Living with the T’boli Tribe on a Budget

As a budget traveler, the first thing that I’m going to worry about after I booked my plane ticket is the budget. From airport to my destination, to my accommodation, including full board meals, and tour fees – I list them down on a spreadsheet.

Surprisingly, it didn’t cost much to share a cup of coffee with the T’boli tribe in South Cotabato and even live together with them for 3 days.


Lake Sebu Homestay

Though the town is very small and undeveloped, but looking for a place to stay won’t be a problem. For as low as P100/night, you’ll have a standard room with bed and private CR.

If you want to splurge and would prefer to stay in a resort, there are lots to choose from. Room rates would vary from 1500-3000php per night.

Since I prefer a cultural immersion, I stayed at a T’boli House in School of Living Tradition. For only P250/day, I have a home –cooked breakfast and a chance to stay up close and personal with the natives. It was actually a homestay where I shared the entire house with the other guest.


Lake Seloton, Lake Sebu South Cotabato

Habal-habal or motorcycle is the easiest way to go around the town. Minimum fare is P10. But, they offer whole day tour package for only P500.


Lunch at lake Sebu homestay

Carenderia, restaurant, or café are everywhere. There’s one at the public market, a couple of restaurants can be found on the hi-way (along the road), and of course the restaurants inside the private resorts.

However, the cost is not budget-friendly for a solo traveler. They have a big serving that could feed 2-4 persons. My host warned me about this when I arrived and started looking for a place where I can grab a late lunch.

I ate at one of the nearby restaurants and paid P250 for 1 cup of rice and a plate full of Pancit Guisado. Their options are limited to Tilapia cook in many ways. The cheapest in their menu is the grilled Tilapia that cost around P300 for 1 kilo. No, they don’t sell Tilapia fish by piece. It’s per kilo.

So, I asked my host to cook my meals during my entire stay and paid P150/meal.

To give you an idea how much I spent, here’s my detailed expenses.

Day 1


Airport to Gen San bus terminal via taxi P350 (but I haggled and paid P300) J
Gen San to Marbel via aircon bus P95 (one way)
Marbel to Surallah via non-aircon Yellow Bus Line P22 (one way)
Surallah bus terminal to Lake Sebu bus terminal P35 (one way)
Lake Sebu bus terminal to Homestay via habal-habal P20 (P10 supposedly, but I paid P20 ‘coz I didn’t know that the fare was only P10.)
Lunch at Surallah P120
Lunch at Lake Sebu P140
Dinner at home stay P150 (native chicken tinola, steamed okra, ripe mango, and 1 cup of rice)
Accommodation (3 days & 2 nights) P500 (P250/night)

Day 2

Tour package (visited Lake Soloton, 2 out of 7 waterfalls, and Divine Mercy Shrine) P500
Lunch at home stay P150 (native chicken tinola, grilled tilapia, papaya fruit for desert, and rice)
Dinner at home stay P150 (composed of veggies meal)

Day 3

Home stay to Lake Sebu bus terminal via habal-habal P10
Lake Sebu to Gen San P150 (Vhire)
Gen San bus terminal to airport P300
Other expenses: (toiletries, snacks, and souvenirs) P300
Total P2,992

I didn’t get the chance to tour around the lake ‘coz the tours were fully booked. I went to Punta Isla Lake Resort, but they prioritized their guest. I inquired at the Mountain Lake Eco Resort, but group tours were fully booked as well. Estimated cost for 30 minutes – 1 hour boating tour is P600 good for 3 persons at Punta Isla Lake Resort. P250/head for the lake cruise inclusive of buffet lunch at Mountain Lake Eco Resort.


3 Comments Add yours

  1. thelittlelai says:

    I may not grow up in T’boli culture, but my heart has always been a T’boli as my blood says so. Thank you for sharing your experience in Lake Sebu, you’ll probably have reason to run back there and explore the town. Since you left out some of the adrenaline activities in Lake Sebu.

    1. Kareen says:

      Hello @Thelittlelai! Thanks for dropping by. Definitely, going back to Lake Sebu is part of my future travel plans.

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