Our hike to Lake Bensis (fondly called as Pingganon Lake) started with curiosity. What’s in there? What’s on top of that mountain? What awaits for us on the other side? Had it not been for curiosity, many discoveries and explorations wouldn’t have come to fruition. And without curious minds who ask questions and defy odds, we would have to continue believing the truths that have been long deceiving us.
Such curiousity about Lake Bensis started with a Facebook post: a mysterious lake located within the realms of Cebu City. But those who knew its location chose not to divulge further information as to how to get to such water form. They “don’t want” a lot of people to crowd over the place and “destroy” it. It remains a puzzle to me why a number of outdoor enthusiasts choose to deprive the new breed with their knowledge of the outdoors – that instead of educating, they resort to hating. In the first place, if the secrecy of the place is of topmost priority, photos of Lake Bensis shouldn’t have been made to circulate around social media.
Using Google Map, search engine, and the power of “asking”, we learned that Lake Bensis is located on one of the mountainous barangays near the city. Upon further inquiry, we learned that habal-habal drivers can bring guests to the said lake for a minimum fee of P500/head. Finding it way too much, the group decided to take the cheapest means of going there: hiking.
I was in Manila at that time when Epifanio and Sir Mark went to locate Lake Bensis. With their limited knowledge on its location and the help of some locals, they were able to successfully navigate their way to the lake. They even learned other hacks (and shortcuts) in reaching the place. After consistent pleading, they then agreed to guide us two weeks after.
We agreed to meet at 4:30 in the morning and commence the hike by five. Together with us this time were Debby, Carlo, Jet, and our leads Epifanio and Sir Mark. It was really a sacrifice to wake up too early but given the open trails that we had to ascend, we have to start early or else, the sun would be too happy to grill us. From the infamous Spartan Trail, we resumed the hike to Bocaue Peak down to Barangay Bonbon then up to Sitio Bitlang.
It wasn’t my first time to hike Bitlang. But it was one of the trails I despised the most. It’s not totally difficult but Bitlang is… a “bit long”. I had to admit that I have been lazing around for weeks and had not been on any forms of exercise. So imagine me trying to drag myself while the others were just happily running their way up. Weak. I would have wanted to break down and take more time to blame all the unlimited seafood and samgyupsal that my workmates and I have been eating but… I don’t have much time. They’d really be leaving me behind. Alam n’yo naman kung gaano kahirap ang iwanan di ba? HAHA.
It really felt the end of Calvary when we reached Bitlang. According to our leads, we will just need to hike about four to five kilometers to be able to reach Lake Bensis. And the catch? It’s all downhill. Hallelujah! Mi paborito. HAHAHA.
While we were on our way to the lake, Epifanio and Sir Mark happily recalled how they interacted with locals on their previous visit. The knowing smiles and acknowledgment of the vendors, basketball players, and household owners confirmed their claims. It was as if they were usual guests in the locale. But that’s not all. Going forth to such adventure didn’t only allow us to socialize with other people, we also saw how beautiful the other side of Cebu City is. Away from the busy streets, high-rise buildings, and occupied population are rich plantations and rolling hills akin to Alicia in Bohol. In addition to this, we’ve also met some renowned figures in the hiking and trailrunning community – people who can start hikes at one in the morning and finish strong the day after. Yes, they do exist. HAHA.
It was already sundown when we reached Lake Bensis – the perfect reward after an almost 12hour hike. Before reaching the place, we noticed jeepneys and habal-habals bringing guests to and fro the lake. I guess, it was blessing in disguise that we came a little later. Since most of the guests have departed already, we had the lake for ourselves. According to a former employee of Atlas, whom Epifanio and Sir Mark interviewed, the term Bensis came from the word “benches” – pertaining to the staircase-like surroundings of the lake. Like Biga Pit, Lake Bensis was a former dumpsite of Atlas Mining Corporation years ago. Nevertheless, according to our “soon-to-be-mining-engineer”, the water has been treated already and passed the required level of safety. The lake is currently managed by the Department of Environment and Natural Resources in partnership with Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources.
Curious for the location? You wouldn’t have read this far if not, right? Well, I’m sharing this to you because by now I think you know already the reason why some outdoor enthusiasts would decline from giving information – they are afraid that you would be “destroying” the sanctity of the place by leaving your trash behind and polluting Lake Bensis. But I know that a gentle reminder won’t hurt. Keeping the place a secret (even if a lot knows already of its location) wouldn’t hinder curious minds (like us) to search for it. So, might as well help each other, right?
HOW TO GET TO LAKE BENSIS/ PINGGANON LAKE:
- ROUTE 1: From Tabunok Flyover, hire a habal-habal that would directly bring you to Loay, Toledo where Lake Bensis is located. Fare is P80 per head. But if you feel a little generous, you give additional to the driver given the difficulty of the road going to the Lake Bensis/ Pingganon Lake.
- ROUTE 2: For a more challenging route, you may go along with other hikers who hike from Banawa to Pamutan down to Bonbon up to Bitlang then straight to Lake Bensis/ Pingganon Lake.
- ROUTE 3: The most expensive route in terms of transportation fee would be from JY Square, Lahug going to Lake Bensis. As shared by other visitors, fare rates for habal-habal back and forth is at P500/head.
They say the future belongs to the curious – the ones who are not afraid to try, explore, and question. But I guess, the greatest feat of curiosity is having to share whatever is learned from the experience. Allow people to explore life beyond the horizon that they exist in. Let them see the disasters waiting if they won’t help in keeping the integrity of creation. Inspire them to maintain the beauty that nature unfolds in them – the way it did the first time you marvel the wonders of creation. And realize that the fight for the preservation of the environment is not all yours to take, but for all human beings – for the generations to follow.