Little known to be the Philippines fourth largest and (the) deepest lake in the country. Lake Mainit is no less than one of the most beautiful secrets of Surigao, and today, it is slowly being known across the country. So if you are a traveler who is bound for Northeast Mindanao, the roadside view itself will be the loudest invitation to visit Lake Mainit.
Lake Mainit is about 17, 000 hectares and has a maximum depth of 223 meters with an elevation of 37 meters above sea level.
Lake Mainit, if not entirely famous yet, but may soon be known to be a lot of wonderful things. For one, it is described as a pear (some, teardrop) shaped lake. The undisturbed Lake Mainit is said to be one of the most natural ecosytems in existence in the region. And when placed beside the famous lakes in the world, can actually boast of great potential. It’s pristine waters is surrounded by a number of hot and cold springs.
There’s one season where visitors may admire the water’s transformation into a little bit purplish due to the presence of some beautiful hyacinths and lilies growing round and about the lake. It’s calm waters is home to wild ducks and many species of fishes. Among the rare and delicacy fish the lake houses are the eel (known locally as casili) or Anguilla Sp., mudfish (hayuan) or Ophicephallus striatus, gurami or Gourami Belontiidae and the bolinao or Neusthethus tessa which is said to be found no where else in the world and is among the migratory fishes known to pass through a river called Kalinaoan.
A large freshwater lake on a narrow plain between hill ranges near the northern tip of Mindanao, Lake Mainit is shared by two provinces: Surigao del Norte and Agusan del Norte. With two municipalities each province bordering the lake.
Going back to some local lore which makes Lake Mainit more interesting, The first inhabitants of the lake was said to be Papuan nomads that formed communities all around the lake. Lake Mainit (local term for hot) was named as such because of the sulphuric hot spring aptly named Mapaso (meaning to be burned). And like any other place in the country, Moro attacks were common during the early days. When the moros harassed and drove away the early inhabitants, they moved to what is presently the town site, the Barrio of San Isidro.
The Mamanwas may have been descendants of these Papuan Nomads. They are considered to be the oldest tribes in the country. Just like the Aetas of Northern Luzon, they are also short and dark-skinned.
Lake Mainit also had it’s fair contribution to the Filipino people during the Second World War. It became a venue for some underground movement and served as a witness to the many tragedies of the war.
But all the same, the mere sight brings any visitor nothing but a tranquil feeling. A visit to Lake Mainit is actually not just a geographical experience, but a step into an archeological and religious history as well.
The province of Surigao del Norte can be reached through its capital, Surigao City. Flights from Cebu and Manila are available. From Cebu, it takes about 45 minutes. There are also boat trips on board fast crafts that take about four and half hours. On land, there are plenty of buses and jeepneys that could take you to any other destination to and from Surigao City including Lake Mainit.
True, Lake Mainit may not be that popular yet among outsiders, but rest assured that for people in Surigao (and other neighboring communities), it’s a secret that they would be willing to divulge to the rest of the world, one visitor at a time.