It’s hard to brawl with the flow of fate. Random and unpredictable it is especially when you’re traveling. Not everything is about rainbows and unicorns. It is a matter of luck whether it hits or misses. And unluckily for some people, they don’t have that luck on their side, like us, like what we experienced in Lake Sebu. From it, we have a fair share of disappointments and even brought a souvenir of stories of our mishaps. But in lieu of moping on these unfateful circumstances, we still found specks of luck around the lake.
Our very archnemesis in traveling is time and the weather condition. In our case, we were more than ahead of time in our itinerary. But, it’s just that the weather won’t cooperate and we were given dark grey sky and gloomy atmosphere right at the doorstep of Lake Sebu.
LAKE SEBU SCHOOL OF LIVING TRADITIONS
We had so much hope and anticipation for our activities in Lake Sebu upon arrival. We had plenty of sunlight before while chasing several mosques on our way here. But my heart hit my feet when drizzle came, showering the lakeside town of Lake Sebu. While winding the road to our homestay, cold and fresh mountain air accompanied us as our woeful hearts gobbled all the frustrations inside. All that’s circulating inside my mind was the absence of sunset on this trip. Then the sky gave its glorious downpour on the lakeside town after we settled ourselves in our homestay. Despite these impeccable odds onhand, the waiting game under the roof of our homestay wasn’t short of astonishing and surprisingly sheltering a lot of treasures of Tboli culture.
Lake Sebu School of Living Traditions (SLT) is one of the powerhouses in the sleepy town of Lake Sebu that promotes eco-tourism and practices Tboli traditions. The homestay aims to preserve the tribe’s culture and tradition, too, by establishing an informal learning center where children and adults share and learn these priceless treasures — passing from older generation to their younger ones. And for us local and foreign travelers alike, we are also very much welcome to immerse and to experience in their culture.
THE TBOLI TRIBE OF LAKE SEBU
As the world continues to spin further with digital technology advances, tribespeople has been continually lured to modern ways of living. Modernization has constantly attempting to overtake the local culture but some of the tribespeople have remained steadfast in preserving their culture like Maria Todi, a Tboli woman who’s managing the SLT. Our heartbeats synching with the rain pitter-pattering on the nipa roof while listening to the stories of Maria Todi about their rich Tboli culture and tradition. Wearing her colorful traditional dress with tiny golden bells stitched intricately as ornaments, we’re like these new sprouts of Tboli generation looking at her with wonder, absorbing and embracing its richness that was poured unto us. She was beaming with knowledge and wisdom of her tribe from the long history of oral tradition that piqued our curiosity. The Tboli culture and tradition is rich with symbolism and meaning and like any tribe, particularly the ones on the verge of extinction, the oral tradition plays a large part in the tribe, its people, and in preserving its rich culture and tradition.
Thereafter, her family performed a traditional music with members from different generations playing distinct tribal instruments. They also wore their traditional dress. The bells on their ethnic garb jingling along the music. The thought of listening to these kinds of tribal music that were once played and even performed along with traditional dances by Tboli ancestors was such an honor.
According to Maria Todi, some Tboli women also weave a Tboli sacred cloth, a T’nalak. These women are also called dreamweavers of the tribe that makes intricate designs and patterns out from a dream to a woven fabric. Unluckily, we didn’t witness personally the weaving of the cloth but the way Maria Todi explained it to us is enough to vividly imagine the actual weaving.
Maybe it’s not a bad thing that the rain came. A gift we never asked to give time and rest and to pause and reflect for a while. The universe has woven every single fiber of these circumstances together on purpose or it just created a wonderful serendipity.
The rain soon calmed down as the sun was making its way to the horizon. Golden rays were peeking inside our nipa hut illuminating our room, inviting us to come and explore the lakeside. Maybe it’s a sign that we might have a glimpse of sunset this day. While strolling on the streets of Lake Sebu, I was shocked how commercialized the town is. Several establishments, restaurants, and hotels alike are lining up the road and even on the lakeside. It made me worry about the natural environment and ecosystems near the lake. I expected this town to be a more laidback place devoid of concrete buildings.
Afterward, we rushed to the lakeside hoping for a picturesque sunset on the lake. And it turned out to be another frustration. Dark clouds blocked the golden rays as it was fighting back to flaunt its greatness in the expanse of the sky.
Nevertheless, this day never fails to disappoint us especially me, whose urge for a picture-perfect sunset is beyond craving. We just made most of the moment, stop and pause, enjoying still the sky lighted by the last remaining rays of the setting sun.
We returned to our homestay minutes after, saddened and sober by the mishaps of this day. Though we had a crazy amount of nothing prior to our itinerary, we had lucks that took the form of finding valuable things that we didn’t look for. These are the great stories orally passed by Maria Todi to us about the lives of Tboli people. It’s beyond what we came here for.
ADVENTURE CONTINUES AROUND THE LAKE
Commencing our second day at Lake Sebu, we started early to catch a spectacular sunrise and a carpet of water lilies blooming on the placid lake. Just when we think things couldn’t get any worse, it does, because mishap strikes again earlier this day. The sun’s first-born rays never came about. Thick clouds came crawling above the lake instead. Those carpet of blooming water lilies were mere patches floating by the lake. And to add to our frustrations, they weren’t blooming at all. But on the greener side, we had the lake all by ourselves. Icy atmosphere and tranquility prevailed as the sound of nature serenaded our woeful spirit.
Prior to our itinerary, we proceeded to our next destination — the famous 7 Waterfalls of Lake Sebu — and hoping to ride their extreme zipline that’ll give an aerial view of the waterfalls. But then again, mishaps also don’t miss this time. The zipline opens at 9 AM and we don’t have the luxury of time to wait. Once again, our adventure souls were crushed by the situation. Despite these all, we continue to explore the waterfalls in hopes to mend our broken soul. The natural wonders of Lake Sebu do make wonders. Mother Nature never ceases to amuse me. Standing in front of these ethereal creations is all I could ever ask in the universe.
We returned to our homestay after exploring the great waterfalls of Lake Sebu. We had a heartfelt breakfast native to Tboli tribe and then prepared our stuff to embark on our next destination.
Despite all the mishaps, the seemingly unpredictable world may have let me passed some planned main moments but it can never stop my optical organs from longing for and revere in its grandeur amidst the unfavorable times. The perceptual vastness it evokes is undeniably overwhelming with some subtle touches of serendipity. But what I like most about it is its power to make time seem to stand still while marveling its greatness amidst the series of mishaps. No matter how good or bad the day went, rushing is unnecessary — pausing is.
HOW TO GET TO LAKE SEBU
- Via Datu Odin Sinsuat (DOS), Maguindanao: From Cotabato City Airport, ride a habal-habal to the highway or direct to Cotabato City. Take a bus/van (P150.00-P200.00) from there bound for Isulan, Sultan Kudarat. Travel time is more or less than 1.5 hours. Take another bus/van (P60.00) from Isulan bound for Surallah, South Cotabato. Travel time is 1 hour. And lastly, take a van (P40.00) bound for Lake Sebu, South Cotabato. Travel time is 30 minutes.
- Via land travel: From General Santos City or Davao City or any neighboring provinces, take a bus or a van (P85.00-P150.00) bound for Koronadal City, South Cotabato (popularly known as Marbel). Travel time is more or less than 1.5 hours. Take another bus/van (P50.00) from Marbel bound for Surallah, South Cotabato. Travel time is 30 minutes. And lastly, take a van (P40.00) bound for Lake Sebu, South Cotabato. Travel time is 30 minutes.
SAMPLE ITINERARY WITH EXPENSES
This sample itinerary is based on our actual logs during our SOCCSKSARGEN trip which is the continuation of our Chasing Mosque. (See the whole itinerary HERE!) Souvenirs, plane tickets, and other miscellaneous fees not mentioned are excluded.
- 12:20 PM — Bus bound for Surallah, South Cotabato (P60.00)
- 01:20 PM — Bus bound for Lake Sebu (P40.00)
- 02:00 PM — ETA at Lake Sebu. Walk to SLT since it’s just near the van terminal.
- 02:10 PM — ETA at Lake Sebu School of Living Tradition. (P350.00/night/guest)
- 05:00 PM — Lakeside stroll. Took habal-habal to get here (P20.00). Paid entrance fee on the resort (P10.00).
- 06:00 PM — Took habal-habal back to SLT (P20.00).
- 07:00 PM — Dinner (P200.00)
- 09:00 PM — Lights Off
— Next Day —
- 05:00 AM — Wake Up Call
- 06:00 AM — Took habal-habal to Lake Lahit (P50.00/roundtrip)
- 06:40 AM — ETA at 7 Waterfalls. Paid entrance fee (P20.00)
- 08:30 AM — ETD to SLT
- 08:40 AM — Breakfast at SLT (P100). Prep things.
- 09:30 AM — Leaving SLT.
- Please practice LNT principles. Even if Lake Sebu is a well-developed municipality, still, be responsible for disposing of your trash. Let’s help preserve the natural gift of our beautiful planet. I encourage you to be responsible travelers. Please keep Lake Sebu as beautiful as it is today for the next traveler behind you.
- Protect yourself. Bring an umbrella, raincoats and/or rain jackets. The weather is unpredictable especially in Lake Sebu due to its geographical location. Check weather updates prior to the date of transit.
- No to Transportation Rate Scam. There’s a standard rate for habal-habal where the public terminal as their point of reference. Below are the rates to any destination not beyond Lake Sebu. Be wary of this. Check also their Pakyaw System Destination. For me, this is a very good deal if you want to go to several spots in Lake Sebu.
- Where to stay? Lake Sebu School of Living Tradition (SLT). I really really want to recommend this to you guys. You should at least try and live a Tboli way. Maria Todi and all other staffs are very accommodating. This homestay is very affordable, it won’t hurt your wallet. Contact them through these numbers: 09066345367 / 09354569359. Or reach them via facebook page: Lake Sebu School of Living Traditions.
- Wake up early. Sunrise in Lake Sebu especially by the lake is so stunning. Waterlilies also at full bloom during the morning. Zipline opens on 9 AM.
- ENJOY YOUR VISIT! Pull off a memorable experience in visiting the natural wonders of Lake Sebu.