|Kelly takes a dip close to twilight at Underwater Church Badjaoen, Lake Mapanuepe|
Google Lake Mapanuepe and you will discover a host of travel bloggers who have provided much information with tons of topside pictures and images of the steeple of Church Badjaoen, a structure which can be seen protruding from the body of water which was mostly the cornerstone of their stories.
The allure though of the lake are the three towns which were submerged underwater caused by Mt Pinatubo's eruption, whose volcanic debris blocked the water exit points of the settlements along Mapanuepe Valley. Being an underwater photographer, I've always wanted to check out the feasibility of taking pictures here and actually see for myself what lies beneath.
I've first heard about Lake Mapanuepe from well respected landscape photographers Jon Aguirre and Sid Madarazo over bottles of beers, vodka and whisky early this year. The topic came up when we were discussing possible shoot locations and new places to do underwater photography beyond the usual divesites and marine life. After downing our shots and brews, I checked out google and as shared, lots of travel bloggers have already been and as always
have kindly provided specific directions on how to get there.
|the falling light|
We have planned to visit the place asap but several weekends have passed and we couldn't find a matching schedule for all of us to go together. The thought however was sticky and persistent to me and I told myself if I find a free weekend, I'd roll solo here just to satisfy my curiosity and itchy trigger finger.
Just this Sunday, I met with my friend and business partner Mike to check our itinerary for the succeeding week. Ending our meeting early, I asked Mike if he wanted to do a quick ocular of the lake, sharing to him what lies beneath and return another time for a proper fun shoot with scuba gear. Mike, being an avid travel photographer himself said why not, and shared he even had a model friend Kelly who lives in Zambales and may want to join...after a quick fb message and a yes from Kelly, grabbed my fins, board shorts for me and Mike, a mask and we were off ('the best plan is no plan' in mind).
We left Manila at around 1pm and arrived at Subic boardwalk at 3pm to pick up Kelly. Mike and I assumed we could get to Aglao, the town which had access to the lake by 4pm only to be met by 80% rough terrain. If we were to take photos, we needed ample light. We arrived at Aglao at 520pm with the sunlight fading quickly. Luckily, there was a local guide hanging around the area who called for a boatman to give as a quick ride to the submerged Church . It took us a quick 10 minutes to get there, only to find me and Kelly initially wanting to backout because the water looked too eerie already under the falling light. After talking to the boatmen and the guide of their previous guests swimming around the church, we then gave it a go... we travelled all this way and might as well just do it
Jumping in first, the water was surprisingly warm, did a freedive to around 15 feet but couldn't see anything anymore after a few meters. Kelly bravely jumped in shortly and we did a few practice runs, only to discover the water visibility was a meter at best and the fading light gave us more trouble as the camera refused to focus. The only solution at the time for me was to set the focus from one shot mode to ai-focus, where the camera will forcibly shoot even without focus lock, so we just went on shooting till the light faded away, hoping one of the images will be crisp enough for sharing.
to be continued...