A Day in Lake Sebu, South Cotabato

Lotus flower at Mountain Log Resort
I must admit that I am one of those who get frantic each time I go to Mindanao. For one, I have first hand bad experiences in this region, and it is no secret that the crime rate in this part of the country is high. But despite all these, Mindanao is a treasure trove of pristine beaches, spectacular landscapes, unspoiled eco-tourism spots, as well as a melting pot of culture and heritage. So, if you're bored with the usual sights in the Philippines, and if you consider yourself an optimist, Mindanao is the place for you.

Our trip to General Santos, Sarangani, and South Cotabato is our second journey to Mindanao for this year, the first being our trip to Cagayan de Oro and Camiguin last February. We spent our first day in Glan, Sarangani (read full story here); our second day in General Santos City (read here and here); and our third day in Lake Sebu in the province of South Cotabato.

Lake Sebu is home to its namesake lake that is surrounded by lush hills and rain forests.

How to go there:

  • Philippine Airlines and Cebu Pacific fly daily from Manila to General Santos City. The flight is approximately an hour and a half.
  • From the General Santos Airport, take a multicab bound to KCC mall or the city proper. This will take around 30-45 minutes. Fare is Php 50. 
  • From the city proper, take a tricycle to Bulaong bus terminal. Fare is Php 8.
  • At the Bulaong bus terminal, board a Yellow Bus Line bound to Marbel (Koronadal). We prefer the air-conditioned nonstop bus as it is faster. Fare is Php 107. Travel time is about an hour.
  • At the Yellow Bus Line terminal in Marbel, take an ordinary bus to Surallah. Fare is Php 35. Travel time is about 45 minutes. 
  • At the Surallah Integrated Transit Terminal, take a shuttle van to Lake Sebu. Fare is Php 32. Travel time is about 45 minutes. The shuttle vans to Lake Sebu have two final stops. Make sure to tell the driver that you will alight at the very last stop, especially if you are going to Punta Isla Resort or Mountain Log Resort. 
  • From the very last stop, take a habal-habal (single motorcycle) to your resort. In our case it was Lake Sebu Mountain Log Resort located 600 meters away from the final shuttle stop. Fare is Php 10 per pax. 
Where to stay in Lake Sebu:
While Punta Isla Resort is perhaps the most famous resort in Lake Sebu, we opted for the nearby low-key Lake Sebu Mountain Log Resort. We just did a day tour because we were pressed for time but we feel that to fully enjoy and explore Lake Sebu, you must dedicate at least a night or two.

Perched on a hill, Lake Sebu Mountain Log Resort offers cosy rooms for as low as Php 600. Entrance fee for a day tour is dirt cheap at Php 10. YES. Php 10. This already includes access to viewing and fishing deck, mountain-top view deck, and use of owong (local wooden paddle boat). They also have a restaurant where you can order refreshments and full meals, mostly tilapia dishes. The resort served as one of the camps of Cinemalaya's K'na: The Dreamweaver's production team.

Lake Sebu Mountain Log Resort's restaurant

Going up the top view deck

The resort's viewing tower commands a 360-degree vista of Lake Sebu's mountainside, as well as verdant farmlands.
Viewing tower

View before going up the tower

Lake Sebu's verdant vegetation
Lake Sebu is also famous for its vibrant lotus flowers that bloom from sunrise until around 10:00 am. We rode an owong for us to see them up close. They are just so adorable.

Lotus flowers on Lake Sebu

Snail eggs
We spent around two hours in Lake Sebu Mountain Log Resort, afterwhich, we called the habal-habal driver and asked him if he could bring us to Lang Dulay, the legendary t'nalak weaver from the T'boli tribe. If Banaue has the iconic tribal tattoo artist, Fang Od, Lake Sebu has Lang Dulay, a National Living Treasure awardee.

He agreed to bring us there for the price of Php 30 per pax. It was around 20 minutes away from the resort.

The weaving center

Inside the weaving center

T'nalak table runners
Imagine how these spreads were painstakingly crafted by hand. A three-meter table runner takes about three to six months in the making, so don't be surprised if these are also priced with a premium. Each are woven with the finest abaca fiber.

We were supposed to go to the Seven Falls because hubby wanted to do the zipline but rain poured had halfway. The habal-habal driver agreed to bring us to the falls at the price of Php 50 per person.

Where to eat?
We made a stop-over at Bob Nowong while waiting for the heavy rain to stop. We figured we would have lunch first.

At the second floor of Bob Nowong
At the restaurant's reception, we were welcomed by the friendly manager, Barbie, who suggested that we order their famous Nilagpang na Manok--roasted whole chicken simmered in rich white soup (yes, not sauce) and herbs. Aside from this, their signature pizza is also popular.

Dining area
The Nilagpang na Manok came in piping hot, just perfect for the gloomy weather. We paired it with white rice. It was so rich and tasty that we couldn't stop sipping its warm soup. The serving is huge enough for three to four people.

Nilagpang na Manok
Meals here are reasonably priced and are guaranteed delectable. We paid Php 325 (Php 280 for Nilagpang na Manok and Php 45 for three cups of rice). Plus, Barbie is so nice and accommodating! And did I tell you that there's free wifi in there? Ahuh!

Emo corner

They also sell some RTWs and gift items. Barbie even gave me one of the fisherman's baskets for my daughter because she just saw me looking at it!

If you are in Lake Sebu and you are like me who's not into tilapia dishes, you'll definitely love it here in Bob Nowong. The place is cosy, food is great, and the service is impeccable.

The rain continued endlessly so we decided not to pursue the zipline adventure as it could be dangerous. A reason to go back perhaps.

Our trip to Lake Sebu concluded our three nights, four days journey through General Santos City, Sarangani, and South Cotabato. In the end, we were able to come back home safe and in one piece, unscathed and full of memories to cherish. Mindanao is not that scary after all.

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