).
WHERE TO EAT: There are only a few places to eat in San Jose. Solomon eatery is a good and affordable choice, for less than PHP 100 per meal, located in the center of town, near the main pier area.
For visitor assistance, contact provincial tourism officer Danilo Bulabos at +63 9057116828 or firstname.lastname@example.org.