Lake Leonard visitors: “Pure bliss”
NEW LEYTE, Maco, Compostela Valley (Sept. 19) – A sojourn at Lake Leonard in this highland community is “pure bliss”, commented a visitor participating in the mountain guiding training conducted by the provincial tourism office in partnership with the Department of Tourism XI, local government unit of Maco, and the Mountaineering Federation of Southern Mindanao as part of the month-long celebration of Tourism Month.
The September 14-16 training brought together 16 local guides, 12 motorcycle drivers, and local caterers in preparation for the eventual opening of Lake Leonard as a major tourist destination area in Compostela Valley.
Provincial tourism officer Christine Dompor said the sentiment echoed those of others enthralled by the early morning scene of thick fogs blanketing the more than 200-hectare lake. When the sun appears, it explodes into thousands of tiny lights undulating and sparkling among the almost unseen ripples of the lake’s water. “The scenery, the darkness, and the silence when the last light is snuffed bring out fond memories. One wakes up to chilling cold just before dawn, a sweet respite from the cloying heat and noise of the lowlands,” Dompor described the experience of spending one night either on hammock, tent, or inside the lake’s lodge.
Before its present name, Mansaka natives in the area called the lake, crocodile lake. Mansaka folk legend spoke of the presence of the dreaded reptilian species that teemed on its shores and sowed fears among the tribal communities. The legend also spoke of a Mansaka crocodile hunter named Habana whose exploits in the 1960s confirmed the presence of crocodiles on the banks of the serene lake waters.
In an article published in the June 1996 issue of Davao Development Newsette titled “Eulogy to a Dead Volcano, Lake Leonard” P.H. Ortega, Jr., personnel manager of Inco Mining, predecessor of the Apex Exploration and Mining Company, whose start-up copper mining operations in 70s to 80s had made Masara a boom mining village, 5 kilometres west of New Leyte, confirmed the presence of a thriving community of crocodiles by the “hundreds of thousands” around the lake marshes.
In that same article, an expedition team saw thousands of flying bats dotting the skies, wild deer, wild tusked pigs, squawking wild geese, and hornbills and screeching birds of various colour whose dissonant chorus punctuated the silence of the placid crystal-clear lake. Around the lake the team found nesting grounds of dead leaves holding what apparently were crocodile eggs. On the shores, tiny crocodiles some as long as six inches milled and basked in the sun.On returning to Masara, the team brought 20 of the young reptiles and raised them inside a man-made pool at the mine site. A visiting mining executive saw the grown crocodiles and brought them all with him when he returned to Manila. The caldera was later named Lake Leonard in honour of Leonard Kniaseff, a mining prospector, who became the first general superintendent of Samico when the company opened its Masara mining operations after the war.Kniazeff stumbled on the lake while he was prospecting for minerals in the 1930’s within a 15-kilometre radius of his base in pre-war Davao Gold Mines based in Hijo.
As late as 1940, the Census Atlas of the Philippines had not mentioned the lake in its list of lakes found then in Mindanao. Its first official existence was subscribed in the US Army Map, Series 711, compiled in 1956 from the 1947 to 1953 photograph entries of the Bureau of Construction and Geodetic Survey of the Dept. of Public Highways. Mt. Leonard Kniazeff rises 1,190 metres or 3,904 feet above sea level. One of the country’s 22 active volcanoes, it towers over a wide fertile valley flanked by the highlands of the municipalities of Maco, Mawab, and Maragusan. A stratovolcano, it last erupted in 120 AD take or minus 100 years. The Philippine Volcanology and Seismology (Phivolcs) describes Mt. Leonard Kniazeff as an active volcano. (jpa/pgotss/ids)