Learn, eat, fly in Lake Sebu

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Sunday, February 23, 2014

WAS there ever a time when you feel bored and you wanted to do other things because you have been doing the same things every day? Was there ever a time when you just wanted to explore because you have missed the truth that the world is so big and you are just confined in one place almost all the time?

Probably all you need is a break. Something that can lift your spirits up or perhaps something that can make you do crazy and weird things. Or perhaps you just want to take a walk, breathe some fresh air, and catch some dragonflies.

It was just so timely that Lake Sebu came in the picture when I just wanted something new to explore.


I have heard about Lake Sebu several times but I never had the chance to see it. I just heard it was far from Davao City and there was nothing really spectacular except for the lake. Not until I was there with the whole batch of the third year Masscom students of Ateneo de Davao University on February 15.

Lake Sebu in South Cotabato is a five-hour drive from Davao City if you are riding a private vehicle via General Santos City. You will reach Sulop, Davao del Sur, the end of Region 11 in the travel, in two hours and another hour to GenSan passing by Malungon, which is a part of Sarangani province.

By then you know you are in the lands of South Cotabato and you will pass by Polomolok, Tupi, Koronadal City, Banga, Surallah. It will take you another two hours from these places before you reach Lake Sebu.

At first, you will doubt if you can go home alive and complete the trip because of the news stories about war and encounters in Cotabato.

But just like the misperception about Mindanao as a war-zone area where, in fact, only a small portion of the island suffers war, South Cotabato is not a dangerous place after all.

The roads are smooth except for the rock-strewn areas going up Lake Sebu. You can see people stare in awe as the big Ateneo bus passes by.

At first glance, Lake Sebu is just like any rustic place that you have gone to – forest-like, houses made of amakan, rocky roads.

But it’s worth a second glance. And for that second look, you will realize that the lake has captured your soul.

A natural lake that supplies important irrigation to the provinces of Sultan Kudarat and South Cotabato, Lake Sebu’s nature has natural powers of reviving strength and revitalizing peace of mind.

You can rejuvenate in Lake Sebu. You can hear the waterfalls roar in the stillness of the forest; you can feel the wind blow in the radiance of placid meadows, you can see the sun glimmer in the quiescence of the lake.

In Lake Sebu, it is not all about reconnecting with nature. You may also learn from the 3Ts that the locals proudly share – Tilapia, T’boli, T’nalak.

The economy there is based on aquaculture of tilapia grown in large fish cages floating in the lake. So you can just imagine your sumptuous tilapia meal either grilled, fried, or served in chicharon style.

Its T’boli Museum in an original T’boli house is the home of agung (musical instrument) in different sizes and collection of antiques and artefacts where their culture is loved and preserved until today.

The famous t’nalak, a traditional hand-woven cloth made of Abaca fibers, is the pride of the T’boli tribe. The T’boli people even believe that the t’nalak has spirits and they choose people who will weave the cloth. Accordingly, if one pushes to weave despite not being chosen gets sick.

But it’s not all about the 3Ts in Lake Sebu, the highest zipline in Southeast Asia is found right in the center of its preserved forest.

It’s only through riding the zipline that one can see the four of the famous seven falls of Lake Sebu namely Hikong Bente, Hikong Blebed, Hikong Lowig, and Hikong K’foi. Hikong Alu, the first falls, is the starting point of the zip line.

The acrophobic (one who fears heights) in me started to spark off when I knew that the zipline is 600 meters above the ground. Knowing that one would be crossing the rope twice for a 700 and 400 meters long added fuel to the fire.

At first, I cannot imagine myself crossing one tip of the mountain to another by just that single rope hanging in between. Although I knew it would be safe because no one, so far, had fallen, the idea of flying with a harness is still dreadful.

But since my students challenged me to face my fear and the idea that it is a once-in-a-lifetime chance to see many waterfalls at one time, I surrendered to the call.

And surrendering was the sweetest victory.

I was literally flying with a harness while battling my fear but the cold wind up the air and the view from the top were greater than my fears.

Up there, I could do nothing but praise God for the wonders of His creations. Our Kindergarten teacher was right when she taught us God made all things bright and beautiful.

As I glided while battling my fear, I remembered Jonathan Livingston Seagull when he was learning to fly. The wisest gull told him that “The secret is to begin by knowing that you have already arrived.”

And so I did.

A Lake Sebu experience encapsulates three things - we learn to appreciate their tribe, we get to eat appetizing tilapia, and we can see God’s beautiful creation from above.

Published in the Sun.Star Davao newspaper on February 23, 2014.


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