This Stunning Lake in Zambales Was Once the Site of Three Towns

It's less than four hours away from Metro Manila.

Mapanuepe Lake
PHOTO BY Janelle Sy

(SPOT.ph) Zambales, a coastal province on the western seaboard of Luzon, is often top of mind when it comes to weekend getaways. Its interesting terrain makes sure that there's something to do for any type of traveler: private coves and nearby islands for beach-lovers, barreling waves for surfers, mountains and hills for hikers, and verdant land for campers. If you're looking for more reasons to visit Zambales, then this hidden gem might just be worth it: Mapanuepe Lake in San Marcelino.

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Mapanuepe
PHOTO BY Janelle Sy
Mapanuepe
PHOTO BY Janelle Sy
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This outdoor attraction at the foot of Mount Pinatubo features makes for perfect photographs, especially with the mountains in the background, Zambales' famous pine trees growing everywhere, carabaos grazing in all directions, and—of coursethe placid lake that can easily calm your nerves. But this peaceful site has a rather tragic past.

History of Mapanuepe Lake

mapanuepe lake, zambales
Mapanuepe Valley in the late '80s, before the eruption of Mount Pinatubo.
PHOTO BY Google Timelapse
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Mapanuepe Lake, much like the similarly gorgeous Pinatubo Lake, was formed following the cataclysmic eruption of Mount Pinatubo. The area was originally the Mapanuepe Valley, which was home to barangays Aglao, Buhawen, and Pili; and the Marella and Mapanuepe Rivers surrounding it. Both Marella and Mapanuepa drain into the Santo Tomas River, which leads to the West Philippine Sea.

mapanuepe lake, zambales
Formation of the Mapanuepe Lake in the '90s.
PHOTO BY Google Timelapse
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After the eruption, the combination of heavy rainfall and volcanic debris produced lahar that flowed into Marella River and eventually blocked the Mapanuepe River. The rising waters ultimately submerged the Mapanuepe Valley and the whole towns in it, including a church tower. Visitors in the area can still see the tower's huge metal cross in the middle of the lake. Interestingly, studies show that the Mapanuepe Valley, even before it was turned into a lake after the 1991 event, was originally a lahar-formed lake from previous volcanic eruptions.

Also read:
Satellite Photos Show Pinatubo Lake's Formation After the 1991 Eruption
10 Resorts in Zambales Where You Can Work Remotely
10 Laid-Back Places to Stay in Zambales

What to Do

You can hop on a banca for a one-hour ride around the submerged Sta. Barbara Chapel (originally of Barangay Buhawen), then to the Mapanuepe Lake View Deck (in Barangay Aglao). Camping is also allowed in the surrounding grasslands in Aglao, just bring your own tent.

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Mapanuepe
PHOTO BY Janelle Sy
Mapanuepe
PHOTO BY Janelle Sy
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Mapanuepe
PHOTO BY Janelle Sy
Mapanuepe
PHOTO BY Janelle Sy
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Mapanuepe
PHOTO BY Janelle Sy
Mapanuepe
PHOTO BY Janelle Sy
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How to Get There

You can get on a bus to San Marcelino, Zambales and the ride takes about four hours. You can go to either Barangay Aglao or Barangay Buhawen by jeep. You can also bring a 4x4 and drive across the lahar-filled roads through the mountains.

lahar
PHOTO BY JANELLE SY
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