South Cotabato (Part 2 of 3) – Lake Sebu
October 2014 – After the fun night of singing and dancing, we were ready to discover the rest of South Cotabato. We started our day early to catch the sunrise over Lake Sebu.
That day, I was awoken by the sound of rustling leaves and chirping birds. It was a cool, breezy morning, and I felt like the day was full of promise. Our habal-habal drivers (led by Kuya Mark Meyen, 09752705199) arrived at around 6 AM, so we had to skip breakfast. Our drivers whisked us to a high point that overlooked the lake. Then, we zipped across beautiful hilly landscapes to get a closer view of Lake Sebu at Punta Isla Resort. On the way back, Kuya Mark brought us to the T’boli Museum, a small traditional T’boli house with a few trinkets and artifacts. (My friends bought a few beaded accessories there. Make sure to visit it when you can, it’s interesting.)
We made a quick trip back to SIKAT, where we had a filling breakfast of fried rice, egg, and fried eggplant. After an hour, we were back on the road, zigzagging our way to the Seven Falls of Lake Sebu, a nature park with, er, seven waterfalls. We went on a quick trip down to Falls No. 1 and 2 (I forgot to ask why they called it that. Probably for the benefit of tourists.)
After marveling at the simple beauty of Falls No. 2, we went to one of the most unforgettable parts of our trip: the highest zip line in Southeast Asia! I’m not fond of heights (I would never fly if taking the bus were an option), but all my friends were excited about it, so I had no choice but to join them. Good thing I did – it was absolutely amazing. For about 40 seconds, we glided above hundreds of acres of lush forests, and we saw a glimpse of 3 out of the 7 falls in the nature park, and a breathtaking rainbow. (Though I had no choice but to trust the equipment and ignore the screeching and hissing of the ropes.)
(After we finished the first leg of the zip line, we had to wait for about half an hour at the platform where we had to jump off for the second zip line. One of the employees had to power up a generator, which he needed for his PC. He needed to ask us which of our photos should he print. It’s depressing to see for the first time how serious the energy crisis in Mindanao was.)
We rested for a bit and had buttered corn before we set off again. Next stop was Lang Dulay’s workshop, where we saw rolls and rolls of beautiful t’nalak and their weavers.
Unfortunately, Lang Dulay was not home; she was away to see a doctor for her regular check-up (she’s 98 years old, according to them). In any case, her apprentices were happy to answer all our questions. They even showed us the process of making t’nalak — from the backstrap loom to what they call “pagpaplantsa,” where they scrub the woven cloth with a cowrie shell to give it that distinct shimmer that I so love in t’nalak.
After we bought some souvenir, our kuya habal-habal drivers drove us back to Bob Nowong, where we had some more tilapia and seafood. We also tried their chopsuey, which I find to be pricey but good.
We had a long ride ahead of us, so we went back to pack our bags and say goodbye to the people at SIKAT. If there’s something that I regret about this trip, it’s that we only spent a night here in SIKAT. I felt like a tourist, which is not exactly a good feeling. I wish I could have stayed longer so that I could learn all that I can about the t’nalak, the stories of the T’boli as a people, their songs, dances, epics, and chants.
I’ll definitely be back to spend more than a week in Lake Sebu to do just that.