The 7 Falls of Lake Sebu, South Cotabato via Tacurong City, Sultan Kudarat

Last weekend my family and I went on a road trip to visit my son's grandparents at their ancestral home in Tacurong City, Sultan Kudarat. It was a treat to also hike up the mountains to see Sebu Falls which is a 1 hour trip from where my son's grandparents live.

In the past, traveling to Sultan Kudarat from Davao City was a tiresome journey. The roads of the highway leading south were heavily laden with potholes and cracks most especially in the area of Bansalan, Davao del Sur. Upon reaching the Maguindanao area of the highway, there were only portions of the highway that were paved and the rest was rough road. To sum it up, it would take 5-6 hours to get to Tacurong City from Davao City and after all the bouncing you had to endure from the worn out portions of the highway and from the unleveled dirt road, you would arrive as one weary traveler. But now, after the road widening project of the government, the replacement of the worn out portions of the highway, and the paving of the sections of dirt road, the trip is now a mere 3 hours. The trip was still a bit bouncy since only portions of the highway had asphalt and there was still a bit of on-going construction, but due to past experience, I enjoyed the trip. We left Davao City at 6:16 am and arrived at Tacurong City at 9:10 am even with a stopover to use the restroom and to have a bit of breakfast.

Tacurong City has had a few developments commercially; there are now more fast food chains. Jollibee used to be the only visible fast food chain there and has become a landmark. Now, besides it, you can find Greenwich and Mang Inasal. I didn't see Goldilocks but, I did see a poster saying to come visit. A few blocks away from Jollibee, you'll see the Notre Dame University, with Dunkin' Donuts, Blugre' Coffee Cafe, and a Mercury Drugstore in its vicinity. We opted to wait at Greenwich for my son's grandfather to pick us up. I got a pizza for the kids, washed up at the restroom, and tried to rest but, it was a bit hot inside Greenwich. 3 air-conditioning units surrounded the dining area but only 1 was functioning. Oh well...

After having lunch at the ancestral house, the family decided to make a quick trip to Lake Sebu to catch the Sebu Falls. According to them, there's a shortcut from the house and the roads leading to the falls are all now nicely paved. According to my partner, the last time he was there was when he had a retreat of sorts because the place was quite solemn. So, we all quickly boarded his brother's van to hike up the mountains to Sebu Falls.

Yes, the road leading to Sebu Falls was nicely paved. We passed the iconic "I Love Noralla" monument heading into Surallah, South Cotabato. I was amazed at how large the area of South Cotabato expanded to. I have passed by Marbel heading to Sultan Kudarat but have never gone exploring. It's nice that I can do a bit of exploring with my son in tow.

Before going up into the mountains, we caught a glimpse of the placid Lake Seloton which irrigates South Cotabato and Sultan Kudarat. The lake's surroundings were clean and green with only a number of houses in the area. 
Hikong Alo of Lake Sebu. Image Credit: The Tired Mama-ph

The entrance to the 7 Falls of Lake Sebu has a stone arch with nearby stalls selling souvenirs and is located at Baranggay Lake Lahit, Lake Sebu, South Cotabato. The booth which collects entrance fees was a bit tattered and did not actually have a big enough sign to direct tourists. We had to look for it. Good thing a parking attendant pointed us in the direction of the booth. After paying our entrance of 20 pesos (roughly 40 cents USD) we all hiked down the path leading to the most accessible waterfall (and of course, the most popular) Hikong Alo which means "passage" in T'boli. There are only 2 waterfalls that are accessible to the majority of the public, Hikong Alo and Hikong Bente (Immeasurable) which is located at the bottom of the 774 steps.  There is also a path leading to 2 more waterfalls, Tonok and Ukol. Unfortunately, 2 of 7 has been tagged as dangerous and is only accessible to experienced trekkers and mountaineers. To reach the shortest, one must go by water. Via the zipline adventure, 3 out of the 5 waterfalls can be seen from above.
The pathway towards the most accessible waterfall Hikong Alo. Image credit: The Tired Mama-ph

The path to the widest waterfall of the 7 was rough. I was swearing under my breathe and wishing I had worn sneakers. With the amount that they collect from entrance fees (and judging by the number of tourists during that Sunday that amount must be a hefty one), the management has not allotted much for the maintenance of the area; not even trying to make a path that is more accommodating to tourists like making the use of bricks or large stones to form a pathway that still encompasses the serenity of nature. I felt bad for the small children who were having a difficult time balancing themselves as they walked on the rough path. On a positive note, there was no trash of any kind along the walkway which served as proof that the local tourists adhered to the "no littering" policy of the park.
Hikong Alo, the widest of the 7 waterfalls and most accessible. Image credit: The Tired Mama-ph

As we approached the first waterfall, you could already smell the pungent musk of fish. I made a remark about not wanting to fall into the dark green water and my partner said "It's fine, the water is only thigh deep. Look." Only then did I notice that there were some men wading in the water with nets. Seeing the men wading gave me some solace that I wouldn't drown. Nor the children...that's if I didn't misjudge the current of the water.
The dark green water which Hikong Alo streams down to. Image credit: The Tired Mama-ph

Nearing the waterfall, a heavy mist of that fishy, murky water was dancing about. Everyone got sprayed and  I was amazed that many tourists stayed a lengthy time at the edge of the path nearest to the waterfall. I kind of freaked when the mist sprayed on my gadgets. So I hurriedly took some photos and left the vicinity of the mist. Plus, it was muddy and I didn't want to get stuck in the mud. 

Nearby Hikong Alo was a bridge where you can take a nice photo of the waterfall without the countless heads of tourists ruining your photo. Also, you can board a stationary zip line harness located at the center of the bridge and take a photo of yourself as if ziplining with the waterfall as your backdrop.

Bridge fronting Hikong Alo with a stationary harness at the center. Image credit: The Tired Mama-ph

Fortunately for me but unfortunately for my partner, my son started throwing a fit. So, we decided to hike back up near the entrance to find a place to wait while our relatives hit the zip line adventure offered in the park. I begged off doing the zip line because 1.) I was not appropriately dressed and 2.) my son's behavior did not permit. When my partner and I reached the entrance, we found a vendor selling grilled bananas and fresh coconut juice in front of a big sign that said: " You have conquered the 774 steps of Seven Falls of Lake Sebu". Behind the sign were sprawling bamboo and underneath it, a long bamboo bench. We bought 2 cups of coconut juice and situated ourselves on the bench to wait for the others. My son fell asleep - the cool wind coming towards us because apparently, the bench was at the edge of a cliff. I was able to get a souvenir keychain to add to my collection. Yes, I collect keychains from new places I have the privilege to visit.

The steps lead down to the 2nd waterfall that is also accessible to the public- Hikong Bente. Image credit: The Tired Mama-ph

Sprawling bamboo overhead. Nice shade from the heat. Image credit: The Tired Mama-ph

While we were waiting, you can hear the screams of the people zipping through on the zip line. We wondered how they would get back to the entrance. When people started emerging from the steps on the side of the bench we were seated on, we finally figured out that they had to climb the 774 steps to get back to the entrance. I overheard one explaining that he was extremely tired- after having his heart rate shoot up during the zip line adventure because he was nervous and scared, he had to climb the steep steps to get back to the top. He said he has never felt that tired in all his life. 
These concrete steps lead down to Hikong Bente. Image credit: The Tired Mama-ph

The 7 Falls of Sebu Lake zip line is one of the highest in Southeast Asia. At a staggering 180m above the ground (300m above sea level), it suffices to say that it is indeed a scary feat. But, the biggest perk is, you get to see the other waterfalls of Lake Sebu. They are said to be more majestic than Hikong Alo.

The names of the 7 waterfalls of Lake Sebu are as follows:
1. Hikong Alo- Passage
The widest and most accessible. It is around 35 feet high.
2. Hikong Bente- Immeasurable
Located at the bottom of the concrete 774 steps is the highest (70 ft.) and said to be the most beautiful. A view deck is situated at the foot of the falls for tourists.
3. Hikong B'Lebel- Zigzag or Coil
A 2-tiered 20 ft. high waterfall sandwiched between 2 cliffs and streams directly into Hikong Lowig. Iy is often called the War Fish' Lair.
4. Hikong Lowig- Boothe
Lowig is 40 ft high and streams directly to Ukol. According to Trekero, it is the hardest to get to.
5. Hikong Ukol- Wildflower
A 50 ft. waterfall with a constant mist hovering over it.
6. Hikong K'Fo-I- Short
Although the shortest among the waterfalls at 10 ft. high, the water drops into a wide pool of deep swirling water. To reach K'Fo-I, you need to go by water.
7. Hikong Tonok- Soil
A 35 ft. 3-tiered waterfall.
*For Photos of all 7 of the waterfalls please visit this post The Seven Falls of Lake Sebu: The Complete List

Hikong Lowig and B'Lebel are the 2 most dangerous waterfalls to get to out of the 7 and has been deemed inaccessible to the majority of the public by Lake Sebu Tourism. Only experienced trekkers and mountaineers accompanied by an experienced local guide are allowed access to these falls.

While we waited patiently for our relatives to finish with their adventure around Lake Sebu, my partner and I got a treat of our own...we were visited by a group of monkeys. At first, we thought they may be someone's pet or under the care of the park and looked for a leash or something that they may be attached to but, found nothing. We were surprised at how at ease these monkeys were with a human audience. The alpha male even took the time to pose for a picture with the little ones looking on. One even ate one of the grilled bananas that someone threw away. It was as if my partner, my son, and I weren't even there.
Alpha male monkey. Image credit: The Tired Mama-ph

Souvenirs at the stalls are reasonably priced. Kids' tank tops and T-shirts range from 85Php- 100Php, keychains at 28Php, Tribal bags for 200-250Php, Adult Tees at 300-400Php, bird whistlers for 20Php. There are many other items like mugs, woven bags and baskets, scarves, hand fans, magnets, and hats. Make sure to buy yourself a souvenir.

As a souvenir for accomplishing the feat of the highest zip line in Southeast Asia, a photo is taken before you fly through the air and is given to you after- of course, for an additional cost. Weekdays the zip line adventure is P250/head, weekends and holidays for 300Php. ($5 and $6 respectively).

For parents with small children like myself, you'll only be able to visit the one waterfall that is most accessible. The concrete steps heading towards the 2nd waterfall which is the tallest waterfall of the 7 is only accessible for older children and adults. Don't risk bringing your small children down those steep steps.

 Do remember when you decide to come and visit, dress accordingly. I probably wouldn't have given up the chance to zip line if I was in an outdoor athletic type outfit rather than a maxi dress and dressy sandals. There's always a next time. Hopefully, when I do visit again, improvements have been made to accommodate the public and I'll be able to see more of Lake Sebu. See you!

Lake Sebu The Seven Falls by Constantine Augustin is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0, modified with text.
Lake Sebu The Seven Falls by Constantine Augustin is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0, modified with text.

Seven Falls, Lake Sebu by I Travel Philippines is licensed under CC BY 2.0 modified with text.

Hikong Bente by Rawen BalmaƱa is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0

Related Links:

The Seven Falls of Lake Sebu: The Complete List available from

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