A month before our Mt. Talinis climb, I went to Negros Oriental to celebrate a special day. I was supposed to feel a year older — a year wiser — but coming into this strange place awakened the childlike excitement in me.
Where to go? What to do?
I do not have a good sense of direction and James did not have a strict itinerary. In the end, we only relied our sense of wonder and wander. But guess what? It was all that we needed.
Cuernos de Negros mountain range spans across the municipalities of Valencia, Sibulan, and San Jose. Cradled within its mountains is the Balinsasayao Twin Lakes Natural Park located in the town of Sibulan. The twin lakes include Lake Balinsasayao in the northwest and Lake Danao in the southeast. These are separated by a narrow ridge and are surrounded by four mountains: Mt. Mahungot to the south, Mt. Kalbasan to the north, Mt. Balinsasayao to the east and Mt. Guintabon to the west.
Getting to the twin lakes took less than an hour of motorcycle ride. Even before we reached the place, we could already see a glimpse of paradise this protected nature reserve has to offer.
Upon entering the nature park, we were welcomed by the Kabalin-an Lake. This is a scenic little lake near the registration area. Despite being less known than its counterparts, Kabalin-an has its unique beauty. Its still water reflecting the surrounding mangrove trees and mountains reminded me of Anne of Green Gables. This must be how Anne felt when she renamed Barry’s Pond as The Lake of Shinning Waters. It was “as if the water were past all modes and tenses of emotion and had settled down to a tranquility unbroken by fickle dreams.”
We continued our motorcycle ride up on a steep zigzag road. There are two trails to access the lakes. The shorter route is a concrete downward driveway and the longer route is stretch of man-made steps under the trees. Naturally, James and I went for the latter. This way we have more stories to tell, more memories to make.
I always have this unexplained feeling whenever I stare at lakes. Even after my up-close experience with Lake Janagdan, Lake Nailig, and Lake Bensis, I still can’t pinpoint what it is. Having lived in a mountain barangay surrounded by rivers, I have gotten used to seeing water flow. In fact, I love hearing the burbles as it travels along the riverbed. With lakes, all you get is complete stillness and quiet.
Lake Balinsasayao is a biodiverse crater lake attracting visitors who would like to go on bird-watching, paddle boating, kayaking, trekking or just relaxing. The lake derived its name from the native birds, Balinsasayaw, found in the place. The green shrubbery, giant trees and wild vines all make up the rich ecosystem.
There is mystery in the mirror-like water which could make one travel through time — backwards, forwards, and in between. How did we survive our past? What does the future hold? Are we on the right track in this long and winding life journey? The lake, I surmised, is not for finding the right answers but asking the right questions.
After spending some time in Lake Balinsasayao, we headed to its twin lake. Some would ride the paddle boat to reach Lake Danao but James and I chose to walk through the established trail.
As two souls who find joy in taking the longer road, we wanted to experience more of the nature park. Like a personal tour guide, James talked me through the trees, explaining how the forests served as habitat of several species of birds and wild animals, while I pointed him to two dancing butterflies in the midst of their courtship.
The trail going to the old viewing deck overlooking both lakes is quite long but the shade from the trees made the walk easier. There was supposedly a huge log that lies right at the side of the lake. It was famous for its mystical reason but it was gone when we went there.
Lake Danao is the smaller of the twins and it was less crowded. Probably because it is more secluded than Lake Balinsasayao. Coincidentally, Leyte also has two versions of Lake Danao. The guitar-shaped Lake Danao in surrounded by the Aminduen mountain range in Ormoc and the summit crater Lake Danao of the Cabalian Volcano in Southern Leyte. Meanwhile, Cebu has its own Lake Danao in Camotes Island as well. I wonder why most lakes are named “danao”. Is it because of its local reference to “shallow lagoon”?
Like our young selves, we filled the day with curiosity. Our day 1 in Negros Oriental highlights the magic of looking with a spark of awe in the most ordinary things. Next time (when I’m not too lazy), maybe I’ll share with you our adventures after chasing waterfalls in Valencia. But for now, here’s a tip. If you ever come to visit the twin lakes, drop by this gorgeous tree by the sea. It’s a must! 😉
If you ever go and do it for the Gram, take your trash with you — every piece, every gram.