I traveled alone to the often misunderstood region – South Cotabato to explore and meet T’boli tribe.
From General Santos City, I transferred to two buses – Marbel to Surallah then Surallah to Lake Sebu. Of course, I feel nervous, especially when I asked a lady vendor at the bus terminal on which of those buses were bound for Marbel. She gave me a strange look before she answered my question. On our way to Marbel, I wanted to take a nap ‘coz I’m feeling sleepy with my less than 4 hours of sleep prior to my flight, but I force myself to open my eyes and be vigilant. After all, this region is often associated with bombings. But I have to assure myself that it’s safe like everyone is saying on their blogs.
When I arrived at Surallah bus terminal, I approached the lady guard and asked her the same question that I asked from the lady vendor. Again, she gave me a strange look before she answered my question. When I’m about to leave, she asked if I have a companion, then I said I’m alone. She smiled and says “Safe naman ang Lake Sebu, but ingat po kayo.”
That small gesture from a local that assures you at the same time tells you to be safe was priceless. I started to feel comfortable because of that and most of the people in Surallah speaks Bisaya. So, it was easier for me to communicate with them and asked questions.
At around 3pm, I arrived at Lake Sebu. I immediately went to my accommodation in School of Living Tradition. A school/homestay managed by T’boli native, Maria Tudi.
On my first night, there was a cultural show as a send off party of one of the guests. Maria Todi explained to us about T’boli culture, her vision for School of Living Tradition, T’boli’s music and arts.
The following day, I chartered a motorcycle to tour around Lake Sebu. Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to rent a boat that will tour me around the lake.
After the tour, I went back to my home stay and watched the kids played musical instruments, observed the elderly woman do the T’nalak waving, listened to their inspiring stories about their beliefs and tradition.
My three days visit turned out to be more enriching than I imagined. I gained new friends, met people with interesting stories, and experienced vibrant traditions. It was short, but it pique my interest to explore other places in Mindanao.