*We were in the Cotabato region when the Maguindanao Encounter happened. We had to pass through several Maguindanao towns the day before the unfortunate incident. Part of the purpose of this blog, among other things, is to encourage others to travel to these wonderful destinations in the Philippines, but please do assess the situation in Mindanao before making any plans.
Around 3:30pm on Sunday, January 25, we left Midsayap for Marbel, which I just found out after doing a Google search is just another more popular name for the city of Koronadal. We had to take three vans in order to get to Marbel.
We first rode a van going to Kabacan, then from Kabacan to Tacurong and then finally from Tacurong to Marbel. Upon checking the map, there are a couple of Maguindanao towns in between Kabacan and Tacurong that we passed by so I would just like to emphasize my warning above. I do not remember the entire fare we paid for the three vans, but I guess P300 would be a safe enough estimate.
We by the way again had pastil when we were in Tacurong while waiting for our van to leave for Marbel. We were able to save a lot because of this.
When we arrived in Marbel, several people approached us to offer their transportation services going to Lake Sebu. Most of them were not in agreement as to how much the fare was. It was starting to feel weird, at least for me, but I did not recognize right away that one person talking to us was drunk. I’m glad my companions did. At the end of it all, we decided to just stay in Marbel for the night and just go to Lake Sebu the next morning.
We just hired a tricycle instead to take us to an inn and by inn, he took us to a drive-in motel, which was fine. We settled at My Dad’s Inn and paid P1600 for the six of us. We were given only one extra mattress so three people had to share each bed. They had the basic amenities you would usually find in a motel room. They had Wi-Fi in a cottage near the reception.
We had dinner in the town center in what looked like their version of Cebu’s Larsian. They had really cheap food though. My companions ordered grilled squid for P50 and they already got two pieces of squid at that price.
When we got back to the inn, we heard about the incident in Mamasapano. I felt sad. We knew Maguindanao wasn’t exactly safe but having passed through the province (but not through Mamasapano) on that weekend was a bit unnerving. I don’t have any opinion about the incident.
Despite my sore thighs and butt, I wasn’t able to sleep right away. It wasn’t because I was scared but I did not have enough alcohol that night. Darn it!
We all woke up around 4am to get ready for our trip to Lake Sebu. We left the inn a little past 5am and rode a bus going to Surallah.
I’ve been hearing about Surallah since I was a kid. I know some people, friends and relatives, who were from here so it was interesting to finally get to this place. It was indeed full of Ilonggo people.
I believe we paid P67 (I’m not exactly sure about this figure) for the bus and it took us less than an hour to reach Surallah. There was no transportation yet going to Lake Sebu so we just ate breakfast first at a nearby store while waiting.
It was probably around 6:30am when the van came. I believe we paid P50 each for the fare (again, I’m not so sure about this amount but your P100 should be enough for this van ride).
When we arrived in Lake Sebu, we hired three habal-habals (again!) to take us to the Falls Number 1 of the Seven Falls which was the jump-off point of the famous zipline. The same habal-habal drivers would get us later from the landing area of the zipline to take us to the T’nalak weavers. I think we paid them around P100 (a safe estimate again, I just completely forgot how much we paid for all our transportation on that day).
It was around 7:30am when we arrived at the Falls Number 1. The office was still closed so we had to wait. While waiting, we visited a souvenir shop. I bought a couple of shirts that I didn’t try on and when I wore it later that night, I realized it was too small for me. But since I was running out of shirts, I still had to wear it.
People were also encouraging us to see the first falls. I saw that they were calling it the perfect falls. It looked like it was.
It also looked like that some work was being done on the banks perhaps to get people nearer the falls. It was still mud but I guess they were going to cement it.
There was also a part that they have turned into a park just like the Dahilayan Park in Bukidnon, only smaller. Near the restaurant was some sort of a viewing deck where we could see the second falls.
The office finally opened around 8:30am. We paid P250 each for the zipline (it was Monday, obviously a weekday, so they were only charging P250, they charge P300 on weekends) and I paid an additional P200 to get a copy of our photos taken by the zipline’s staff. For that P200, we got three CDs with around eight pictures in each.
By the way, we left our stuff at the souvenir shop (not the one where we bought shirts and other things) at the entrance of the zipline office.
There two ziplines. The first was 700 meters long which would take us from Falls Number 1 to Falls Number 2 (or 3, I couldn’t figure out which falls was which). The second was 400 meters which would take us from whatever falls we last saw to the Falls Number 5. We learned that Falls Number 6 and Number 7 were not accessible. They should have just called it Five Falls!
We went in pairs and I paired up with Jao. The other two guys in the group decided to go hiking instead and from what they told us, they experienced more adventure than we did.
I was a little nervous. Although I may have lost my fear of heights some time last year, I still get a little jittery each time I imagine I would fall.
Jao and I decided to go feet first on the first zipline because Jao thought he would be able to capture the view better with his GoPro. It was less scarier this way too!
On our first landing point, they had to give us the CD with the pictures but their generator had some trouble so we had to wait. They didn’t seem to have a way to just send the photos to their next office. They had to refund me P50 because they didn’t take a photo of me and Jao because of the fact that all they saw were just our feet.
In the next zipline, we decided to go face first this time.
You may watch the shots here (this also includes footages of our entire trip in Cotabato, courtesy of Jao Cuyos and IAm Jepotz):
It was around 10am when we got to the last landing point where our two other male companions were waiting for us. After they texted the habal-habal drivers, they promptly arrived and took us to Falls Number 1 where we got our things back and the last copies of our pictures while doing the zipline.
We then went straight to the Mountain Lake Eco Resort to have lunch while on board their floating restaurant. We paid P1500 which was consumable and was good for seven people.
It was a serene and peaceful experience this time. The boat toured us around the lake. The guide explained that Lake Sebu is actually a large lake composed of three smaller lakes. What got my attention the most was when he said that T’bolis used to just wrap their dead in a blanket and hang them on trees on one of the islands in the lake.
During the boat ride, we were entertained by Yegas (I had to Google this because we didn’t quite get her name when she was introduced). The guide said she had been to different countries to represent the country and her T’boli culture and had even been featured in a local television ad. She did a freestyle T’boli chant and performed a courtship dance.
I didn’t notice how quick the boat ride was. I ordered a liter of beer and I had not halved it yet when we were back in the resort.
After my companions took more pictures of the lake, we headed to the house of Langdulay in Barangay Lamdalag. She is the famous old dream weaver of the T’boli tribe. They were using a cloth called T’nalak which takes them three to four months to weave. They were selling the cloth at P600 per meter or P1500 for three meters. It was a good price considering the labor they put into making it but we were on a budget trip. Most of just bought coin purses and other cheaper items they were selling.
After our visit to Langdulay, we headed back to the terminal where we would start our journey back to General Santos which was going to be our last stop for this trip.