Friday, September 24, 2010

Lake Sebu, South Cotabato: Beneath the surface

Lake Sebu - Seloton Foggy Mountain Morning Fishing
Lake Seloton Foggy Morning Fishing
One of the fringe benefits of waking up before the sun awakens from its slumber is seeing a world slowly being roused by the changing light, the quickening of the breeze, the lifting of the shroud of fog, and the beating of oars.  At Lake Sebu, where over a hundred hectares are devoted to tilapia cages, and nearby Lake Seloton also dubbed as the sunrise lake with 26 hectares of fish cages, the day begins before dawn when fishermen in their bancas carved from a single piece of log break the stillness of the mirror-like waters.
Lake Sebu - Fishnets and Fisherman
At least 26 hectares of the 75-ha Lake Seloton are dotted with tilapia cages
Before long, the lakes are alive with people in transit -- students in their uniforms, housewives carrying supplies, men on their way to work -- using the waterways as we cityslickers would traverse concrete roads.  Inland, the incessant chirping of birds is disturbed only by the occasional passing of motorcycles, the rather loud blare of a not so distant karaoke and the chatter of locals.  As it turns out, a growing number of "locals" here are not really locals in the strict sense of the word but rather transplants from the lowlands.
Lake Sebu - Bird on a Palm
Cool Lake Sebu mornings are blessed with the incessant chirping of birds
Lake Sebu - Bright Colored Mosque
Mosque near the poblacion
Nothing really wrong with welcoming migrants except that according to an acquaintance, a growing number of T'bolis are relinquishing their claims to their lands, which are ancestral domain, and giving way to migrants mostly Christians from the Visayas.  Exposure to outside cultures have also somewhat diluted the T'boli traditions, perhaps none more evident than in T'nalak designs that pander to international tastes rather than culled from the nature-inspired dream states of its weavers.

As with any place that hopes to attract more visitors, there are struggles with giving in to development as well as concessions being made -- the construction of an unsightly clubhouse near Falls One; the plans of adding a cable car to the zipline overlooking five of the seven falls;  the proposal to add a rock climbing facility on Falls Two.  The list goes on.
Lake Sebu - Tropical Scene from the Roadside
An invigorating roadside view of the distant mountains framed by palm trees
Local tribesmen consider Lake Sebu as nothing short of miraculous, never drying up even with the comings and goings of droughts and El NiƱo -- an important thing to consider especially since it is a vital water source for (drinking water and irrigation) both South Cotabato and Sultan Kudarat. I hope and pray that even with the increasing onslaught of tourism and outside influences, the idyllic, eden-like nature of the lake along with the purity of T'boli traditions will not dry up as well.

Attribution: Philippine National Statistical Coordination Board 
Recommended reading: "Losing Paradise" by Luis Francia, PDI, 2008

Read my other 2010 Lake Sebu posts:
Zipping through five falls in (about) 60 seconds
Meeting the master dreamweaver
Reflections on a journey back to the land of lakes, falls and dreamweavers


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