As I rest my head on the window of the van, half tired from lack of sleep I caught a glimpse of the scenic Lake Sebu and while my view was being blocked by a smudgy glass - it didn't mattered, as the scene of a thick forest complimenting a tranquil body of water is hard to ignore. Soon, my weary body started to jolt with pure anticipation and excitement. The thought finally rested and crested solidly in my head. I am finally in Lake Sebu in South Cotabato.
Since I started to take traveling seriously in 2007, I still haven't imagined myself to be exploring this part of Mindano this soon. I grew up listening to my favorite folk band "Asin" and their song "Cotabato" is one of my favorite songs of all time that speaks of conflicts, religious indifference and a shout out to action to attain lasting peace.
"Ako’y isinilang sa isang bayan ng Cotabato
Kasing gulo ng tao, kasing gulo ng mundo
Dahil di magkasundo sa relihiyon at prinsipyo, nagkagulo"
It also didn't helped at all when media continuously paints a deadly reckoning image of Cotabato as a whole. It's true that there are still parts in Mindanao - just like in every place in the world, where peace remains elusive - BUT mostly it is the opposite.
We went to the jump-off place where one can chase the 7 waterfalls found nearby and whose cold water flows forever into the three lakes with Lake Sebu being the largest by encompassing 354 hectares, Lake Selotin measuring at 48 hectares and Lake Lahit completing the lake menage a trois with 24 hectares.
We rode the zipline in tandem and flew over the river where the number 2 waterfalls flows along and the scene was unlike anything I've seen before. There was a total of 2 ziplines, the one measuring closely to 800 meters and the other was about a half of the first, however the second zipline we took brought us over this cascading third waterfalls called the "Hikong Belebed" or the zigzag falls and from the zipline above I was able to catch a magnificent sight.(see first photo)
Lake Sebu is a thriving cultural community where many T'boli tribe members have been residing for many years dating back to pre-Mohamedanism and the Spanish conquest in the 15th century. Both movements wasn't able to convert the T'boli members, making them live in peace and unaffected by religious indifference. Today, they continue to flourish and live simply through the abundant supplies of agricultural and fishing products and their contributions in their community, backed up by a solid pro-environment, cultural driven and ecological balance campaign of the Provincial Government, has made Lake Sebu as one of the premier destination in Mindanao.
Listening right now as I write this to Asin's "Cotabato" I am feeling a bit of pride that a song like that could reach out and endear to many. There are places you need to reach and experience in order to see the whole picture and not only to rely on songs and press reports and TV coverage of Abu Sayaf bandits brandishing their hostages while armed to their teeth.
I had a prevailing notion of South Cotabato when I stepped inside the Cebu Pacific plane bound for General Santos last week. In a span of few days I left and went back to Manila with a totally different impression of South Cotabato.
While peace may still be elusive in some parts of North Cotabato, great thing is, its not really that rampant and the people of South Cotabato are gearing up for an exciting future. I wanted to be part of that exciting tomorrow. I will definitely go back to South Cotabato, Sarangani and General Santos City on a whimp. Give me time and I'll pack my backpack again.
And as these waterfalls continues to flow mightily along the river banks and unto the three lakes of Lake Sebu. The promise of South Cotabato just waiting to embrace people from all over also never ceases, it remains still, just as it quickly silenced my fears and caressed my skin not like needle pricks but by a soft angelic hands of a long lost lover.
If these "falls" could talk, it will probably be yelling "pack your backpack to this part of the world" right about now.
Special thanks to Sir Avel Manansala (of Gensantos.com and Soxbloggers.com) for organizing the SoccSarGen Experience Tour II (SEX II) and countless others, new friends who like me also love to travel. See you all again next time on the road.
The SEX Tour was organized by the Soccsksargen Bloggers (www.soxbloggers.com) with GenSan News Online Mag (www.gensantos.com) spearheading the project.
This is my entry to the November 2011 edition of the Pinoy Travel Bloggers' Blog Carnival. The theme for this month is "A Bliss Called Mindanao" (which aims to present the real picture of the whole of Mindanao island as a place of fun loving people, rich culture and history, savory dishes and beautiful places) hosted by Olan Emboscado of The Travel Teller.