Worth a Trip: Mapanuepe

When Mt Pinatubo (1450m) erupted in 1991, lava flows dammed the Mapanuepe River flowing out of the Zambales range. Slowly rising floodwaters forced residents of Aglao and Bajaoen to flee to higher ground. Unfazed, locals rebuilt their villages on the shores of newly minted Lake Mapanuepe, nestled in the Zambales Mountains about 15km east of San Marcelino.

These villages are only accessible by boat and remain quite traditional – the Aeta people wearing the indigenous G-strings (loincloths) are still a common sight.

In the middle of Lake Mapanuepe is the sunken church of Bajaoen, easily identifiable by its maroon cross sticking out of the water – an unsettling sight.

There are one or two jeepneys per day to Aglao from San Marcelino (45 minutes), but the last one returning from Aglao is at noon. A bangka to the sunken church from the ‘port’ in Aglao should cost about P900.

All buses travelling between Olongapo and Iba stop in San Marcelino.