I clearly remember taking an examination about the Philippines and some of its attractions way back in high school. It was a type of test where we were asked to match a certain tourist spot to its corresponding province. Seeing Lake Sebu and Cebu among the choices, belonging to different columns, my initial instinct was to pair the two because of how they sounded alike. Although I wasn’t really sure with my answer, I still hoped I would get it right. Of course I didn’t.
It was only when I started working for the tourism industry that I have somehow explored the different, not-so-popular destinations the Philippines has to offer. This list includes Lake Sebu. It was only then when I finally discovered where Lake Sebu really is located. Not only did I learn facts about the place, I was also fortunate enough to be given a chance to explore such beauty.
Lake Sebu is a first-class municipality in South Cotabato, with a population of approximately a hundred thousand. It is a vast land area bounded by a number of mountains and hills surrounded by lush trees of different kinds and various bodies of water. It serves as a home to several tales of nature, a witness to evolution of culture from one generation to another, and lastly a venue of adventure.
One of the municipality’s major eco-tourist destinations is Lake Sebu, having the exact same name as the municipality, with an area of a little over 300 hectares and an elevation of no more than 3,500 feet. It is known for its tranquil charm that draws in someone who is looking for peace and calmness in a place. It lets one gain a sense of contentment because of the authenticity felt by just simply looking at the lake. I have personally experienced these things. Despite the chaos back in the city, I suddenly had this feeling of stillness inside me during my stay in Lake Sebu. I started appreciating the little things more. It made me see the good in the bad, and let me remember that there are definitely more pleasant things in life than all the struggles being faced. Lake Sebu made me realize that nature will always have its way of getting into you, bringing you back to where you came from, free from all the unwelcomed negativity, and making you feel like you’re finally home again.
Another noteworthy experience in Lake Sebu is learning from and actually getting involved in some of the customs and traditions of the T’boli, an indigenous tribe which can be found in various areas of South Cotabato. This may be done through simply revisiting a traditional home of a T’boli, hearing them play their music on their native instruments, wearing their customary dresses even for just a photo opportunity, eating the dishes they would delightly have on their tables, watching the dream weavers work hard on the T’nalak, a traditional cloth with designs woven based on dreams and the list goes on. These things have given me not just a glimpse, but a total understanding of how rich the T’boli culture is. It made me see the way they live with fresh new eyes, on a different perspective. It also made me realize why immersing oneself in another’s way of life is important when wandering to a new place.
The story doesn’t just stop there. Aside from nature and culture combined, Lake Sebu also proudly offers adventure, completing the package of three. A watershed, comprising of seven different waterfalls, came from the outflows of the lake automatically became an attraction because of its natural appeal and sense of thrill. One waterfall is already exciting enough, what more the seven waterfalls you would discover in one area? It offers a variety of activities the visitors can choose from but mainly highlights adventure through a 600-feet high zip line. It was built so that the seven waterfalls can be experienced from up above which is quite similar to flying. It will give you more opportunity of appreciating every bit of the view and boost the excitement to the highest level. It was my first time to try a zip line ever but I willingly rode it, without having any second thoughts and fears at all. True enough, I was able to enjoy the beauty of the seven falls more and instantly fell in love with what my eyes saw. It was both liberating and satisfying at the same time.
The trip to Lake Sebu was indeed worth taking and exploring, even though for some it may not even ring a bell. A mixture of nature, culture and adventure, Lake Sebu certainly has its own incomparable charm that makes it a must-visit destination. There will always be some places you visit which will leave a mark on you and I must say, Lake Sebu is definitely one of those.
Photographed by Paul Quiambao