A Bloom of a Hundred Lotuses of Lake Sebu

The kids and the flowers

Morning approaches in the highlands of the T’boli people. The lake was placid and the air was cool. The fog hugs the ground and the water surface and the canoes make ripple of the lake’s serenity. Hay paradise…Psst Marc, bugtaw na! Lakat pa ta sa lotus pads sa Pag-asa! (Marc, wake up! We’ll be going to the lotus pads in Pag-asa). We jump started our morning right in Lake Sebu, as Marc of Explore Iloilo and I had a mission that morning—to seek the fabled lotus gardens of Lake Sebu, the flower mostly associated with the T’boli people, other than the t’nalak cloth and the brass bling-blings they have.

The lake and the clouds

The warm touch of sol against the tender earth's curves...

After seeing numerous photos of T’bolis sailing with their canoes over lotus pads, I was wondering where exactly among the three lakes would we see fields of lotus pads? The day before, Miss Sarah Laduha of the local tourism office referred us to this placed called Barangay Pag-asa, about two kilometers from the town center, at the southwestern coast of the lake. We’ll find our lotus fields there indeed—but it only blooms early in the morning, from sunrise to about 10 or 11 in the morning on a good weather.

Alarms set and cameras charged. We’re ready!

We weren’t sure if the lotus pads were there. I heard some people said that the government removed these in order not to restrict water flow and suffocate the lake. There was a level of uncertainty yet we were determined to push through. Luckily though, we had our own habal-habal driver and a local guide that would lead us to Pag-asa.

Distant Matutum says good morning!

As we went up on a tower in another resort, we saw how blissfully the sun’s rays touch the high mountains of South Cotabato, gently caressing the virgin forest slowly and warmly. The placid Lake Sebu with her tilapia pens, floating houses and occasional canoes dot the calm surface. And as the rays touch the navel of the lake, Marc and I found what seems to be one of the best sights that beautiful morning. From afar, there was an explosion of pink dots at a corner of the lake. We found the lotus fields! As if it was like magic, they started to open up their bosom to the sky. We headed immediately to Pag-asa. It was just near but the colors of morning make it magical.

And they started to bloom...

Our first challenge was, the lotus fields were several meters away from the shore. Taking photos from afar sucks. You couldn’t appreciate the birds and the bees and the flowers and the trees and the sky up above without getting there, right? And so, our local guide, half-T’boli, half-kasimanwa (as we Ilonggos call our own kababayan), borrowed a canoe—and like any other provincial towns, he knows the owners themselves. Buena mano!

The canoes of Lake Sebu - I doubt it stays afloat with my weight

Our guide and the canoe

Marc was the first one to ride the canoe since he is obviously lighter than this overweight writer. As I wait for my turn, I took some photos of that placid morning. Ducks crossing, people sailing and enjoying the cool lake water with my feet. The silence and the tranquility overwhelmed me—rejuvenating and a therapy from urban blight.

Marc's turn

the field of lotuses

BZ bee on final approach for nectar!

Lotus: Up and close

All right it was my turn, and it didn’t go easy. We had to borrow a canoe with outriggers because the canoe couldn’t just bear my weight and has risks of falling on the water (I can swim, but my camera can’t!). When I was there, I have to be calm and balanced—I was a bit nervous! However, the anxiety quickly dissipates as I approached the lotus gardens. Looks like it was a bee rush hour when I went there since a lot of them were collecting nectar from the flowers. The pink flowers bloomed with full force as the morning sun touches them. I was becalmed. I was happy.


It was just difficult to balance here

It was already an hour and a half when we left our accommodation. It was time to head back. Walking back with my feet bear on the surface of the earth, I found myself longing for that calm that I guess every city-dweller has been seeking. As we leave Pag-asa, with mission completed for the moment, the flowers still salute nature with all its might until mid-day. Nature has bestowed the T’bolis all the blessings they can get, and I hope that in the near future, I’ll still see a hundred lotus blooms when the morning sun touches the lake.

The main mode of water transportation around the lake

Tey Tilob Be’Sebu!

See? I guess I need to trim down my weight! Haha! (Photo Courtesy of Marcos Catatao of ExploreIloilo.com)

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8 comments to A Bloom of a Hundred Lotuses of Lake Sebu

  • sarah | travel journal

    Naku, super namiss ko na naman Lake Sebu because of this post. I like taking pics of lotus flowers din pero more than the obvious na mga lotus sa lake, super dami pa ng mga exotic flowers na makikita sa Lake Sebu (http://thewalkingtripod.blogspot.com/2010/11/southern-blooms-amazing-floras-and.html). I remember, super aga kong nagigising nun just to take pictures. Wag lang sana sumobra ang dami ng mga lotus like what happened few years back. Ilang months na lang naman before I get to visit my beloved relatives there. Thanks for sharing this :)

  • Your welcome. I can see lotuses as great decoration for Lake Sebu itself. Although I agree that too much may suffocate the eco-system of the lake (or even flood it). OK lang nga madula ang water hyacinth, indi lang ang lotus. Hehe!

  • joan / the backpack chronicles

    love your shots.. ang ganda ganda nung mga lotus.. sana makapunta din ako dyan next year!!!

  • Lake Sebu Lotus Flowers: My Sunrise Paddle Boat Ride

    [...] the cultural expert between the two of us, mentioned in his blog that the lotus flower is closely associated with the T’boli people. It’s interesting [...]

  • nanardz

    wOW kanami gid! nice post sir bernie.. balik tau.. see you at the SEX tour.. :)

  • Kim

    Nice one… a paddle to remember…at least it is not about the falls or zipline feature…

  • Psst, Kim. Salamat sa pag-agi diri. Hehe!
    Sure, that’ll come in a few days time…a lot is in store for Lake Sebu.

    I hope it is “to be continued” again this November
    And in the long run, I’d settle in South Cotabato for good….

  • I hope next time Nardz, I’ll settle there for good. Tani may ubra lang ko da.

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