LAKE SEBU Travel Guide (Budget + Itinerary)

LAKE SEBU

Lake Sebu has a special place in my heart. When I first traveled solo to Lake Sebu in South Cotabato a few years ago, the town was just devastated by a typhoon, my T’boli host – Ms. Maria Todi wasn’t home that time. So she instructed me to stay in her room, because their old T’boli house, which was a homestay and a school of living T’boli traditions, was destroyed. So I stayed, and bonded with the kids and her mother. It was one of my most memorable travel memories, because that time, even if they have so little, they are happy and they still welcomed me in their humble home. Talk about the resilience of the human spirit. When I left, I took a photo of the devastated homestay and sent it to my friend Edgar, he was the one who referred me to Ms.Todi. Edgar then, asked on social media for donations to help rebuild the school and the homestay. A year later, we returned to Lake Sebu and visited the new T’boli School of Living Tradition. This is why, I am more than excited to share this Lake Sebu Travel Guide with itinerary and budget. Hopefully, you too will get to visit this beautiful province in Mindanao soon and experience the warmth and genuine hospitality of the T’boli people.

 

lake sebu zipline 2

DIY LAKE SEBU TRAVEL GUIDE

 

ABOUT LAKE SEBU

Lake Sebu is a far-flung town in South Cotabato that is oozing with raw appeal. It is fringed by forest-clad mountains interrupted by placid lakes. Lake Sebu is oozing with raw appeal that you will surely forget its lack of sand and sea. While most of the residents in Lake Sebu are T’boli, an indigenous group of South Cotabato, this laidback municipality is actually a melting pot of cultures.

 

Lake Sebu was recognized as a cultural landscape by UNESCO. While tourism is slowly booming in Lake Sebu, its main economy is aquaculture. You’ll quickly notice a wealth of large fish cages floating in the lakes here where tilapias are cultivated. But perhaps the most interesting thing about Lake Sebu is, it is known as “The Land of the Dream Weavers” because of the celebrated T’nalak tapestry. This traditional cloth of the T’boli people are made from abaca fabric using 3 traditional colors – red, black and the natural color of the Abaca leaves. What makes this traditional textile special is the design and patterns of the fabric is based on the weaver’s dream and incorporates the social, cultural and personal weaving process.

 

LAKE SEBU PRE-TRIP PLANNING

 

LAKE SEBU itinerary

HOW MANY DAYS TO SPEND IN LAKE SEBU? About 2-3 days is enough to cover the top tourist attractions in Lake Sebu.

WHEN TO VISIT LAKE SEBU?  Like the rest of the Philippines, Lake Sebu enjoys 2 seasons: the dry season starts in late November to end of May, whole the rainy season starts in June to October. Typhoon is around September to October, so try to avoid traveling during this period. December to March are good months to visit Lake Sebu as it is dry season and the weather is not that hot.

WHAT TO PACK IN LAKE SEBU? Since Lake Sebu is situated in a highland, the climate here is generally cool. Bring a jacket to keep yourself warm at night. Bring insect/mosquito repellant too. Pack light and use a backpack instead of trolley if you are commuting as getting around here is usually by habal-habal (motorbike).

POWER PLUG: Lake Sebu uses Type A socket. 220 V, 60 HZ.

MODE OF PAYMENT: Stack up cash (small bills) because everything is on cash basis in Lake Sebu.

ATMs IN LAKE SEBU: There are no ATMs in Lake Sebu and everything here is on cash basis. No money changers too. You can withdraw from ATMs in General Santos or in Surallah (Landbank, ONB and RCBC), about 45 minutes away from Lake Sebu.

MOBILE SIGNAL: Both Globe and Smart are available.

INTERNET: Some resorts in Lake Sebu have Wi-Fi, otherwise, use your data or pocket Wi-Fi.

SAFETY IN LAKE SEBU: When people ask me what places in Mindanao are safe to visit, I always say Mindanao is generally safe. I would recommend Lake Sebu in a heartbeat, one of my favorite places in Mindanao. Is it safe in Lake Sebu? A resounding YES, it is pretty safe for solo travelers and the locals here are genuinely kind and generally helpful. The place is also very peaceful and relaxing as it is surrounded by verdant, forest-fringed mountains.

Habal-habal (motorcycle) don’t have helmets for tourists. If you are not comfortable with this, bring your own helmet, or better yet, rent a van for your day tour.

When taking pictures by the waterfalls, avoid getting too close as sometimes there are smalls rocks falling with the rushing water, which can be pretty dangerous if they hit your head.

When boating around the lake, always wear a life jacket for your safety. Resorts offering boat tours usually offer one for each tourist.

WHERE TO STAY IN LAKE SEBU

LAKE SEBU ITINERARY

There are a handful of resorts and homestays in Lake Sebu. You can choose from the list below and book ahead.

1. Sunrise Garden Lake Resort
Brgy. Lake Seloton (2kms from Lake Sebu Terminal), Lake Sebu
CHECK ROOM RATES HERE

 

2.Punta Isla Lake Resort
Sitio Toku-fol, Brgy. Poblacion, Lake Sebu
CHECK ROOM RATES HERE

 

3. El Galong Waterpark Resort
Poblacion, Lake Sebu, Lake Sebu, Philippines

CHECK ROOM RATES HERE

 

LAKE SEBU ORIENTATION

 

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General Santos International Airport is the largest airport in Mindanao and serves flights to SOCSARGEN (South Cotabato, Sarangani province and General Santos city). It is located about 14 km southwest of the city center. It is the nearest airport to Lake Sebu, which is part of South Cotabato province.

Lake Sebu is a 1st class town in South Cotabato that is composed of 19 barangays. Do note that there is a lake named Lake Sebu in this municipality. Most of Lake Sebu’s tourist attractions can be reached by habal-habal (motorcycle).

 

HOW TO GET TO LAKE SEBU FROM MANILA, CEBU or ILOILO

    1. From Manila, Cebu or Iloilo, there are direct flights to GENERAL SANTOS.
    2. From General Santos Airport, go to Bulaong Terminal in General Santos city. You can go there by taxi for about PHP 250/USD 5 (EURO 4/SGD 6/MYR 19). But the cheapest way to get to Bulaong Terminal from General Santos airport is by multicab. Take the white multicab parked outside the Arrival Area to Bulaong Terminal. Fare is about PHP 50/USD 1 (EURO 1/SGD 1.28/MYR 4). Alternatively, you may also take a tricycle for PHP 20/USD 0.38 (EURO 0.32/SGD 0.51/MYR 2) but you have to wait for other passengers or negotiate with the driver for a special trip (pay for entire seats), about PHP 100/USD 2 (EURO 2/SGD 3/MYR 8).4.
    3. At Bulaong Terminal in General Santos, there are now direct vans to Lake Sebu terminal. Yep, you no longer need to make several transfers. Fare is about PHP 150/USD 3 (EURO 2.4/SGD 4/MYR 11.32) and travel time is about 2 hours. *IMPORTANT: Last trip back to General Santos from Lake Sebu is 2:00 PM.
    4. From Lake Sebu Terminal, you can rent a habal-habal (motorbike) to Lake Sebu for PHP 400/USD 8 (EURO 6/SGD 10/MYR 38) for half-day tour or PHP 600/USD 11 (EURO 10/SGD 15/MYR 45) for a whole day tour, good for 2 persons. That’s their standard rate. The habal-habal drivers/local tour guides here have an association, they are wearing uniforms with badges and logos and would approach you once you get off the van. Or you can catch a jeepney for PHP 50/USD 1 (EURO 1/SGD 1.28/MYR 4) to Lake Sebu.

 

 

 

HOW TO GET TO LAKE SEBU FROM DAVAO

  • If you are coming from Davao, you can take a bus from Davao Ecoland Terminal to Marbel, South Cotabato. Travel time is roughly 4 hours and bus fare is about PHP 350/USD 7 (EURO 6/SGD 9/MYR 27)

 

  • From Marbel bus terminal, you can take a van to Lake Sebu. Travel time is about 1.5 hours, but schedule can be quite unpredictable. Alternatively, you can catch a bus to Surallah. Transit time is about 30 minutes and fare is roughly PHP 30/USD 0.57 (EURO 0.48/SGD 0.77/MYR 2.26).

 

 

GETTING AROUND LAKE SEBU

 

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If you are commuting, you can get around Lake Sebu by habal-habal (motorbike). Standard rate for habal-habal (motorcycle) tour is PHP 400/USD 8 (EURO 6/SGD 10/MYR 38) for half-day tour or PHP 600/USD 11 (EURO 10/SGD 15/MYR 45) for a whole day tour, good for 2 persons. Again, there’s no helmet, so be careful. If you are not comfortable with this type of transportation, you can rent a van. Talk to your resort or ask the tourism office.

If you are on a tight budget, from Lake Sebu Terminal, there is a jeepney to Lake Sebu for PHP 50/USD 1 (EURO 1/SGD 1.28/MYR 4). From your resort in Lake Sebu, the usual fare to go to the Seven Waterfalls Zipline is PHP 50/USD 1 (EURO 1/SGD 1.28/MYR 4).

 

LAKE SEBU TOURIST ATTRACTIONS

Lake Sebu has a handful of places to visit. I’ve rounded up some of them here, perfect for first-time travelers in Lake Sebu.

1. LAKE SEBU, LAKE SELOTON AND LAKE LAHIT

lake sebu itinerary

There are 3 important lakes in Lake Sebu: Lake Sebu, Lake Lahit and Lake Seloton and they are not interconnected. You have to rent different boats to explore or go boating here. My personal favorite is Lake Sebu as it is easily accessible and is sprinkled with beautiful, pink lotus flowers that bloom early in the morning while being embraced by fog. Most resorts in Lake Sebu offers boating tours, you may also inquire from your habal-habal driver.

About 19% of the lakes of Lake Sebu are used for aquaculture, which started in 1970’s and is currently the backbone of their economy. The average price of tilapia here is roughly PHP 90 per kilo. The harvested fishes are being sold in town and neighboring provinces.

Entrance Fee: FREE

2. LAKE SEBU SEVEN FALLS AND ZIPLINE

lake sebu zipline
Entrance Fee: PHP 20/USD 0.38 (EURO 0.32/SGD 0.51/MYR 2)
Lake Sebu Zipline: PHP 300/USD 6 (EURO 5/SGD 8/MYR 23) during weekends/holidays and  PHP 250/USD 5(EURO 4/SGD 6/MYR 19) during weekdays.

 

Lake Sebu is known for its majestic Seven Waterfalls, namely:

Falls 1 – Hikong Alu, which means passage
Falls 2 – Hikong Bente, immeasurable waterfalls
Falls 3 – Hikong B-lebed, meaning coil or zigzag falls
Falls 4 – Hikong Lowig, booth
Falls 5 – Hikong Ke-foi, for wildflower
Falls 6 – Hikong Ukol, short waterfalls
Falls 7 – Hikong Tonok, means soil

There is a PHP 20/USD 0.38 (EURO 0.32/SGD 0.51/MYR 2) at the Lake Sebu Eco-tourism Park where the 7 waterfalls are located. One of the activities here that draws tourists is the zipline at Lake Sebu that costs PHP 300/USD 6 (EURO 5/SGD 8/MYR 23) per person during weekends and holidays and PHP 250/USD 5(EURO 4/SGD 6/MYR 19) per person during weekdays. The zipline is a 400 meter ride from Falls 5 to Falls 2, offering a breathtaking view of Hikong Bente and then another 750 meter ride from Falls 1 to Falls 5 where you can witness the beauty of Hikong B’lebed, Hikong Lowig and Hiking Ke-foi. Pay additional PHP 100/USD 2 (EURO 2/SGD 3/MYR 8) per person for the Seven Fall zipline souvenir photo.

If you are not keen on doing the zipline, you can take a leisurely walk to Hikong Alu (Falls 1). If you love hiking, you can access Hikong Bente (Falls 2) via a 744-step trail.

TRAVEL TIP: You can try on traditional T’boli dress at the stores selling souvenirs near the Seven Lake Waterfalls for PHP 50/USD 1 (EURO 1/SGD 1.28/MYR 4).

 

3.LANG DULAY T’NALAK WEAVING CENTER

LAKE SEBU travel guide
I’ve been to Lake Sebu a few times, but I only got to meet the iconic Lang Dulay on my 3rd visit when she was still alive. Lang Dulay that time was still one of the few National Living Treasure, one of the few-remaining traditional weavers of T’nalak, a traditional T’boli cloth. She passed away April 2015 at the age of 86. Back in the days, the Tbolis bartered their handcrafted T’nalak for horses. Based on anecdotes, Lang Dulay, a T’boli princess is familiar with a couple of designs for T’nalak that reflect the visions of her people. Weaving T’nalak is no easy task, the weaver begins by stripping the stem of the abaca plant to get the fibers, then they start coaxing finer fibers, eventually drying them and tying each thread by hand. The strands has to be tied to a bamboo frame taking account the design of the fiber, each T’nalak roll are individually set on a backstrap loom for the weaving process. When visiting Lake Sebu, you can purchase T’nalak cloth at Lang Dulay T’nalak Weaving center, at School of Living Traditions or at Cow Head. I highly encourage purchasing handcrafted traditional products here to help the community thrive and as a way of supporting the T’boli tradition and culture.

4. T’BOLI MUSEUM (BAAY’S FAMILY HOUSE OF GONGS)

ENTRANCE FEE: PHP 10/USD 0.19 (EURO 0.16/SGD 0.25/MYR 0.75)

This building is designed like a traditional T’boli house. It houses a collection of antiques, gongs, T’nalak, accessories, agricultural simple machines and artifacts of the T’boli culture.

5. SCHOOL OF LIVING TRADITIONS

lake sebu travel guide
ENTRANCE FEE: FREE, but donations are highly encouraged.

The T’boli School of Living Traditions (SLT) in Lake Sebu is run by T’boli Cultural worker Maria “Oyog” Todi. You can pay a visit and watch how the T’boli elders educate and train the younger generation with T’boli native song and dance. They also sell T’boli handcrafted souvenirs like T’nalak, beaded jewelry, T’boli cloth, etc.

6. T’BOLI TRADE AND CRAFTS GONO JEM BO-I (Princess House)

You can buy T’boli souvenirs at Princess House, which is managed by COW HEAD (Cooperative of Women in Health and Development) with investments from Japan. T’nalak are priced at about PHP 1,000/USD 19 (EURO 16/SGD 26/MYR 75) – PHP 2,00O/USD 38 (EURO 32/SGD 51/MYR 151) depending on the design and beads are tubaw costs around PHP 25/USD 2 (EURO 0.40/SGD 0.64/MYR 2) – PHP 35/USD 3 (EURO 0.56/SGD 0.89/MYR 3).

7. 20 WAYS TO COOK TILAPIA

When in Lake Sebu, don’t go home without trying their tilapia dishes. Live fresh tilapias (cichlids fish) abound here, that is why it is no surprise when the locals came up with 20 different ways at Punta Isla Lake Resort to serve tilapia, including: kinilaw na tilapia, the classic fried tilapia, grilled tilapia, paksiw na tilapia, chicharon na tilapia, etc.

 

OTHER ACTIVITIES IN LAKE SEBU

8. EXTREME WATER TUBING: You can try the Lake Sebu Extreme water tubing for PHP 300/USD 6 (EURO 5/SGD 8/MYR 23) at Mountain Lodge Resort

9. WATER BIKE: You can also go biking in the lake for PHP 50/USD 1 (EURO 1/SGD 1.28/MYR 4) at Sunrise Garden Lake Resort.

 

 

WHERE TO EAT IN LAKE SEBU

KALAN-AN NI AGAW: For dirt cheap food, try this humble restaurant. They serve meal starting at PHP 25.

TOTO SUGBAHAN: Try their sinugbang tilapia and spicy shrimp sinigan. They are open until 5:00 PM only. Food starts at PHP 120 – PHP 200.

 

LAKE SEBU ITINERARY

LAKE SEBU 6

Here’s a sample Lake Sebu itinerary for 2 days 1 night to help you plan your trip. This is assuming you take the earliest flight to General Santos and you are a solo traveler. Feel free to adjust this depending on your budget and schedule. You can save more if you are a party of two or if you are traveling with a group.

 

DAY 1: ARRIVAL + LAKE SEBU TOUR

04:10 AM  ETD General Santos Airport
06:15 AM  ETA General Santos Airport
06:45 AM  Take multicab to Bulaong Terminal in General Santos. Expenses: PHP 50/USD 1 (EURO 1/SGD 1.28/MYR 4).
07:30 AM  ETA Bulaong Terminal
08:00 AM  Take direct van to Lake Sebu. Expenses: PHP 150/USD 3 (EURO 2.4/SGD 4/MYR 11.32)
10:00 AM  ETA Lake Sebu Terminal. Hire habal-habal for whole day tour.
10:15 AM  Habal-habal tour of Lake Sebu. Expenses: PHP 600/USD 11 (EURO 10/SGD 15/MYR 45) for a whole day tour
11:00 AM  Hotel check-in
11:20 AM  Lunch. Expenses: PHP 150/USD 3 (EURO 2.4/SGD 4/MYR 11.32)
12:00 PM  ETD Eco-Tourism Park for Seven Lakes of Lake Sebu. Expenses: PHP 20/USD 0.38 (EURO 0.32/SGD 0.51/MYR 2)
12:20 PM  Zipline at Seven Lakes. Expenses: PHP 300/USD 6 (EURO 5/SGD 8/MYR 23) + PHP 100/USD 2 (EURO 2/SGD 3/MYR 8) for photo.
01:00 PM  Rent T’boli dress at one of the stores inside the Lake Sebu Eco-tourism Park. Photo op near the waterfalls. Expenses: PHP 50/USD 1 (EURO 1/SGD 1.28/MYR 4)
02:00 PM  Visit Lang Dulay T’nalak Weaving Center. Purchase T’nalak.
02:30 PM  T’boli Museum. Expenses: PHP 10/USD 0.19 (EURO 0.16/SGD 0.25/MYR 0.75)
03:00 PM  School of Living Tradition. Buy souvenirs. Donation + souvenirs.
04:00 PM  COW HEAD. Buy souvenirs.
05:00 PM  End of tour. Back to hotel. Freshen up and rest.
07:00 PM  Dinner. Expenses: PHP 150/USD 3 (EURO 2.4/SGD 4/MYR 11.32)
09:00 PM  Sleep. Hotel: PHP 975/USD 19 (EURO 16/SGD 25/MYR 73)

DAY 2 DEPARTURE

05:20 AM  Lake Sebu wooden canoe cruise
06:20 AM  End of tour. Breakfast.
07:30 AM  Hotel check-out. ETD Lake Sebu Terminal. Expenses: PHP 50/USD 1 (EURO 1/SGD 1.28/MYR 4)
08:00 AM  ETD General Santos or next destination.

LAKE SEBU DAY TRIP ITINERARY

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If you have limited time, you can also do a Day tour of Lake Sebu. Here’s a sample 1 day Lake Sebu itinerary. Feel free to tweak this.

DAY 1: ARRIVAL + LAKE SEBU TOUR

04:10 AM  ETD General Santos Airport
06:15 AM  ETA General Santos Airport
06:45 AM  Take multicab to Bulaong Terminal in General Santos. Expenses: PHP 50/USD 1 (EURO 1/SGD 1.28/MYR 4).
07:30 AM  ETA Bulaong Terminal
08:00 AM  Take direct van to Lake Sebu. Expenses: PHP 150/USD 3 (EURO 2.4/SGD 4/MYR 11.32)
10:00 AM  ETA Lake Sebu Terminal. Hire habal-habal for whole day tour.
10:15 AM  Habal-habal tour of Lake Sebu. Expenses: PHP 600/USD 11 (EURO 10/SGD 15/MYR 45) for a whole day tour
11:00 AM  Hotel check-in
11:20 AM  Lunch. Expenses: PHP 150/USD 3 (EURO 2.4/SGD 4/MYR 11.32)
12:00 PM  ETD Eco-Tourism Park for Seven Lakes of Lake Sebu. Expenses: PHP 20/USD 0.38 (EURO 0.32/SGD 0.51/MYR 2)
12:20 PM  Zipline at Seven Lakes. Expenses: PHP 300/USD 6 (EURO 5/SGD 8/MYR 23) + PHP 100/USD 2 (EURO 2/SGD 3/MYR 8) for photo.
01:00 PM  Rent T’boli dress at one of the stores inside the Lake Sebu Eco-tourism Park. Photo op near the waterfalls. Expenses: PHP 50/USD 1 (EURO 1/SGD 1.28/MYR 4)
02:00 PM  Visit Lang Dulay T’nalak Weaving Center. Purchase T’nalak.
02:30 PM  Photo op at Lake Sebu. Wooden Canoe cruise.
03:00 PM  ETD Lake Sebu Terminal.
03:30 PM  Ride van to Surallah, then transfer to a bus to General Santos.

 

LAKE SEBU TRIP BUDGET

 

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Here’s a budget breakdown for Lake Sebu Trip, if you follow the 2 days/1-night Lake Sebu itinerary above.
PHP 975/USD 19 (EURO 16/SGD 25/MYR 73) – Lake Sebu hotel
PHP 150/USD x 3 = PHP 450/USD 9 (EURO 7/SGD 11/MYR 34) – Meals
PHP 50/USD 1 (EURO 1/SGD 1.28/MYR 4) – Multicab to Bulaong Terminal from Airport
PHP 150/USD 3 (EURO 2.4/SGD 4/MYR 11.32) – Van to Lake Sebu
PHP 600/USD 11 (EURO 10/SGD 15/MYR 45) – whole day haba-habal tour of Lake Sebu
PHP 20/USD 0.38 (EURO 0.32/SGD 0.51/MYR 2) – Seven Falls entrance fee
PHP 300/USD 6 (EURO 5/SGD 8/MYR 23) + PHP 100/USD 2 (EURO 2/SGD 3/MYR 8) – Zipline (weekends)
PHP 100/USD 2 (EURO 2/SGD 3/MYR 8) – Seven Falls Zipline souvenir photo
PHP 50/USD 1 (EURO 1/SGD 1.28/MYR 4) – T’boli dress rental
PHP 10/USD 0.19 (EURO 0.16/SGD 0.25/MYR 0.75) – T’boli Museum

TOTAL EXPENSES: PHP 3,680/USD 49.85 (EURO 44.88/SGD 69.32/MYR 77)

• Sample budget doesn’t include donations, souvenirs and airfare.

 

LAKE SEBU TRAVEL TIPS

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  • Terminal fee for General Santos Airport is PHP 100.
  • Helubong Festival is celebrated every November 9-11.
  • Respect the culture of the T’bolis. Always ask permission when taking a photo of the people, their house or their things.
  • Leave no trace. Do not throw your trash anywhere.
  • Help the local economy by purchasing handcrafted souvenirs.

 

LAKE SEBU RELATED POSTS:

LAKE SEBU TOURIST SPOTS

LAKE HOLON TRAVEL GUIDE

HOW TO GET TO LAKE SEBU

 


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24264_351910964162_336201504162_3580676_6142279_nAbout the Blogger : Gael is a Filipina travel blogger. Her work has appeared in local and international publications.

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