Lake Bito, MacArthur, Leyte
Driving 50 km south of Tacloban City for about an hour’s time, one reaches the municipality of MacArthur, Leyte. Driving further inland towards the west for another 6 km of yet unpaved barangay roads, one reaches the quiet and rural barangay of Villa Imelda and the famous Lake Bito.
Surrounded by rice paddies, coconuts and fruit trees set against a forested background, Lake Bito is a freshwater lake with marshes and reeds covering an area of 126 hectares. The lake is fed by several small streams and has a maximum depth of 15 m.
There used to be crocodiles in the lake.
German ethnologist Fedor Jagor, writing over 100 years ago, says of Lake Bito:
“The principal employment of our hosts appeared to be fishing, which is so productive that the roughest apparatus is sufficient. There was not a single boat, but only loosely-bound rafts of bamboo, on which the fishers, sinking, as we ourselves did on our raft, half a foot deep, moved about amongst the crocodiles, which I never beheld in such numbers and of so large a size as in this lake. Some swam about on the surface with their backs projecting out of the water. It was striking to see the complete indifference with which even two little girls waded in the water in the face of the great monsters. Fortunately the latter appeared to be satisfied with their ample rations of fish”.
Today, Lake Bito brims with fish pens and cages, cultivating mainly tilapia with a few pens specializing in carp and bangus. Locals are also able to harvest from the lake freshwater shrimps and hito or eel.
I’d like to think there are no more crocodiles here. Sayang. Unless there are descendants turned off by politics and didn’t run for office.
With additional photos by Ludette Ruiz