Me and my travel buddies: Ting, Doods, and Joy, planned an adventurous Mindanao break away. Doods, a well-traveled dude who spent some time in Surallah, South Cotabato proposed that we include Lake Sebu in our itinerary. Search for great accommodation in Lake Sebu.
At first, I was skeptical as it is a considerable distance from Davao. But after researching online, my doubts cleared and, all of a sudden, Lake Sebu must be our first destination. Experience the best hotels in Davao City.
We touched base at Francisco Bangoy International Airport on February 21, 2014. Upon disembarkation, we immediately went straight to the Bulaong Bus Terminal. We had a quick lunch at a resto just across the street, then we prepared ourselves for the long bus ride ahead. I can sense the urgency to reach our destination and the excitement building up. After a few minutes of waiting, our non-stop trip towards Koronadal kicked off. We noticed that there’s a lot of road construction going on, very much like in Iloilo. Davao is also progressing at a fast pace. Look for excellent places to stay in Iloilo City.
Of course, there’s always the ever-present military checkpoints. While stuck in the bus, I enjoyed looking at the valleys down below and the majestic cliffs above. We had a brief stopover at General Santos, which I would say is well developed. We admired the scenery and vast plantations along the way. Indeed, Mindanao is Philippine’s food basket. Find relaxing accommodation in General Santos City.
When we reached Koronadal’s bus terminal, the last trip was already full. But luck was still with us as there’s a public van going to Surallah and we immediately hopped in. Stay in Koronadal City’s best hotels.
It was already dark when we approached the Surallah. We took a tricycle going to Dood’s relative, who happens to own the rest house near Lake Sebu, where we are going to be billeted.
After exchanging pleasantries, she took us there, and we met Celso, the caretaker of the estate. He is also going to be our tour guide. The rest of the house is nested on top of rolling hills. The inside feels very homey. There are two rooms and a bathroom. We had a sumptuous dinner of rice and chicken adobo prepared by our gracious host. After a few minutes of chatting, our host left us to rest. It was already 10 PM and we were very tired. We prepared our things for sleep. We are on a mountaintop, and it is very cold, but our exhaustion lulled us to sleep.
We woke early in the morning, refreshed and ready for the day’s activities. We had a filling breakfast of rice and grilled tilapia, fresh from Lake Sebu.
Lake Sebu is perched on the highlands of Surallah, the elevation is about 1,000 meters above sea level. The lake itself occupies around 354 hectares. The climate is wet with rain evenly distributed throughout the year, covering the place with dense tropical forest and supplying it with lots of fresh water. Here, temperatures range from 20 ºC to 25 ºC, earning it the title “Summer Capital of Southern Mindanao”. The place is home to the indigenous T’bolis, Tirurays, Ubos and Manobos tribes. It is also the natural habitat of egrets, kingfishers, swallows, herons, and other exotic animals. To preserve its pristine condition, the government proclaimed 924.5 square kilometers as a protected landscape.
There’s a flourishing aquaculture of tilapia that’s being grown in large floating cages in the lake. while the land surrounding it is cultivated for agriculture.
Aside from the lake, what drives the place as a tourist destination is the presence of not just 1 or 2 but an amazing 7 majestic waterfalls and zip lines, dubbed as the longest and highest in the country. These are some of the treats that we are after.
Celso brought in his friend and we took off in their “habal-habal” or motorcycle which is the main mode of transportation. After paying the entrance fee at the eco-tourism park, we explored one of the more accessible waterfalls. The water is gushing so fast and forcefully that it generates a roaring sound and sprays mists all over the place. You can literally see the water particles floating in the air, I describe it as magical!
We proceeded to the zip line area at the edge of a cliff. We can see the people ahead of us zipping and shouting. Some were shouting in shrill ways that further added confusion to our already conflicting feelings of fear and excitement.
Zipline operators charge a separate fee, and we have to shell out extra for the pictures to be taken during the ride. It is composed of two zip lines; a 740-meter line and a shorter 400-meter line that ends up in the pickup area. The zip line is as high as 180 meters. My golly, that information gave me shivers.
My partner for the trip is Celso, himself a veteran. As we took our turn, there was that involuntary tingling and shaking of the body. My mind is telling me to back out now! It is a survival instinct and it is a normal reaction when there’s a threat to one’s life. But the promise of a thrill and the thoughts of achieving something that I haven’t done before triumphed over fear. I can feel the adrenaline rushing in my veins. Moments later, I found myself helplessly being strapped tight and secured in the harness by the assistants. My precious life is in the hands of these people.
Looking ahead, I can see it’s a long way off, but I can’t see the other end of the line. I was still assessing what was in front of me when suddenly I felt a strong push, and whether I liked it or not, I was going forward and very fast, so fast that I could feel the air pressing like a solid hand against my face, trying desperately to slow down my unstoppable descent. And then the fear and apprehension are replaced by awe and disbelief that, finally, I’m flying at an exhilarating speed, skimming on top of treetops. Ironically, I am now enjoying the scenic view. I can see the waterfalls left and right, the mists going up, forming clouds. The scene is very surreal, just like the ones you see in the movies where the plane hovers over trees and mountains, except that in this case, it is me that is zipping through.
In what seems like a fast forward fantasy film, I finally have a glimpse of the other end. In an instant, my partner and I had a smooth landing. We went straight to the second albeit shorter zipline and this time, there’s no more anxiety, but overblown confidence, having gone through the long one, this is going to be a walk in the park.
We found the rest of the group at the waiting area and after boasting to each other our experiences, we proceeded to Punta Isla Lake Resort to have lunch as all the excitement had made us very hungry.
Upon arrival, we were greeted by the indigenous T’boli children in their colorful tribal garbs. We told them to dance for us later, which they dutifully acknowledged. We rested for a while and ordered our food in advance.
The resort is beautifully landscaped as it is covered in lush vegetation. While our food is being prepared, we explored the place like kids who had just visited a playground for the first time, investigating every nook and corner.
Punta Isla is located on top of a hill and provides a breathtaking view of the lake. You can see its vast size and the numerous tilapia cages dotting the landscape. After our mini exploration, we enjoyed our food and the relaxing scenery.
Our stay at Punta Isla is capped by a traditional dance and indigenous music performed by the T’bolis. They danced as expertly as their adult counterparts would.
Elated and gastronomically full, we hurried back to the rest house as we had to be in the terminal by 2 PM so we could reach Davao City by evening. After we bade farewell to Celso and family and to our host, we were on our way back, soaked with one of a lifetime achievement.
Lake Sebu is among the few experiences I will never forget. It was thrilling, it was fun, it is all worth it.
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