DIY: 24 Hours in Lake Sebu South Cotabato

falls 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.


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

Hegelung tboli

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


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.

Bob Nowong, A Must Visit Restaurant in Lake Sebu

Where to eat in Lake Sebu

When I asked my new-found Tboli friends where’s the best place to eat in Lake Sebu, they immediately suggested Bob Nowong.

Located in Purok Rosas and just few minutes habal-habal ride from Lake Sebu landmark, Bob Nowong is undoubtedly the most popular restaurant in Lake Sebu.  Unlike dining in various Lake Sebu resorts, this restaurant is unique as it is the only Lake Sebu dining destination in a non resort setting.

“Bob” in Tboli means “pond” and Nowong is from the word “Owong” which means a traditional Tboli boat.

Bob Nowong entrance

I was surprised to see the restaurant’s entrance. I did not actually expect that there is such restaurant in Lake Sebu. The ambiance reminds me of high-end restos in Tagaytay.

restaurant south cotabato
The high-end feel in Bob Nowong

The restaurant has 2 floors. There is a mini recreational area in the first floor where guests can play billiards and darts while enjoying beer or coffee. Since we came there a bit late, I was unable to take photos of Bob Nowong’s ground floor.

Bob Nowong staff

On the second floor, we were welcomed by the friendly and accommodating staff.

Where to eat in Lake Sebu

I was amazed by the overall look of the restaurant. Who would have thought that there is an expensive looking restaurant right in the middle of the laid back Lake Sebu?

Bob Nowong Lake Sebu restaurant

Apart from the beautifully arranged fixtures, this restaurant also has a garden area. Again, I’m guilty of not being able to take photos of the garden.

with Ms.Anne Bob Nowing owner
From left: Ms.Ann (Bob Nowong owner), Larry, Maricel

My new found Tboli friends Larry and Maricel know the owner of Bob Nowong. Maricel requested if we can dine in the more private and romantic garden area. The very welcoming and kind Ms.Anne did not hesitate and she immediately had our table set-up in the garden.

Bob Nowong food
Our dinner (Just ignore the “More” cigarette pack, there are no Marlboros in Lake Sebu sari-sari stores lol)

We ordered Chicharon Tilapia (240 Php), Crispy Pata (390 Php), Sizzling Squid(190 Php), Yangchao rice platter (120 Php), Passion fruit calamsi juice (40 Php each) and Bob Nowong’s signature desert (50 Php).

When the waitress started serving our orders, I was totally surprised by the generous amount of serving! One dish is actually good for 4 persons.

I should say that Bob Nowong’s foods are delicious! It was actually my first time to eat chicharon Tilapia and fell in love with it! Bob Nowong’s high-end ambiance matches the quality of the food it offers.

Bob Nowong Menu

Bob Nowong Menu 3

Bob Nowong Menu 2

Bob Nowong Menu 1

Overall, Bob Nowong is truly a must visit restaurant in Lake Sebu. At night, it has this cozy and romantic feel that no other Lake Sebu resort-restos can offer. With their generous servings,  this restaurant’s delicious and quality foods are reasonably priced. And not to mention, customer service is superb too!



Lake Sebu Resorts and Accommodations

Tboli accommodation at Mountail log lake sebu

If you are planning to visit the municipality of Lake Sebu in South Cotabato, there are actually 11 Lake Sebu resorts and accommodations you can choose from.

11 Lake Sebu resorts and accommodations:

1. Punta Isla Lake Resort

This is probably the most popular resort in Lake Sebu. According to T’boli locals, this resort offers the best view of the lake and is the most beautiful among all the resorts in Lake Sebu.

Best resort in Lake Sebu
Entrance of Punta Isla Lake Resort
Punta Isla in Lake Sebu
Punta Isla

Unfortunately, Punta Isla was fully booked when I visited Lake Sebu (Too bad I did not reserve ahead of time). I asked the reception if I can walk around the resort instead. With a minimal fee of 30Php, I was able to have a quick day tour inside Punta Isla.

The room rate for a matrimonial room is 1,500 Php.

Reasons to stay here: Beautiful view of the lake, cultural presentations for the guests

Punta Isla Resort Online booking here.

2. Mountain Lake Eco Resort

Among the four resorts I’ve visited , this is the farthest and most secluded resort in Lake Sebu.  It is also the biggest Lake Sebu resort in terms of land area.

mountain lake eco resort lake sebu south cotabato

Tboli accommodation at Mountail log lake sebu
T’boli house accommodation in Mountain Lake Eco Resort
View from mountain log resort lake sebu
View of the lake from a Tboli accommodation in Mountain Lake Eco Resort

Reasons to stay here:  Experience staying in a T’boli house accommodation. The resort is spacious.

Mountain Lake Eco Resort rooms and rates:

Family Villa (3 pax) – 1,200 Php – comes with hot and cold shower

Twin bed villa (2 pax) – 1,000 Php – comes with hot and cold shower

King size bed villa (2 pax) – 800 Php – comes with hot and cold shower

family room (6 pax) – 1,500 Php

Twin bed room (2 pax) – 900 Php

King size bed room (2 pax) – 700 Php

Gono Tboli room (7 pax) – 1,600 Php

Mountain Lake Eco Resort contact numbers
+63 9173113071, +63 9189622209

3. Mountain Log Resort

Since Punta Isla was fully booked, I just asked the habal-habal driver to take me to the nearest resort. Few meters away from Punta Isla is the Mountain Log Resort.

According to the locals, if you want to simply relax and enjoy nature, Mountain Log Resort is the best choice in Lake Sebu. Unlike the popular resorts  such as Punta Isla and Montain Lake Eco, Mountain Log resort is simple, quiet and do not get too crowded during peak season.

mountain log resort in lake sebu
Room accommodation in Mountain Log Resort
Lake Sebu view from Mountain Lake resort
View of Lake Sebu on one side of Mountain Log Resort

Reasons to stay here: cheap room rates, quiet surroundings

Mountain Log Resort rooms and rates:

Ordinary room (2 pax) – 750 Php

Standard room (2 pax) – 1,000 Php – comes with hot and cold shower

Room with terrace (2 pax) – 1,200 Php

2 double deck room (4 pax) – 950 Php

Mountain Log Resort contact number

+63 9266295640

4. Sunrise Garden Lake Resort

Among the resorts I’ve visited. Sunrise Lake is the only resort with a swimming pool. This Lake Sebu resort has a modern feel. Perhaps due to the all concrete rooms they have.

Lake sebu accommodation with pool
Swimming pool at Sunrise Garden Lake Resort
Lake Sebu resorts
Dine in cottages facing the lake

Reasons to stay here: You get to dine in a cottage that is very near to the lake. You get to see locals in owong boats while dining. Food is good too!

Sunrise Resort rooms and rates:

Matrimonial – 800 Php

Standard (4 pax) – 950 Php

Superior (4 pax) – 1,650 Php – airconditioned and comes with 2 complimentary breakfast, hot and cold shower

Family (6 to 8 pax) – 1,800 Php

Sunrise Garden Lake Resort Online booking here.

Sunrise Garden Lake Resort contact number

+63 9175567763

Below are the rest of Lake Sebu resorts and accommodations:

5. Lemobung Lodge/Resto

6. Monte Cielo

7. Merl Garden Spring Resort

8. Dolores Lake Resort – Online booking here

9. Tolento Lodge and Restaurant

10. El Galong Resort – Online booking here.

11. Nadines

If you are visiting Lake Sebu, do not expect posh hotels with high end facilities. This definitely sets Lake Sebu apart from any other summer destinations in the Philippines. In Lake Sebu, you get up close to nature and experience the rich culture and heritage of the Tboli tribe.

How to Get to Lake Sebu from Manila, Davao or Gen San

kids owong boats lake sebu

Lake Sebu is pegged as South Cotabato’s summer and eco-cultural center. If you are planning to visit this beautiful and unique South cotabato municipality, here is the quick guide on how to get to get there:

The nearest airport going to Lake Sebu is General Santos city airport. Flight from Manila to General Santos city is approximately 2 hours. Alternatively, you may also take a Davao flight from Manila with an approximate travel time of 1 hour and 35 minutes.

If you are coming from General Santos city airport, skip step number 1.

1. Davao airport to Koronadal, South Cotabato

Davao airport philippines
Davao International Airport
From Davao’s Francisco Bangoy International airport, take a cab to Ecoland bus terminal. Cab fare is approximately 200 Php to 250 Php and travel time is approximately 30 minutes.

ecoland bus terminal in davao
Ecoland Bus Terminal, Davao City
Once you reach the Ecoland bus terminal, there are a number of bus classes going to General Santos City. If you want to save time, executive buses can take you to General Santos in 2.5 hours. These buses come with toilet, free wifi and do not have any stopovers. Executive bus fare is 300 Php. Alternatively, you can take other buses with cheaper fares but they stops more often and will approximately bring you to General Santos city in 3 to 4 hours.

2. Geneneral Santos to Koronadal, South Cotabato

General santos City bus terminal to Koronadal
Eusebio Bulaong Public Terminal, General Santos City
The bus from Davao to Gen San will drop you off at Eusebio Bulaong public terminal. From there, take a bus to Koronadal, South Cotabato.  Bus fare is 90 Php and travel time is approximately 45 minutes to 1 hour.

If you are coming from General Santos airport, head to Eusebio Bulaong bus terminal.

3. Koronadal to Lake Sebu

The bus from Gen San will drop you off at Koronadal City bus terminal. From there, just walk few meters to Denmark terminal and hop to a van going to Lake Sebu. Van costs 80 Php and travel time is approximately 30 minutes to 45 minutes.

Surallah landmark
Surallah landmark
The van will pass Surallah, South Cotabato’s agri-industrial municipality.

Welcome to Lake Sebu

The van will drop you off at Lake Sebu’s landmark. From there, a number of habal habal are waiting to drive you to any part of Lake Sebu.

Lake Sebu landmark
Lake Sebu landmark
On the van going to Lake Sebu, I was lucky to get to know these very friendly, welcoming and accommodating Lake Sebu Locals (Gretchelle, Larry and Maricel) which also happen to be members of the rich in culture T’boli tribe.

Given that you have taken non-stop buses, the total travel time from Davao  is approximately 4.5 hours to 5.5 hours. Total fare would be 720 Php.

If you are traveling from General Santos City, travel time is approximately 2.5 hours to 3 hours. Total fare is 180 Php.

kids owong boats lake sebu
Lake Sebu