Lake Sebu, Mindanao

The area around Lake Sebu on the island of Mindanao in the southern Philippines is home to the colourful T’boli people with their distinctive culture, language and dress. Many tribal traditions remain strong, such as the bartering of horses for wives and the fighting of horses one against the other, thereby increasing the value of the winner. In the surrounding mountains there are plenty of traditional villages, the beautiful Lake Sebu itself and some impressive waterfalls.

Horse fighting at Lake Sebu, Mindanao, the Philippines

Horse fighting at Lake Sebu, Mindanao, the Philippines


Filipinos from other parts of the country warn against travel to Mindanao, as do most foreign governments. Various tribal conflicts rage in the interior and in some isolated parts there are militant Islamic fundamentalists. In reality, however, those parts are so far froь where any right-minded tourist would go that it is not worth worrying about them. Check the local security situation before you go, but in 2008 it was possible to get to Lake Sebu without passing through any volatile areas.

Fly or get the boat to General Santos (or Davao, followed by a 3-hour bus ride to General Santos). From there get the bus to Marbel then Suralah then either a jeepney or bus or motorbike taxi to Poblacion near Lake Sebu. There are a couple of places to stay there. Ask a motorbike taxi driver to take you to one.

From Poblacion motorbike taxi drivers can take you out to villages nearby where you may well get invited to eat or drink with friendly locals.

In November there is a multi-day T’boli festival in Poblacion where people come from miles around, often on foot, dressed up in all their finest traditional costume. There are displays of dancing, horse riding, parades and horse fighting. Contrary to what has often been reported about it, the horses do not kill each other or even draw blood, it is not run by criminals and is in fact an important part of T’boli culture.

Click here for my blog on Lake Sebu and the T’boli. It’s 3383 words and 37 photos.


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