SOUTH COTABATO | Lake Sebu and the T’Boli

It was like a field of dreams while my eyes were wide open to the idea that I am still in my chosen reality. The bloom of the pink lotus seems like a promise of a magical experience beyond my imagination and comprehension, yet very simple to remember the feelings. Lake Sebu was on my radar for a long time. Before we even step foot on the place, a discouragement was meant to discount the idea of even proceeding with the plan. Mindanao was still and is still under martial law so to speak. But our hearts are bigger than the threats brought by insurgency, terrorism and community violence.

The quick weekend in Lake Sebu was a blissful memory packed by a joyous heart and a calm soul. 

My heart was joyful and celebrating because we did not encounter any mishap along the way. All that we encountered was a pool of locals (T’bolis) embracing tourism in the most hospitable way not overcharging everything. They are just happy that they earn from tourists visiting Lake Sebu. They will all smile when you greet them in the most genuine way. This trip reminds me of my solo visit to the Northern Town of Burma, Hsipaw, where everyone is just so nice and true.

Even though our visit was very short, it gave our soul a retreat.  If I will repeat the feeling again, I will beg to all gods to bring me back to Lake Sebu. By merely looking into its the vast calm lakes, my lids widen like a spotlight showing its rays. The light was on me when I caught the sound of the lakes - and the waterfalls, the moment its tiny current touched my feet or moved our boat, when the fresh air brought by the habal-habal affected my inner sense and when I grasp the warm hug of the locals through their genuine smile. It is not the best you can immagne but its calming – good for the soul.  

When we arrived in Lake Sebu we were greeted by a pool of habal-habal drivers offering us to take us to a place where to can create memories. They quickly showed a board where they listed the possible places for us to visit together with a universal tariff all tourism stakeholders can hold-on too. Of course, as expected we ceded to the standards of the community and we never felt betrayed by it. Everyone has a sense of the perfectly created way to make the tourists happy. I must say, we were happy with what they have done.

We decided to lock ourselves in the resort I booked beforehand and enjoy the sceneries surrounding it. There we ordered some local delicacies while our eyes were plastered on the horizon watching the calming view of Lake Seloton, one of the three lakes in Lake Sebu (the other 2 are of course Lake Sebu and Lake Lahit). 

Heartache in T'Boli Museum
We did go out that afternoon to just see the town and visit some of its attraction. Our first stop was the T’boli Museum which unfortunately was closed. The caretaker had to attend to some errands thus leaving us with no choice but to come back the next day. 

T’Boli Museum, I learned is privately owned by a local which happens to have a vast collection of items worthy to be museum display. In my humble opinion, T’boli Museum needs help to be dignified as a "museum". It's good that we keep the authenticity of how T’boli’s lives but by the looks of it, it seems that one blow of strong storm could make the whole cultural landmark vanish.

Lang Dulay Weaving Center
Lang Dulay was awarded by the National Commission for Culture and Arts the prestigious Gawad Manlilikha ng Bayan in 1998 for her contribution to her society and to our arts and culture. She formed her society by teaching the younger generation how to weave. The patters and arts of the abaca textile they are weaving came from Lang Dulay’s dreams thus they are called Dream Weavers.

Lang Dulay is no longer with us, but her works and dreams are still being weaved by her students. We’ve had the chance to meet them in the Lang Dulay Weaving Center and we saw how they are still weaving treasures like Lang Dulay does when she was still alive.    

The Magical Experience in Lake Sebu
The next day, we woke up early to see Lake Sebu, the lake, at its finest hour. One must be there early in the morning to witness the bloom of the lotus flowers and to avoid the flock of other tourists. 

For Php100 per person, we (together with our tour guide/habal-habal driver) were able to paddle our way in the middle to the lake to see up and close the famous lotus flowers of Lake Sebu. The moment was so magical. It brought us to another world of a blissful moment while still being reminded that we are still on earth - savoring God's magnificent wonder. 

I cannot contain the overflowing joy, I had to stand on the boat, maintain my balance and close my eyes to thank the universe for its kindness and love it poured over us. No, I did not pray for prayer sometimes is an overused word. I stopped and dedicated a moment to free and give in, to be vulnerable to nature and show my love to it. I intend to bless and give in something but in the end, it was nature and God who gave us reassurance. Every pink lotus was a promise of optimism and magical encounter to our future as a traveler and as a couple. 

The feeling was too magical, I had to stop it. Our world needs to be revolving with the means of balance emotion and a forward-looking soul.  We had to paddle back to move one, I mean to our next destination. 

We head on to Evelandia Lake Vista then after that to Divine Mercy Shrine. Both give a stunning view of the town and Lake Sebu but the latter serves as a pilgrimage and religious site for the Christians. 

Just before we head back to General Santos, we made sure to see the 7 Waterfalls of Lake Sebu and experience its more than 1kilometer zip lines. I didn't have any pictures of us in the zip line but what I have is a video :)

Travel Guide

Lake Sebu is in the province of South Cotabato located in the island of Mindanao. To get there from Manila or Cebu you can take a plane to either Davao City or General Santos City or GenSan. Gensan is also part of South Cotabato but its 2 hours away from Lake Sebu. So, to speak, it’s much better to fly to GenSan from either Manila or Cebu if your only destination is Lake Sebu only.

Traveling to Lake Sebu
Traveling to Lake Sebu is not a challenge but it is a long one for those who are not used to sit in a bus or Van for at least 6 hours. From Davao City Ecoland Bus Terminal you can take a bus bound to General Santos City. Buses leave every hour, but I encourage you to leave early to avoid caught us in the traffic. Travel time is about 3-4 hours and it cost Php240.00.

We’ve taken a bus in Davao City that will go straight to Marbel (Koronadal City) which is an hour away from Lake Sebu. But we’ve realized that we still have to change bus in GenSan bound to Marbel so we just took a Van from GenSan to LakeSebu instead. 

Places to Visit in Lake Sebu

Since Lake Sebu is a tourism hub in the south, the local government developed a lot of areas to served as tourist spot. They have organized people to welcome tourist in the most hospitable and standard way. A whole day tour in Lake Sebu will cost you Php750 for 2 persons and a half day tour will cost you Php500.00. These fees exclude the entrance fees for each attraction.

The main attraction though in Lake Sebu, in my opinion, are the lakes where you can do boating and experience the lotus flowers, the 7 Falls and the Zipline which by the way has a very reasonable price and lastly the Lang Dulay Weaving Center. P.S.  I think Lang Dulay is the living soul of Lake Sebu. She is the reason why Lake Sebu is known to us, at least in my humble opinion as a blogger 😊

Lake Sebu (boating) – Php100/head
7 Falls (Zipline and sightseeing) – Entrance: Php10.00, Zipline Php350/head (Weekend) and Php300/head (weekdays)
Lang Dulay Weaving Center (Immersion) – Donation Only
T’Boli Museum (Culture) – Php20.00
Evelandia Lake Vista (Sightseeing) – Php60.00
Divine Mercy Shrine (pilgrimage and sightseeing) – Donation only
Brass Casting – Free
Punta Isla Lake Resort (Food and Cultural) – Tip to the T’boli Cultural Performers only

Sample Itinerary with Budget for 2 pax
Day 1
6:00AM – Departure from Davao Ecoland Terminal – Php480
9:30AM – Departure from GenSan via Van – Php300
11:30AM – Arrival in Lake Sebu/ Proceed to Hotel – Php30.00
2:00PM – Hotel Check-in Sunrise Garden Lake Resort – Php 1,500 for 1 night
12:30PM – Lunch at Sunrise Garden Lake Resort – Php500.00
1:00PM – Rest. Enjoy the Resort
6:00PM – Dinner at Sunrise Garden Lake Resort 300.00
Day 2
5:30AM – Prepare for the tour
6:00AM – Whole Day Tour – Php750.00
Lake Sebu boat ride – Php200.00
Lang Dulay Weaving Center – Php100.00
Brass Casting
Evelandia Lake Vista – Php60.00
Divine Mercy Shrine – Php50.00
Lake Sebu 7 Falls (Entrance and Zip Line) – Php720.00
T’boli Museum – Php40.00
12:00NN – Lunch at Punta Isla Lake Resort – Php900
                T’boli Cultural Performers – Php200
2:00PM – Departure for General Santos City – Php300
5:00PM – Back to Davao City – Php480.00

Total Expenses – Php6,910.00 for 2 or Php3,455.00 per person.

Videos and Blogs about Lake Sebu

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