DIY: 24 Hours in Lake Sebu South Cotabato

Lake Sebu is a natural lake located in the municipality of Lake Sebu in South Cotabato.  Apart from its significance in the irrigation system of Southern Mindanao, with its serene atmosphere and relaxing views, Lake Sebu is becoming one of the tourist attraction in region.

Quick facts about the municipality of Lake Sebu:

  • With a population of 85,000,  60% of Lake Sebu inhabitants are T’bolis followed by other indigenous tribes such as Tirurays and Ubos.  In this Mindanao municipality, surprisingly enough, 26% of the inhabitants are Ilonggos.
  • With a surface area of 356 hectares,  Lake Sebu is largest lake in the municipality. The other two are Lake Siloton (48 hectares) and Lake Lahit (24 hectares).
  • The municipality has 12 islets and the largest of which is isla Tbowow, a crocodile shaped islet.
  • Elevated at approximately 1,000 meters above sea level, Lake Sebu can be as cool as 23 °C during night-time. With this, Lake Sebu is pegged as the summer destination in Southern Mindanao.

Looking back on my failed Western Visayas trip where I was only able to visit 3 provinces in 5 days (Iloilo, Capiz and Aklan), I challenged myself again to visit 3 Southern Mindanao provinces in 4 days – Lake Sebu, Davao and South Cotabato.

Journey from Davao to Lake Sebu

Since I flew from Manila to Davao, I had to travel from Davao City to Lake Sebu by land. I left Davao city at around 8 AM and arrived in Lake Sebu at 2 PM. It was definitely a long and tiring travel but the journey was worth it. Please visit my separate post on how to get to Lake Sebu from Manila, Davao or Gensan.

Day 1 – Afternoon

Right before setting my foot to Lake Sebu, I met Maricel, Larry and Anna in the Denmark van terminal where vans from Surralah are headed to Lake Sebu. They were very welcoming and accommodating that we became instant friends while waiting for the van to leave for Lake Sebu.

Lake Sebu Landmark

Anna, Larry and Maricel at Lake Sebu Landmark

My new-found Tboli friends hurriedly showed me lake Sebu’s landmark which features the municipality mayor. The landmark is relatively new as it was completed last 2015.

After taking photos of the landmark, Maricel looked for a habal-habal driver to bring me to Punta Isla Resort. Fare from the landmark to Punta Isla is only 10 Php.

Punta Isla Resort Day Tour

Based on blog and tripadvisor reviews, Punta Isla is the best resort in Lake Sebu. When I arrived at Punta Isla, there was an ongoing retreat of high-school students and all rooms were occupied. Since I did not have any reservations, I just asked the receptionist If I can stroll and check the resort. With only 30 entrance, I was allowed to get inside the beautiful Punta Isla.

hotel in lake sebu

View of the lake

Hotel in lake sebu cotabato

punta isla resort lake sebu philippines

After spending  an hour checking on Punta Isla, I asked a habal-habal driver to bring me to the nearest accommodation. He brought me Mountain Log Resort. Fare from Punta Isla to Mountail Log is only 10 Php.

Check-in at Mountain Log Resort

I was a bit disappointed since I really wanted to stay at Punta Isla and I was clueless about Mountain Log resort. I haven’t actually seen it in photos or read reviews about.

Since I was alone, the supposedly 900 Php twin bed room was discounted to 800 Php. Thanks to the very kind and welcoming staff of the resort!

mountain log resort room

To my surprise the rooms at Mountain log are literally few meters away from the lake! The room was not something to rave about. Nonetheless, the serene and peaceful surroundings compensate to the simple and plain accommodations in the resort.

Lake Sebu South Cotabato

View of the lake in Mountain Log Resort

I soon learned from Larry and his friend (who happens to be one of the resort’s staff) that most foreign visitors stay in this resort. Compared to other resorts/accommodation in Lake Sebu which at times get too crowded, Mountain Log resort is ideal to those who want a more private and peaceful stay in Lake Sebu.

mountain log resort lake sebu

View from my room window

It was so relaxed that I spent the entire afternoon in the resort enjoying the views and watching locals paddling their Owing boats. It was truly a unique experience to witness how simple life is in Lake Sebu.

Day 1 – Evening

Dinner at a beautiful Lake Sebu Restaurant

I made sure that I get to dine in the best restaurant in Lake Sebu. Since Punta Isla was fully booked, the receptionist advised that they may not accommodate me for dinner.

I asked Larry and Maricel instead where is the best place to eat in area, they did not hesitate to suggest Bob Nowong.

Where to eat in Lake Sebu

Sometimes the best way to experience new places is by getting to know its locals. While having dinner, Maricel and Larry shared stories about Tbolis’ heritage and culture. I must say that it was one of the memorable and meaningful dinner I ever had during my solo travels. That night I returned to the resort with deep appreciation of the indigenous people particularly the T’bolis.

For my review of Bob Nowong restaurant, please visit my separate post – Bob Nowong, a must visit restaurant in Lake Sebu.

Day 2 – Morning

Larry was so kind that he arranged a habal-habal and literaly toured me around. I learned that he used to be a tourist guide in Lake Sebu and offered to tour me for free! I just paid 600 Php  for the habal-habal service to visit all the places during the second-half of my stay in Lake Sebu.

I informed Larry of my plan to leave Lake Sebu after lunch as I was planning to visit Gumasa in Glan Sarangani in the afternoon.  Due to the limited time, I had to be selective of the places to visit and just asked for Larry’s expertise.

Breakfast at Mountain Log Resort

mountain log resort restaurant

Mountain Log Resort restaurant

 

I invited Larry and Onyok (habal-habal driver) to join me for breakfast. After having a clubhouse and 2 cups of coffee, we started touring Lake Sebu. With a limited time, below are the places we were able to visit the entire day:

Lemobung Lodge Visit

We first visited Lemobung Lodge, a government-owned resort in Lake Sebu. According to Larry, Lemobung lodge has the cheapest rates in Lake Sebu.

Lemobung lodge lake sebu

Lemobung Lodge

2 islets lake sebu mindanao

View of the 2 Lake Sebu islets from Lemobung Lodge

 

Mountain Lake Eco-Resort Visit

Apart from Bob Nowong,  Mountain Lake Eco-Resort’s restaurant is frequently visited by the tourists.

mountain lake eco resort mindanao

Tboli accommodation in Mountain Lake Eco-resort

Please visit my separate blog post on Lake Sebu resorts and Accommodations.

COWHED

After visiting 2 resorts, Larry told me that we are heading to COWHED. I initially thought of cow head. I’m not an animal lover but literally seeing cow heads  does not sound fun to me. As in ulo ng kalabaw I asked Larry. He immediately responded hindi po sir.. cooperative po siya. To my relief, I said okay punta na tayo dun.

COWHED or  Cooperative of Women in Health and Development is an organization that promotes Lake Sebu’s arts and crafts. The Tboli house inspired store of COWHED is a must visit if you want to check out Tboli items and buy souvenirs for your Lake Sebu tour.

According to Larry, all Tboli items in COWHED are crafted and made by the Tbolis from various baranggays in Lake Sebu.

cowhed lake sebu philippines

The welcoming Tboli COWHED members

I was lucky that I’m being toured by Larry. Apart from the beautiful Tboli items at the COWHED souvenir shop, he explained the significance and use of almost all of the Tboli items in the store. He even showed me how to play several Tboli instruments.

sludoy tboli musical instrument

Larry playing “Sludoy”

Sludoy is a 5-string zither made of Bamboo.

kumbing musical instrument

Kumbing

Kumbing is a bamboo mouth harp. According to Larry, this is used by Tbolis to call spirits to get the moonlight back.

Hegelung tboli

Hegelung

This Tboli instrument is a a two stringed boat lute used by Tibolis on different occasions and gatherings.

tboli dress philippines

Tboli traditional dress

tboli necklaces

Tboli necklaces

One among the many traditional Tboli arts is jewelry making. These colorful necklaces are made from beads.

brass bells mindanao culture

Tboli brass bells

Tbolis use brass bells to drive away bad spirits.

Visit Tboli Museum

Just few minutes away from COWHED is the Tboli museum. This traditional Tboli house turned museum is originally owned by Bai Baay. The museum showcases the rich culture of the Tboli tribe, the indigenous people of Lake Sebu.

Tboli museum philippines

Gongs or Klintang in Tboli or Kulintang in Magandunauan

The gongs are indication of Tboli’s passion for music and the craft of brass casting.

place to visit south cotabato

Typical Tboli Kitchen

The entrance of a T’boli house faces the kitchen. This is to show visitors how accommodating and welcoming T’bolis are.

native house tboli

The hanging gongs (Klintang), T’nalak (traditional Tboli cloth),  traditional Tboli attire.

Interestingly enough, the windows of a Tboli house is awning-type. They are opened and serve as shelves during daytime.

There are many priceless items in Tboli museum, each of which has a story about the heritage and culture of Tibolis. Entrance fee in Tboli museum is only 10 Php.

Lunch at Sunrise Garden Resort

After touring 2 resorts and having a cultural tour in COWHED and Tboli museum, we headed to Sunrise Garden resort for lunch.

restaurant by the lake

Dining area at Sunrise Garden

A unique dining experience awaits guests as open cottages are situated by the lake.

sunrise garden restaurant lake sebu philippines

Chicharon Tilapia

Having tasted Chicharon Tilapia in Bob Nowong, I made sure to order this delicious Lake Sebu delicacy for our lunch.

Owong boats lake sebu

View while having lunch

Seeing the kids on their Owong boats is truly a unique dining experience!

lake sebu drink

Cheers!

 

Day 2 – Afternoon

Visit Bundos Fara

I once watched Sir Bundos Fara on a national TV documentary. He is one of the few artisans of Lake Sebu who still practices the art of brass making. I was intrigued by his story and the dying brass making tradition of Lake Sebu. I requested Larry and our habal-habal driver if we could drop by at Sir Bundos’ place.

Brass Casting South Cotabato

The moment we arrived, we were greeted by Sir Bundos. “Sayang kahapon nagbabrass-casting ako” he said.

Bundos Fara Lake Sebu

Aith Sir Bundos Fara

I was a bit saddened not to see him brass casting, however, I felt his excitement when I mentioned that I saw him on TV and just want to drop by. He immeditely went inside his house, after few minutes he went back with a plastic containing some of his works.

brass casting lake sebu

Using the traditional way of brass casting, a piece of intricate and beautiful brass casted item can take up to 2 days to create.

Bundos fara creation

brass casted bracelet

Sir Bundos told me that craftsmen usually place their names on their works. Someone from Manila ordered this particular piece.

Brass Casting lake sebu blog

Here’s where Sir Bundos Fara makes his work of art

 

Visit 7 Falls

Apart from the relaxing and scenic view of Lake Sebu, this municipality is famous for its 7 falls. Located in Baranggay Lake Seloton, this tourist attraction is just few minutes habal-habal ride from Lake Sebu’s resorts and accommodations.

falls lake sebu south cotabato

The first of the series of seven falls is the 35ft waterfalls “Hikong Alo”.

I learned from my newly found Tboli friend that only 2 of the 7 falls can be reached by foot. Visitors who want to see the rest of the falls could hike or simply enjoy the falls from a zipline point of view.

zipline lake sebu south cotabatoSadly, since I was pressed of time, I opted not to take the zipline due to the long queue of tourists in line. I would definitely try this on my next visit to Lake Sebu.

Lake Sebu 7 Falls Entrance fee
Adult 20 Php
Senior Citizen 15 Php
Students 10 Php
Children 5 Php

Lake Sebu 7 Falls Zipline Fee
300 on weekdays
350 on weekends

There are many things to do and places to visit in Lake Sebu. Sadly, I only allotted 24 hours for my Lake Sebu DIY tour. I could have stayed longer but I have to stick with my plan that I had to skip other tourist spots in this beautiful Southern Mindanao municipality. I promised myself that I would definitely visit again as there are still many items on my Lake Sebu to do list.

Comments

One Armed Wanderer

An IT Operations analyst by profession, Ed started solo traveling last year when his friends (who used to be his travel buddies) started settling down. Born with a short left arm, it did not hinder him to continue traveling and exploring the Philippines. He may have limitations but he is using what was given to him.. feet to walk and wander. E-Mail: ed@edpuno.com iMessage: ed@edpuno.com

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