And my photo escapade continues... this time we explore Southern Mindanao particularly Lake Sebu in South Cotabato.
South Cotabato is endowed with numerous natural sceneries that have a great potential as tourist attractions, it is becoming one of the fastest growing provinces in the Philippines and is home to the ethnic group, T’boli.
Our adventure in south starts in GenSan International Airport, after "meet and greet" with a friend and our guide Raymond, we dropped by to Tupi Fruit Park for a quick bite and to taste the fruits of the South where pineapple plantation is located just along the way to Punta Isla Lake Resort in Lake Sebu.
The town of Lake Sebu is perched in the highlands of South Cotabato, it is home to the indigenous T’boli and Ubo tribes and an emerging eco-tourism and adventure destination in Southern Mindanao.
Upon arrival to the lake resort, we are on perfect timing to experience a lake tour lunch at their floating restaurant. Lake Sebu is known for fresh Tilapia, it is obviously abundant on their lakes and grown in large fish cages floating in the lake and is considered as one of the main delicacies. On that restaurant alone, apparently, they have to harvest at least an average of 100 kilos of fresh Tilapia a day to cooked variety of dishes.
Fishermen feeding tilapia
Tilapia culture in Lake Sebu started in the early 1970's and is now considered the backbone of the economy and major driving force of the development of the Municipality of Lake Sebu. About 19% of Lake Sebu's 354 ha water area is used for aquaculture. The present tilapia production system is not as intensive as in other lakes in the country. The daily 3-ton tilapia harvest is marketed in the different towns within the province and in neighboring provinces.
An old folk having a break while sitting on his canoe
The following day, an early morning wake up call for our lake tour using traditional canoe to shoot lotus garden until the sunrise, I would say it is the best time of the day to explore the lake in the morning to see the beautiful scenic view of Lake Sebu and to catch up with some other locals doing their daily lake routines.
The placid lake of Lake Sebu can be found in Allah Valley near the municipality of Surallah, South Cotabato. Surrounded by rolling hills and mountains covered with thick rain forest, the lake has an area of 354 hectares (870 acres), with an elevation of approximately 1,000 metres (3,300 ft)
Local fisherman collecting his first catch of the day
Fisherman with his first catch tilapia
Beautiful scenic view at the lake
T'boli lady collecting lotus
On that same day after breakfast, we prepare our camera gears to conquer the famous Seven Falls in Barangay Silotin. From the name itself, it consists of seven majestic waterfalls with the water coming from the outflows of the Lake Sebu and Siloton. The first two waterfalls are easily accessible to tourists while the others require some trekking. But the best way to see these waterfalls is by riding a zipline that passes above five of them! Mind you, the zipline in Lake Sebu is one of the highest (600 ft above the ground) and longest (700 meters) zipline in South East Asia.
1. Hikong Alo, meaning Passage is 35 feet high. This is the widest and the most accessible among the 7 falls.
2. The first zipline ride will take you to a breathtaking view of Hikong Bente meaning Immeasurable, the second of the seven waterfalls.
Standing majestically at 70 ft high, Falls 2 or Hikong Bente (others call it Dongon Falls) is located 40 meters from Falls 1 and can be reached by either hiking the 774 steps, driving down the road or simply fly up in the air by means of a zipline ride!
On your second ride you will see Hikong B'lebel, Hikong Lowig and Hikong K'fo-i forming a giant liquid staircase.
3. Hikong B'lebel means Zigzag or Coil. It is hardly accessible since it is situated between two cliffs and directly streams to Hikong Lowig. Its 2 tiers total to around 20 feet high.
4. Hikong Lowig means Booth. It is approximately 40 feet high. It is hardly accessible since there is no trail leading to it. The slippery rocks within its vicinity add risks. It directly streams to a no-joke high, powerful Hikong K'fo-i.
5. Approximately 10 feet high, Hikong K'fo-i which means Short creates an enormous howling sound because of its compact, powerful drop. Its pool is really wide but really dangerous due to its swirling wild deep water. The smallest and shortest falls is accessible by moving out of a concrete trail and doing river trekking.
6. Hikong Ukol, meaning Wildflower is estimated to be around 50 feet high. Its powerful drop creates a misty effect like Hikong Bente. It can be accessed through concrete trail. Getting close to its base requires backward creeping along a slippery, little stream.
7. Hikong Tonok, meaning Soil is as high as Kikong Alo. This 3 tiered waterfalls rapidly drops on a sloping rock. This can be accessed through concrete trail. Going to its base is mildly difficult.
After our challenging zipline experience with majestic Seven Falls, we took another kilometer trek to T'daankini Falls to freshen up and have our "budol fight" lunch. T'daankini Falls is a cold mountain spring/river with natural pools nestled at the foot of the Dagoma mountain range.
The Dreamweaver at Lang Dulay
Then, we moved to Lang Dulay Weaving Center where you meet women who weave their dreams into a glorious black and red cloth called T'nalak.
Lang Dulay was 12 years old when she became a dreamweaver – a special brand of T’boli weaver who receives the t’nalak patterns from dreams granted by Fu Dalu, the god of abaca. As dreamweaver, she sustained the T’boli traditions in this modern era and stood as one of the wisdom keepers of her generation. On 1998, she received the “National Treasures-Gawad ng Manlilikha ng Bayan” award given by the National Commission for Culture and the Arts (NCCA).
April 30 of last year, the ninety-one year-old and national treasure Lang Dulay, 'Mother of T'nalak' laid to rest.
The T'nalak, is a traditional cloth woven by the Tboli women of Lake Sebu and to them this unique fabric represents birth, life, union in marriage and death. It is often used as blankets and clothing and on rare occasions it is used in the royal wedding ceremonies. The t'nalak is sacred and is represents the T'boli's uniqueness and identity as indigenous group of people.
Making the t’nalak is a skill that young T’boli women learn through their mothers, grandmothers or even sisters. Most of the existing weavers today come from a generation of t’nalak weavers that go back to their great ancestors. In their early years, the young T’boli women are introduced to the process by first assisting in the initial stages. As they progress, they move on to the dyeing, weaving and tying of the knots. It can take around one to five years of constant practice for a T’boli woman to fully learn the full production method of the t’nalak. To assist in the manual stripping of the abaca fibers as well as the burnishing of the fabric, the men of the household take charge of these stages from the husbands down to the sons. The production of the t’nalak requires multiple roles that contribute to its final output.
Sunset view and the calm lake.
And on our last day, before we hit the road going to our next pit stop, I can't help but take a couple of bird shots (using my 55-200mm fujinon lens) outside my room, just enough to remember that with all the attractions the town offers, it is no doubt that Lake Sebu is one of the best places in the Philippines that I've ever been to experience unique culture, appreciate the beauty of nature and enjoy thrilling adventure. Lake Sebu... is surely a nature haven.
Moving on to our next destination which is Davao to experience the 31st Kadayawan Festival 2016, we had a few side trips along the way that made our photo tour so special, fun and fulfilling. From South Cotabato we stopped at Tacurong to visit Baras Bird Sanctuary in Sultan Kudarat.
Baras Bird Sanctuary is a haven for 20,000+ endemic & migratory birds, as well as a learning center for kids and kids at heart.
Located by the Banga River in Tacurong City, Sultan Kudarat, this sanctuary isn't your usual avian park where the birds are enclosed in a cage. Here, the birds just come and go, some stay to nest, while others fly back to where they came from.
The herons and egrets are the most conspicuous ones because they lord it over the treetops and skies.
The best times to visit are early morning and toward sunset. Why? Early morning, the nocturnal birds come to roost and the day birds fly out. Sunset, because the night birds go out of the sanctuary and the day birds fly home.
In short, you're going to see birds 24/7.
"The reason birds can fly and we can't is simply because they have perfect faith, for to have faith is to have wings."
Upon reaching our destination after long 5-6 hours drive including stopovers, we dropped by first to Philippine Eagle Center in Davao del Sur.
The Center is home to 36 Philippine Eagles, 18 of which are captive-bred. It also houses 10 other species of birds, 4 species of mammals and 2 species of reptiles. Simulating a tropical rain forest environment, the Center offers the visitor a glimpse into the country’s forest ecosystem. Although the exhibits are used primarily to help educate the Filipino people on conservation, the facility is also considered a major tourist attraction in Davao City.
The Philippine Eagle Foundation is a private, non-stock, non-profit organization dedicated to saving the endangered Philippine Eagle (Pithecophaga jefferyi) and its rainforest habitat. Organized in 1987, it had before that time been operating as a project undertaking research, rehabilitation, and captive breeding. Staffed by highly trained and dedicated personnel, it has today evolved into the country’s premiere organization for the conservation of raptors.
Finally, we arrived at Davao City around 6pm on the same day. We check-in to our hotel (The Pinnacle), freshen up then we meet our friend Shem who's very kind enough to help us to get our special sticker access to cover Kadayawan Festival.
The Kadayawan Festival is an annual festival in the city of Davao in the Philippines. Its name derives from the friendly greeting "Madayaw", from the Dabawenyo word "dayaw", meaning good, valuable, superior or beautiful. The festival is a celebration of life, a thanksgiving for the gifts of nature, the wealth of culture, the bounties of harvest and serenity of living. It is held every third week of August.
This ritual serves as their thanksgiving to the gods particularly to the "Manama" (the Supreme Being) and Bulan (a moon deity) that the first gathering was on a night of a full moon, It was said that, long time ago, Ancient Visayans and Davao's ethnic tribes residing at the foot of Mount Apo would converge during a bountiful harvest and had to celebrate the full moon because they believed "the diwata came to earth at that time" so did the other islanders and tribesmen. The full moon was greeted with a variety of names- 'paghipono', 'takdul', 'ugsar'- but most significantly as "dayaw" [at present it is kadayaw in some Bisayan Islands], perfect or praiseworthy, fit recognition of its spectacular shape and sunset-to-sunrise brilliance. It was so beautiful that the pre-colonial people praised and believed it was the reason for their bountiful harvest
Various farming implements, fruits, flowers, vegetables, rice and corn grains were displayed on mats as villagers give their respect and thanks for the year's abundance. Singing, dancing and offerings to their divine protectors are the highlights of this ritual.
To a great extent, present-day celebrations of Kadayawan Festival have not changed much. The only difference is that this festival gave rise to several independent festivals, and the theme, while remaining largely about thanksgiving, has also incorporated cultural and historic influences.
An old lumad folk wearing colorful tribal cloth
A group of lumad waiting for the fluvial parade
Davao River Festival (Fluvial Parade)
This year bears witness to the revival of the Davao River Festival. The tribes will have their own floats and will be introduced in the fluvial parade along Dawow (Davao) River on August 19. The parade of these colorful floats is not to be missed because the last time there was such an event was in 2008. I’m quite sure that the ethnic tribes have given their best to create these stunning floats.
Matigsalog Tribe Float
Obu-Manuvu Tribe Float
Maguindanaon Tribe Float
Tribal girl taking mobile video during fluvial parade.
Hiyas sa Kadayawan
The tribes pick their most talented and beautiful women to compete for the Hiyas sa Kadayawan, a pageant search for that distinctive indigenous young lady who is knowledgeable of her native culture and wisdom through a pageantry of Mindanaoan myths and legends. These gorgeous women will also join the parade and shower smiles.
His name is Jaime Epi (if I'm not misspell), showing his Duterte trademark support - he's known as one of the oldest man in Obu-Manuvu tribe.
Tribal ceremony showing unity of 11 tribe leaders
Clata-Giangan, Sama, Tagabawa, Kagan, Iranun, Tausug, Maguindanaon, Ata, Obu-Manuvo, Matigsalug and Maranao Tribes
Then, that's the end of our 5 days and 4 nights Lake Sebu - Davao (Southern Mindanao) Photo Tours. Thanks to a very very good friends of mine who always believes in me, to share our passion in photography and never say "no" to join my esapade, you know who you are. =)
I would like to thank also the dynamic duo (Raymond and Nonoy) my special guide and cool driver and also to Ada who's very helpful and patient during our stay at Lake Sebu. Thanks to my friend Shem, who made our life easier in covering Kadayawan Festival. This remarkable trip will never be the same without you guys. Hope to see you again... soon.
Please standby for my next photo escapade and will announce very soon.
These Philippine Photo Escapades is part of my ongoing self project.