Roughly nine years ago, a small barangay situated near Lake Pandin in San Pablo, Laguna, began drawing in lots of visitors. Though the city of San Pablo has long been famous for its seven lakes--Sampaloc, Palakpakin, Bunot, Muhikap, Calibato, Yambo, and Pandin—the recent unprecedented tourist near Pandin in particular makes one wonder what treasures it holds.

Lucky for us, we were asked to document an advocacy and information campaign for our thesis. And it didn’t take us a lot of research to learn what travellers find fascinating in the place. There are two things: the pristine lake itself, and the bangkeras—the women rafters maneuvering the bamboo rafts.

Our group visited Pandin several times to complete the video documentation, and each visit just affirmed how warm and motherly these rafters are. They were very eager and accommodating, very generous in telling the story of their trade, as well as the daily challenges they meet. Also, they kept on offering us snacks and meals in between breaks and shoots, even though they had little to spare for themselves. Now who could ever say no to the sumptuous foodstuff they offer? So fresh and savoury! 

Food aside, it’s without question that this motherly nature, the charm of our bangkeras, is the main reason why their tourism thrives. Tourists are not the only ones well taken care of here, though; the waters and its surroundings are too.

Pandin has become an extension of their family, and you can say these boatwomen have developed a mutual relationship with this lake. Aside from playing an active role as a provider for their families alongside their husbands, they have also taken up the role of stewards for the lake that has given them so much, so many times.

Get to know the empowering story of a community-based, women-initiated tourism and water protection program by watching our video entitled, “Baluit.”

About the title

In the local rafter’s jargon, Baluit means “to use a paddling stroke to move forward.” Despite looming threats of privitization in the area, moving forward is exactly what these bangkeras of Santo Anghel have done and are continuously doing.

Zeera is a college student at St. Scholastica's College and a former intern at Greenpeace Philippines.