Searching for the Lotus-Eaters in Lake Sebu | South Cotabato

Opening my eyes to a still-dark surrounding had me recalling the creaking of the floor I heard the night before. Jolted to consciousness, I half-expected seeing a figure standing from the foot of my bed. I saw nothing but the low illumination of electric light seeping into the small window. Pacifying my mind, I assured myself that a bunch of rats were behind what I initially though was hurried footsteps outside my room. It would be fine hearing noises the previous three nights. But on that fourth night in question, I was the only remaining guest staying at the budget hut of Punta Isla Lake Resort—where a dorm bed only cost me 180 pesos per night. Not bad hey, even if it comes with fright every evening.

As I stepped out of my room eager to start my day and have a cup of coffee, the wooden floor squeaked as loudly as the sound I heard during the night. I was like, “that must be some huge rats walking at the hallway last night”. Dismissing the scary thought, I hurried downstairs to take a quick shower.

All dressed up for the day, I have forgotten about the spooky episode as I proceeded down to the lake where the boatman I talked to the day before told me in Tagalog “I’ll wait you here at around 6:00am so you can witness the blooming of the Lotus flowers

Holding a cup of coffee I sat at one of the bench and stared at the pale gray sky slowly give way to streaks of red and yellow. With daylight trickling to the lake, I see the water starting to appear like mirror reflecting the sky and the tip of the trees of the surrounding forest.

I heard a whistle and turning around I see the boatman dragging a small boat. “This is an Owong” he told me.  I later learned that it is made from Bacan or Lawaan tree (Shorea)—a genus of 196 species of rainforest trees that grows all over Lake Sebu and is known for its sturdy wood.

The Owong are traditional tiny dugout canoes used mainly by the T'boli people in Lake Sebu for fishing and transportation. It can fit a maximum of three people and is moved by paddling.

The boatman and I occupied both ends of the Owong thus giving me enough space to stretch my feet. The water of the lake was so still, I could see every ripples as we paddle our way. The quiet moment instantly put me into a Zen state of mind where I got lost in the captivating charm of Lake Sebu.

Look, the lotus flowers” the boatman pointed to me. As we approach the part where a multitude of lotus flowers drifts as they bloom, I recalled the “Lotus-Eaters’’ in Greek Mythology.

According to epic poem by Homer's ‘Odyssey’, there was a land of the Lotus-eaters where anyone who ate the lotus flower will be rid of life’s purpose, worry and desire—basically giving zero f*cks to the world—and this was what Odysseus’ men experienced when they tasted the flower in the land of the Lotus-eaters. They were left in a muddled state that Odysseus had to drag them all back to their ships.

Although all parts of the lotus plant like its roots, leaves, seeds and stems are edible, I could not eat it like the Lotus-eaters do, as I would still love to go places and have a care at what's going on in the world. Despite its little notoriety in Greek Mythology, the lotus flowers that blooms in Lake Sebu during sunrise, dishes a contrasting effect. As I watch the floating lotus leaves and flowers circling below me, I regale at my life’s purpose to continue exploring and learning more about the world we live in.

Can I touch it” I asked the boatman. “Sure, you can even pick one” he said. I resisted picking one. Because even if I had some girl to give it to, it is best to leave the flowers where they should be—in the magical embrace of the waters of Lake Sebu—floating until they wither away only to bloom again next sunrise.