10 Things To Do in Lake Sebu

Visit Lake Sebu for the Lemlunay Festival this weekend and fit these other items into your itinerary.

By Betty Tianco
September 14, 2011

The Lemlunay Tribal Festival will be held in Lake Sebu this weekend, and representatives from the tribes of South Cotabato and Davao will be gathering in droves for the festivities.

This is a good time for visitors to come to the region—no doubt the revelries (which include indigenous song and dance, colorful pageantry, and indigenous horsefights) will make the trip worth it, but beyond this, interacting with the natives will be a cultural experience to broaden the intrepid traveler’s horizons and help him appreciate ethnic diversity and the preservation of local traditions.

If you’re thinking of making the trip this weekend (or any other time, in fact), here are 10 things to consider doing in Lake Sebu during your stay:

1. Enjoy the Lemlunay festivities. Held annually from September 16 to 18, the three days of the T’boli Tribal Festival includes the participation not only of the T’bolis, the tribe that lays ancestral claim to Lake Sebu, but all six tribes of South Cotabato and those from Davao as well. Other good times to visit for fun festivities are in November during the Helobong Festival, or in July during the T’nalak Festival.

2. Try fresh tilapia cooked every possible way. The lake is a fertile farming ground for tilapia, and the best way to experience its bounty is by trying one of the many recipes for this fish served at the lakeside resorts and restos. Punta Isla, one of the more established resorts in this area, has a restaurant with a floating dining area and lakeside huts on stilts, where they serve chicharon tilapia, nilasing na tilapia, tilapora, sizzling tilapia with brown sauce, pinaputok na tilapia, sinugba na tilapia with atsara, tilapia fillet, kinilaw na tilapia, sweet and sour tilapia fillet, paksiw na tilapia, daing na tilapia, fried tilapia, tilapia vegetable, lagpang na tilapia, tilapings, tilapia foo yong, and tilapia rebosado.


3. Hike to one (or more) of the Seven Falls. The Seven Falls of Lake Sebu are a majestic sight to behold, some dropping over 70 feet into basins below (Lake Sebu itself is at an elevation of 3,000 feet above sea level). Some of the falls, like Falls 1, can be accessed via vehicle and a short walk over paved walks and steps. Others can only be reached after trekking over mountainous terrain.

4. Fly down the country’s most picturesque zipline. Enjoy a view of the falls from a (screamingly) unique vantage point. The zipline at Lake Sebu has only been around two years, but has already become a primary tourist attraction. The first leg, 700 meters long, starts near Falls 1 and takes you past Falls 2, 3, 4, and 5 to an intermediate platform, and the second leg brings you to the view deck of Falls 2, where the zipline operator snaps a shot of your imminent landing.

5. Learn more about traditional T’boli education by visiting SIKAT. While modernity is catching up with the tribes, the T’boli are working to retain their traditional cultural practices by educating the next generation. The School of Indigenous Knowledge and Tradition, or SIKAT, is a native school where T’boli elders train grade school and high school age children in native song and dance as well as prepare them for higher education outside their tribal grounds.


6. Shop for T’boli products. The T’boli are well known for their arts and crafts, particularly the iconic t'nalak (or tinalak) cloth and brass ornaments. The best place to get these is at the COWHED shop, situated in a traditional T’boli house. The shop is managed by the Cooperative of Women in Health and Development, an organization dedicated to helping the T’boli women receive a fair price for their work. Woven bags and mats, beaded headpieces and necklaces, brass ornaments, and bolts of t’nalak cloth are available here.

7. Go to the source and visit Lang Dulay. A living legend among the T’boli, Lang Dulay is a master dreamweaver—an artist who creates t’nalak cloth. So called because the designs of the cloth are said to come to the artist in their dreams, these weavers still use the traditional process to create t'nalak. Lang Dulay’s work, though it bears the distinct look of t'nalak weave, is exquisitely unique, with unusual patterns that depict stylized clouds and butterflies. This almost-century old artist (she is “around 90 plus” years old) was honored with the title of National Artist in 1998.

8. Ride a traditional dugout canoe. Arrange with your resort or any of the native guides to explore the lake the way the locals do—on a wooden dugout canoe, sans motor and propelled by oar. You can also go as a group on a more modern, if less picturesque, boat.

9. Arise early and snap shots of the sunrise. Lake Sebu is an extremely photogenic subject. Though always still and sublime, the best time to take photos is early in the morning, when the mists rise off the mirrored surface of the lake, and the dawn light creates dramatic colorscapes with the lake and the surrounding peaks.

10. Be still and do nothing. The silent shores of the lake are an ideal place to slow down, reconnect with nature, and recover your bearings, an appealing prospect for frazzled city folk living hectic lives. Book yourself a room in one of the rustic retreats that line the lake shores, wake up early or stay up late, order a steaming hot cup of traditional T’boli coffee, and meditate (it’s a fancy word for doing—and thinking of—nothing). You’ll return from your trip recharged and ready to face the world again.

Ready to take the trip? Find places to stay in Lake Sebu here. You can also stay in other areas of South Cotabato.