It means ‘Welcome to Lake Sebu!’ One of the first things I learned while in the vicinity of the T’boli tribe was that their language is really quite far from any dialects of the Philippines. In fact, when I first hear them converse, I thought I was somewhere in the middle east – their diction is matigas and they speak fast like those I watched in movies. However, it made me wonder to ask some expressions and words to translate in T’boli and to my surprise, none really sounds familiar. So if you wonder how I talk to them (for those interested to visit the place), there are some of them who have bachelor’s degree, who are doctors and lawyer, who have embraced changes in the world while keeping theirs.
I didn’t exactly know where the first stop would be when I reached the municipality of Lake Sebu in South Cotabato. So when I noticed the tourism office sign board, I immediately drop off. There I met Kuya Greg Fungan (09262659005), nephew of the mayor with a habal who received a degree in agriculture. He offered me a tour for PHP400.00 only which I okayed with although I drove my car to this place. It’s just a different experience to tour around using a habal and talk to your guide to get to know the place and the people, or in this case the tribe, any better. Aside to that, the tourism office, according to Kuya Greg, charges a separate fee for the guide, the habal, and their own fee. So technically, I got a cheaper access to the beautiful place of Lake Sebu.
The tour guide immediately accompanied me to the famous lake. Looking back the past, it has been the center of civilization of the T’bolis. It’s very evident now that the lake provides life to the people. It is currently the source of food and water in the municipality and its neighboring provinces. The lake has a rich biodiversity. It is famous for inhabiting large number of Tilapia. You’ll noticed along the road wholesale of live Tilapias. In fact, their catch could reach to as far as General Santos and Davao City.
I took a kayak for PHP100.00 to atleast feel the experience of being within the Lake. And the feeling? Gah, I could stay there for much longer. The lake is so calm and peaceful. It’s a place to go whenever somebody wanted to relax together with nature. The only things you’ll hear are the music coming from the tribal band and the sounds of birds playing while catching their meal. The lake truly gives an impression that there is something to discover about this place than the fear of mere visiting it (due to neighboring provinces such as Maguindanao and Cotabato City).
Not to exaggerate, the lake seems like a living one. While we are kayaking, it feels like somebody was telling me the simple life there is. There are people, mix of T’boli and Ilonggo, living in an island within the lake. Their main transportation to the municipal proper is the kayak made out of ‘Lawaan’ tree which they hand-carved themselves. They use it to fish, to transfer goods and do it routinely; it’s also the same kayak we used to go around the lake. Needless to say, they make a living out of the resources they only have. They value the simple things they have as it plays a significant role in their life.
Afterwards, we visited the famous Seven Falls. For those who have already felt not thrilled to ziplines, I still recommend doing so because the scenery is just epic! I’ve witnessed the other falls through it and there you’ll realize how truly wonderful Mindanao is when you forget about the turmoil you thought of in the entire region. The Falls 2 or Hikong Bente was just breathtaking. I feel a portion of The Grand Canyon when I first saw it. It stands to as high as 70 meters that brings too much pressure even I was about 200 meters away. In fact, it seems like the falls poured out rain upon us. The other falls, as I said, can be seen via the zipline. The 6th and 7th falls aren’t accessible for not known reasons.
The experience in Lake Sebu can be done in a day. But for those interested to have an overnight stay (to also witness a mesmerizing sunset in the lake), the LGU offers a PHP60.00 per night stay. I haven’t seen the place inside but I believe the place is enough for travelers to spend the night.
I won’t end this post by not including the road to Lake Sebu. Seriously, anybody (especially those from Manila) would not thought that South Cotabato has a well-done road system. It’s an eight-lane traffic. Some parts of the highway of Koronadal and Marbel implements a 40KPH speed limit. And mind you, the people obey traffic rules (there was a time when I thought of it as a joke because the road they have kind of deserve an 80KPH MINIMUM speed limit). If you feel safe traveling in SCTEX or CAVITEX or NLEX and SLEX, you must consider it safe in this highway.
So when you still doubt visiting the place, you better doubt your choices.