Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Taal Lake

Ever since I can remember, I’ve been intrigued by Taal Lake. I’ve visited many places in the Philippines during my childhood but never Taal Lake or the surrounding city, Tagaytay. I finally got a chance to see the lake during this trip, and I’ve got to say: it’s one of the most beautiful and interesting places I’ve ever visited.

Taal Lake is about an hour south of Manila by car, close to Los Baños. My aunt’s old friends Tito Boy and Tita Mila drove us there and another friend, Tita Gloria, showed us her family’s resort on Lake Taal’s waterfront. We had lunch at this fabulous place called Josephine’s that had a stunning view of the lake. I couldn’t believe that such a lovely scene could also be deadly: in the middle of the lake lies Taal Volcano, which is submerged underwater. The only part you can see is the caldera, which is also called Volcano Island.

(I don’t know if you’ve noticed that I sometimes put “Tito” or “Tita” in front of people’s names. In Philippine culture it’s a sign of respect, and it means “Uncle” and “Aunt.” Everyone who’s older than you has to have a title before their name, like “Uncle” (Tito), “Aunt” (Tita), “Big Brother” (Kuya) or “Big Sister” (Ate). It’s just how we roll.)

Taal Lake is a freshwater lake (the third largest in the Philippines). After a series of major eruptions in the 16th century, the lake was closed off from the sea by newly-formed land bridges. Succeeding eruptions buried numerous lakeside towns, and only three towns are on the lake's shore. Old lakeside towns with buildings and walls are reported to be seen under the lake's waters. Several centuries of rain has diluted the lake's salty waters into pure freshwater.

Because the lake was until recently, connected to the sea, it is home to many species that have evolved and adapted to the desalination of the lake's waters. Its most popular endemic species is the overharvested tawilis, the world's only freshwater sardine. Taal Lake is also home to one of the world's rarest sea snakes, Hydrophis semperi. This particular species is only one of two "true" sea snake species that are known to live entirely in freshwater. (Source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Taal_Lake)

If you are ever in the Philippines, you should definitely visit this place. More pictures here.

1 comment:

Genevieve said...

It's a lake within a lake!