I have heard rave reviews of Lake Sebu and the T’boli people’s Helobung festival, and decided it was time to see it for myself. I got myself on a plane to Gen San and took a road trip to remember.
Day one was spent settling into Punta Isla Resort, which overlooks the lake. It has the most basic of accommodations; for some travellers, this may be considered roughing it. On the upside, our room has a balcony with a view of the lake. (Author’s note – my pet peeve was the random black crud that fell from the ceiling onto the beds, into the bathroom sink, the toilet bowl, etc.)
We walked around and explored the neighbouring establishment, the Cooperative for Women in Health and Development (COWHEAD). It was a humble hut of traditional indigenous construction, which of course, interested me more than it would the average traveller. (Architect in residence, though I hate to admit.) I love how the windows fold down, and creates an extended balcony of sorts.
Inside the shop, there were native crafts such as necklaces of intricate beadwork, woven fabrics, and even musical instruments.
Next to COWHEAD was the T’boli museum. Also built in the vernacular style, this T’boli home was bigger and had changes in levels to articulate the space. (Sorry, my architecture speak HAD to come out at some point.) ANYWAY. It housed traditional costumes, fabrics, instruments – mostly gongs. There were gongs everywhere, of every imaginable size. (Brass casting is a craft in this region.)
The establishment is being maintained by a lovely old lady and what I presumed to be her adorable grandaughter. It only costs PhP 5 to enter (about US$ 0.15!). Seeing that we were the only two people there, I wonder how the place survives.
This was also the day that my friend realised NOT all Filipinos know how to sing. It was our good fortune that we decided to lunch at the first restaurant we saw, and said restaurant had a karaoke machine. Ah yes, the staple equipment in any Filipino watering hole. I had my grilled tilapia – which Lake Sebu teems with – amidst wails to Celine Dion and Whitney Houston. If we were judges on the X Factor, everyone would have gone home that day. The karaoke machine, on the other hand, was more than generous – it gave scores of 94 out of 100 to even the worst singers on the block. You have to give it to them for encouraging local patronage.
Alternative entertainment was provided by our view of the highway. Somewhere between grilled tilapia number three and papaya, the sound of horses’ hooves reached our ears. We looked up to see two grown men run after two ponies (they’re not quite full-grown horses, unless they’re dwarfs). After being obstructed from view by a pillar, said men emerged on the next frame, riding a motorbike. They must have realised the futility of running on their bare feet after the horses have disappeared around the bend. Cue Charlie Chaplin or Mr Bean background music. We don’t know if any animals were harmed in this episode.
Out in the town centre (coloquially knows as poblacion), festivities were in full swing in the form of a county fair. Think fun games and loud music. Plus a flea market. No livestock present. But they did play Psy’s Gangnam Style. Even in the remotest of places, social media finds its way to wreak holiday havoc. You gotta love YouTube and the internet.
So much for Day One in Lake Sebu.