Laguna de Bay, Philippines

Lake Locations:

Philippines - Metro Luzon Urban Beltway -

Also known as:  Laguna Lake

Laguna de Bay is the crown jewel of the Philippines. Set in Luzon, the largest island in the Philippine archipelago, this 240,000-acre freshwater lake is the largest in the Philippines and third-largest freshwater lake in Southeast Asia*. Less than 20 miles east of Manila Bay, Laguna de Bay was undoubtedly part of the bay at one time in prehistory and was cut off from the ocean by a series of geological and volcanic events around 6000 years ago. Laguna de Bay’s only outlet, the Pasig River flows into Manila Bay. During dry seasons, the lowered lake levels allow sea water to backflow into the lake, changing its salinity. Only four feet above sea level, this occurs regularly and is considered by fishermen to be a necessary cleansing of the lake’s waters.

Shaped somewhat like ‘W’, the lake features three bays at the north end. Center Bay is the flooded caldera of Laguna volcano. The lake holds nine islands, the largest of which is Talim Island that forms part of the division between West Bay and Center Bay. East Bay is on the less populated side of the lake, and the West Bay shoreline is heavily developed all the way to Manila proper.

Laguna de Bay is an integral part of Philippine culture, and its watershed is shared by 66 local governments, 5 provinces, 49 municipalities, 12 cities and numerous small villages with a population of over six million. With such a dense population along its 176-mile shoreline, it is understandable that the lake has encountered serious water quality problems. Laguna de Bay is stressed by too many competing interests and purposes; not all of them can simultaneously be met.

Laguna de Bay’s waters are used to irrigate many acres of crops near the lake, including rice paddy fields, sugar cane fields, coconut plantations, vegetables, fruits and poultry which are sold to feed the large populations of Manila and Quezon City. The lake also provides cooling water to the new industrial plants springing up along the shoreline. The Philippine government also has plans to increase the amount of drinking water by using Laguna de Bay as a reservoir. A rapidly-increasing population, often the poorest people, have built unauthorized housing along the lake and its many tributaries, often directing wastewater directly into the streams.

Little infrastructure has been built to handle industrial wastes, which also tends to end up in the lake. The Napindan Hydraulic Control Structure was built across Pasig River to prevent seawater backflow to the lake, prevent possible pollutants from entering Manila Bay, and to assist with flood control in Manila. However, the structure proved harmful to the ecological balance of the lake, and has since been opened. For many years the lake also served as the lower pool of a pumped storage hydroelectric plant along the eastern shoreline, but is no longer considered a vital source of electricity in the area.

One of the mainstays of the Filipino diet is fish. And one of the main locations for fish farming is Laguna de Bay. At one time over 75,000 acres of fish pens and cages nearly covered the huge lake’s surface, making navigation nearly impossible. The shallow average depth of about eight feet meant water levels were ideal for aquaculture. Local fish farmers raise Nile tilapia, bighead carp, white goby, introduced milkfish, sea catfish and silver perch among other species. Some fishing is still done from boats in open water, but there is little open water left. As the lake has over 100 inflowing streams of varying sizes, turbidity in the shallow water sometimes doesn’t allow sunlight to penetrate adequately to propagate the plankton which many of the fish feed on. The nearly annual saltwater backflows from Manila Bay clear the water and allow the plankton to flourish. The lake is also a major transportation route between villages and is a part of the flyway for migratory birds.

To begin to alleviate some of these problems and to institute an organized system of lake usage regulations, the Laguna Lake Development Authority was formed in 1966. Charged with promoting sustainable development along Laguna de Bay lakeshore, the LLDA develops and enforces environmental management, particularly water quality monitoring, conservation of natural resources, and community-based natural resource management. The LLDA enforces the licensing of fish pens and cages, works with municipalities to control and treat both industrial and household waste, and helps to determine how much water can be withdrawn for what purpose. It will be a long and hard struggle, but progress is being made in order to meet the needs of all parties and to better protect water quality. Fish pen acreage has been reduced to 25,000 acres and is both strictly licensed and organized to allow for open boating channels. Soon it is hoped Laguna de Bay may become a more attractive tourism destination and further strengthen the economy in the region.

Laguna de Bay is often called Laguna Lake but that is incorrect: Laguna means lake – Bay is the actual name of that lake. The name originates from the village of Bay on the south shore. One of the oldest towns in the area, the old Tagalog community was the first capital of Laguna Province. The Spanish named the lake after the town. The phonetic name Bay is linguistically related to the Tagalog word for shore, but also for woman and for priestess. It is unknown which of these meanings the town was originally meant to portray, and a number of popular myths have developed to explain the meaning of the lake’s name.

The Laguna de Bay lakeshore has been inhabited for many thousands of years, which can be seen in the Angono petroglyphs in the lakeshore town of Binangonan Rizal. A world cultural heritage site, tour guides offer tours of the protected caves at Binangonan Rizal where these depictions of humans and animals exist. Due to the many years of Spanish influence, several old churches exist around the lake that are most interesting to those with an eye for architecture. One of the most unusual is the Nagcarlan Underground Cemetery in Nagcarlan near Mount Banahaw-San Christobal National Park. This unique architectural treasure holds the only under-church cemetery in the Philippines. The church and cemetery are no longer used but are a favorite among historians and architecture students.

Near Laguna de Bay’s south shore, Mount Makiling National Park holds a number of locations of interest to tourists. The mountain itself is a dormant volcano rising to 3576 feet. The mountain is ideal for hiking, camping, trekking, mountain biking, and bird watching. The Mount Makiling Forest Reserve holds approximately 2,048 species of plants and is a favorite of bird watchers. Climbers are allowed to climb in some areas. The park also holds the ‘Mud Springs’, a hot spring where volcanic heat and sulfuric acid break down the rocks into bubbling, boiling mud. The park also holds the Makiling Botanical Gardens and the National Art Center.

Areas around Lagune de Bay hold numerous sites and activities the entice visitors. Some lodgings exist in the form of modest hotels. Nearby Manila holds all types of hotels, guest houses and even beachfront properties for popular water sports and boating. The Laguna de Bay area is certainly worth a visit as there are many activities and unusual sites to enjoy. So bring the camera, prepare to bargain shop for local crafts and textiles, and enjoy the friendly culture and hospitality of the Filipino people. It’s a once-in-a-lifetime adventure!

* Surpassed in size by Cambodia’s Tonle Sap at 667,184 acres and Sumatra’s Lake Toba with 279,229 acres.

Things to do at Laguna de Bay

  • Fishing
  • Boating
  • Hiking
  • Biking
  • Birding
  • National Park

Fish species found at Laguna de Bay

  • Bighead Carp
  • Carp
  • Catfish
  • Perch
  • Tilapia

Laguna de Bay Photo Gallery

Laguna de Bay Statistics & Helpful Links

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Lake Type: Natural Freshwater Lake, Dammed

Surface Area: 242,163 acres

Shoreline Length: 176 miles

Normal Elevation (Full Pond): 4 feet

Average Depth: 8 feet

Maximum Depth: 24 feet

Water Volume: 1,824,105 acre-feet

Water Residence Time: 8 months

Drainage Area: 1,127 sq. miles

Trophic State: Eutrophc

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Trophic State | LakeLubbers

Trophic State measures the level of algae and nutrients in a lake.

An oligotrophic lake is very clear (blue in color) and does not support much plant or fish life. A hyper-oligotrophic lake is the clearest of all lakes, and is nearly devoid of plants and fish.

A mesotrophic lake is slightly green and supports a moderate degree of plant and fish life. A lake's most desired trophic state is generally this mid-point - the mesotrophic state.

A eutrophic lake is somewhat murky and supports a large amount of plant and fish life. A hypereutrophic lake is clouded with algae, plant life, and fish life. A eutrophic or hyper-eutrophic lake can be difficult to navigate by boat - and is often an unpleasant place to swim.

The use of phosphorus-rich and nitrogen-rich fertilizer on lawns and golf courses surrounding a lake can cause it to become eutrophic or hypereutrophic.


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Catchment or Drainage Area | LakeLubbers

This is the surrounding area that drains into a lake, including land, rivers and their tributaries. This is also known as the lake's "catchment basin".

Small lakes at the highest peaks of mountains have small drainage areas. The world's oceans have the largest drainage areas.


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Lake-Area Population | LakeLubbers

This is the estimated number of people who live in a house with a view of a lake, plus those who self-describe the lake as their home, for example: "I live at Smith Mountain Lake."


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Water Residence Time | LakeLubbers

This is the estimated time that it takes for an amount of water equal to the entire volume of a lake to flow out of - or evaporate from - the lake.

Residence Time can be as short as a few days for fast-flowing small lakes, and can exceed 100 years for slow-flowing large lakes.


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Completion Year | LakeLubbers

This is the year that a reservoir was first filled to the reservoir's normal elevation - or the year that a natural lake was first dammed. A large reservoir can take more than a year to fill after its dam is first closed.

The Grand Anicut in southern India is generally considered the world's oldest dam that still operates. Grand Anicut was constructed in the second century BC. It now impounds an irrigation network that includes roughly one million acres.

You can find many of the the world's newest reservoirs on LakeLubbers. Many of the world's oldest reservoirs appear on the last page of that list.


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Water Volume | LakeLubbers

This is the estimated volume of water that a lake contains -- measured at the lake's normal elevation. By this measure, the world's largest freshwater lake is Siberia's Lake Baikal.

You can find many of the the world's largest lakes (by water volume) on LakeLubbers.

Water Volume can be measured in acre-feet, in cubic miles, or in cubic kilometers. One acre-foot is the amount of water needed to cover one acre (43,560 square feet) to a depth of one foot. One cubic mile equals 3,379,200 acre-feet. One cubic kilometer equals 810,713 acre-feet.

1 acre-foot is equal to 325,851 US gallons. Siberia's Lake Baikal contains about 6,276,367,740,000,000 gallons of freshwater - nearly 1 million gallons for every living person on earth.

The other - and more widely used - measure of a lake's size is the lake's surface acreage. By that measure, the world's largest freshwater lake is North America's Lake Superior.


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Maximum Depth | LakeLubbers

This is the estimated greatest depth of the water in a lake -- measured at the lake's normal elevation. The world's deepest lake is Siberia's Lake Baikal; that lake's maximum depth is estimated at 5,314 feet.

You can find many of the the world's deepest lakes on LakeLubbers. If you select the last page of that list, you will find the (maximum depth of) the shallowest lakes in our database.


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Average Depth | LakeLubbers

This is the estimated average depth of the water in a lake -- measured at the lake's normal elevation. If the water volume and surface area of a lake are known, an estimate of the lake's average depth can be calculated:

Water volume ÷ Surface Area = Average Depth

Example: 1,000,000 acre-feet ÷ 20,000 acres = 50 feet average depth


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Maximum Elevation | LakeLubbers

This is a lake's highest water level, measured by the lake's surface distance above sea level, that can occur during flooding. A lake's highest possible maximum elevation is usually the top of the lake's dam or spillway.

At lakes that include residential development, government regulations usually forbid the construction of homes below a lake's maximum elevation.


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Minimum Elevation | LakeLubbers

This is a lake's lowest water level, measured by the lake's surface distance above sea level, that can be reasonably expected to occur. Low lake levels can occur due to deliberate seasonal draw downs for irrigation or impending snow melt, reduced water inflows, drought and evaporation, residential or commercial water demands, and hydropower generation.

Some lakes' minimum and maximum elevations are virtually the same. Lakes that generate hydropower may vary by several feet - according to power demand. Lakes whose primary purpose is to prevent flooding can seasonally vary by 100 feet or more.

When some lakes reach their minimum elevation, their boat ramps may not be long enough to permit boat access - and boats docked on shallow parts of the lake may end up on dry ground. In those cases, kayakers and shore-based anglers may be among the few happy recreational users of the lake.


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Normal Elevation | LakeLubbers

This is a lake's normal water level, measured by the lake's surface distance above sea level. For a reservoir, this water level is also known as "full pond" or "full pool".

You can find many of the world's highest-elevated lakes on LakeLubbers. Lakes with the lowest elevations (known by LakeLubbers) are shown on the final page of that list.


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Shoreline Length | LakeLubbers

This is the length of the exterior shoreline around a lake - measured at the lake's normal elevation. The shoreline length can be considerably shorter or longer when lake water levels are lower or higher than normal.

A lake with many coves has a much longer shoreline than a lake of similar surface area that is nearly circular in shape.

When known, the shoreline miles that we report in our statistics include only the lake's exterior shoreline, and exclude the shorelines of islands located within a lake's boundaries. In lakes with many islands, those islands' combined shorelines may exceed a lake's exterior shoreline.

You can find many of the world's longest-shoreline lakes on Lakelubbers.


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Surface Area | LakeLubbers

This is the area (acreage, square kilometers, etc.) of the top surface area of a lake - measured at a lake's normal elevation. The surface area can be considerably smaller or larger when lake levels are lower or higher than normal. North America's Lake Superior is the world's largest freshwater lake by this measure.

The other measure of a lake's size is the lake's water volume. By that measure, the world's largest freshwater lake is Lake Baikal in Siberia.

You can find many of the world's largest lakes (acres) on Lakelubbers. There is no widely-accepted minimum surface area that defines a lake. What Lakelubbers describes as a lake, you might call a pond. The smallest lake that Lakelubbers currently includes is Hawaii's 2-acre Lake Waiau.


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Water Level Control | LakeLubbers

This is the organization that controls water releases or outflows from the lake or reservoir. In the USA, this is often the US Army Corps of Engineers, a power company, a municipal water system, an irrigation district, or a paper manufacturing company. In the case of private or gated lakes, a homeowners' association may be the lake's controlling authority.

Many lakes cross borders, including North America's Great Lakes. The control of such lakes and their coveted freshwater may be amicably shared - or hotly disputed.

"Water wars" continue at many lakes as growing populations and crop irrigation needs compete for the freshwater that lakes contain.


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Lake Type | LakeLubbers

There are 3 basic types of lakes that are currently included on LakeLubbers. 2 types may be dammed or not dammed, producing 5 classifications.

- A Reservoir is a man-made freshwater lake that is usually created by damming rivers.

- A Natural Freshwater Lake occurs naturally - often by glacial activity - and has a salinity of less than 30 parts per thousand. It may be dammed to produce electricity or for other reasons.

- A Natural Saltwater Lake occurs naturally and has a salinity of more than 30 parts per thousand (ppt). It may be dammed.

"Brackish" water may be categorized as freshwater or saltwater, depending on its salt content (salinity). Oligohaline water has less than 15 ppt of salt. Mesohaline water has 15-29 ppt. Polyhaline has 30-335 ppt.


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