My fifth time in Lake Sebu and I still continue to love the place. Of course, I’m biased 🙂 because this continues to be my research area as an ethnomusicologist and I continue to work with its musicians and dancers. The last time I was here was in 2014 for the Helobung Festival in November and so much has changed. For one, it is so much easier to get to now for Manila-based travellers. For those who have not yet visited this wonderful gem of a place in the Soccksargen region, here’s my nifty little guide.
p.s. I only ever come to Lake Sebu from Manila so this is for folks coming from there. I know there are routes from Davao and other Mindanao hubs but I’d rather let those who have done those routes speak for them.
GenSan Airport-Marbel-Lake Sebu
Arriving at the GenSan International Airport, the most direct route to Lake Sebu is to take the Yellow Bus from the airport to Marbel (also known as Koronadal). It only costs Php 150 and the ride is just a little over an hour. Look at their FB page for the scheds.
Artriving at the new and modern Koronadal Integrated Transport Terminal, head to the parked vans at the other end. There are blue signs hanging from the ceiling announcing the different destinations. Just look for the sign that says “Lake Sebu” and get a seat at the parked van. Take note that they pack the van to the brim with 4 people sharing a 3-seater row. Your luggage either goes under the seats or at the small space at the front row. If you have a large pack or bag with you, I suggest you pay for an extra seat. Of course the best spot is right in front with the driver.
Fare: Php 150 (GenSan Airport-Marbel)
Php 80 (Marbel-Lake Sebu)
Travel time: 1.5 hours (GenSanAirport-Marbel).
1 hour (Marbel-Lake Sebu)
Hours: All day. Leaves when full or (in my experience) at least when half full (in the case of the vans to Lake Sebu).
With the Marbel-Lake Sebu van, there really is no reason to ride a bus from Marbel to Surallah (30 mins) just to take the van to Lake Sebu.
GenSan Bulaong Terminal-Lake Sebu
According to the conductor of the Lake Sebu-GenSan van I rode, the first trip out of GenSan is at 9am as the van originates from Lake Sebu. Honestly, I’d rather take the bus to Marbel as I wouldn’t want to be in a cramped van.
Fare: Php 150
Travel Time: 2 hours
Hours: All day starting at 9am
GenSan Bulaong Terminal-Marbel-Lake Sebu
I always take this route because I prefer buses over vans. You can take your pic of bus lines at the terminal–Yellow Bus Lines, Husky, and Mindanao Star. Preferably, ride the one that goes non-stop to Marbel. There are signs on the bus platforms and on the buses themselves. Alternatively, just ask any of the bus conductors and they’ll steer you to the right one. As always, the bus leaves when full.
Fare: Php 110
Travel Time: 1 hour
Hours: All day
The bus will drop you off at the Koronadal Integrated Transport Terminal where you take the van to Lake Sebu.
All vans whether coming from GenSan Bulaong Terminal, Koronadal Integrated Transport Terminal, or Surallah Terminal will drop you off at the new Lake Sebu Terminal which is located near the School of Living Traditions (more of that later) and not at the center of the poblacion (where the old terminal used to be). There are habal-habal (motorcyles) that can take you to your accomodations.
Leaving from There
Leaving Lake Sebu, the terminal you arrived at is where you’ll also ride the van back to either Surallah, Marbel or GenSan. Just turn up. The vans leave when full. The GenSan-bound van drops off passengers at the Surallah and Koronadal transport terminals and anywhere along the highway. It doesn’t wait to pick-up passengers, though which means that travel time is still 2 hours and from Koronadal to GenSan, the van will probably be nearly empty.
Transport to other places such as Tboli municipality (for Lake Holon) are also here.
I cannot stop recommending the Lake Sebu School of Living Traditions and Homestay which is just a few meters (about a 5 minute walk) from the terminal. Yes, you can stay in one of the concrete resorts but that would be boring and so ordinary. The homestay is not only atmospheric but is an experience by itself. It’s basic and communal but you get to stay in a Tboli longhouse that’s really nice and clean. Besides, the interaction with Maria Todi, a Tboli cultural worker, and her family is priceless. This is where I always stay and I can totally guarantee how wonderful this place is. Check out the FB page of the homestay.
Tips While There
1. Be patient. Service at the local eateries are always not as quick as you want it to be.
2. Buy Tboli crafts and music instruments from the artisans themselves or at Tboli shops such as COWHED so your money goes directly to them.
3. Learn to play Tboli music instruments such as the gongs, learn to dance, or to make beads at the Lake Sebu School of Living Traditions.
4. Hire Tboli people as guides to tour you around.
5. Spread your money. Eat at different places. Shop at different shops.