The 7 Falls of Lake Sebu in South Cotabato is a major attraction in the region. Also known as Dongon Falls, tourists throng to visit the site to see the magnificence of the falls. Most of the tourists visit Lake Sebu to experience the famous Asia's highest zipline, added the topview of 3 (Falls #2, Falls #4, Falls #5) of the waterfalls as bonus. Only 3 among 4 are visible since one (Falls #3) is hidden among the lushly vegetated landscapes.
|Hikong Bente (#2) on background is clearly seen when ziplining|
|Top view of Hikong Lowig (#4) seen while ziplining|
|Top view of Hikong Ukol (#5) seen while ziplining|
Falls #1 (Hikong Alo, meaning Passage) and #2 (Hikong Bente, meaning Immeasurable) are the most accessible, #2 being the highest and perhaps most beautiful. The concrete trail that leads to falls #7 (Hikong Tonok, meaning Soil) passes by falls #5 (Hikong Ukol, meaning Wildflower). Most trekkers complete these 4 waterfalls when trekking to the so-called 7 falls. Going to falls #6 (Hikong K'fo-i, meaning Short) requires going out of the trail to do river trekking. Falls #3 (Hikong B'lebel, meaning Zigzag) and #4 (Hikong Lowig, meaning Booth) are extremely difficult and really dangerous--- no trail to follow, requires clinging on roots, slippery rocks and steep cliff.
It was my shortest stay in Lake Sebu. Just overnight. The original plan was 3 days and 2 nights in Lake Sebu with my officemates. Since all of them backed out, I traveled alone. In fact, I even enjoyed spontaneity. I changed plan. My first day was spent in a far flung town of Kalamansig, Sultan Kudarat. On second day, I traveled from Kalamansig to Lake Sebu with sidetrip to the Pink Mosque (Masjid Dimaukom) in Datu Saudi Ampatuan, Maguindanao. I reached Lake Sebu by 6:30 pm. The third day was a coming home day. But I could not leave Lake Sebu without accomplishing something. I must complete the 7 falls. It was not my first nor second attempt. LUCKILY, I FINALLY MADE IT!
SEE THE FALLS ONE BY ONE
1. Hikong Alo, meaning Passage is 35 feet high. This is the widest and the most accessible among the 7 falls.
2. Hikong Bente, meaning Immeasurable is 70 feet high. The highest among the 7 falls can be accessed through 776 steps concrete stairway or the other way accessible by vehicles.
3. Hikong B'lebel means Zigzag or Coil. It is hardly accessible since it is situated between two cliffs and directly streams to Hikong Lowig (#4). Its 2 tiers total to around 20 feet high.
|Top view of Hikong B'lebel (#3)|
4. Hikong Lowig means Booth. It is approximately 40 feet high. It is hardly accessible since there is no trail leading to it. The slippery rocks within its vicinity add risks. It directly streams to a no-joke high, powerful Hikong Ukol (#5).
5. Hikong Ukol, meaning Wildflower is estimated to be around 50 feet high. Its powerful drop creates a misty effect like Hikong Bente. It can be accessed through concrete trail. Getting close to its base requires backward creeping along a slippery, little stream.
6. Approximately 10 feet high, Hikong K'fo-i which means Short creates an enormous howling sound because of its compact, powerful drop. Its pool is really wide but really dangerous due to its swirling wild deep water. The smallest and shortest falls is accessible by moving out of a concrete trail and doing river trekking.
7. Hikong Tonok, meaning Soil is as high as Kikong Alo. This 3 tiered waterfalls rapidly drops on a sloping rock. This can be accessed through concrete trail. Going to its base is mildly difficult.
HOW I COMPLETED THE 7 FALLS
Early Monday morning, I hired a habalhabal driver to take me to Dongon 7 Falls. I looked for Rubie Alzate whose family resides within the compound. Prior to my coming, I contacted her to look for a guide that would brave to take me to all the falls. Her brother whom she recommended was out guiding a big crowd of tourists. Then there's Tata who has just visited the site after resigning from a job in Marbel. He also used to work in a road construction project that would ease up transfer to 7 falls. When Ruby asked him to guide me, he readily agreed.
With a bolo on one hand and a pliable bamboo twig (defense from snakes) on the other, he took me to a trail other than the concrete stairway. We crossed a bamboo bridge. He led me to the head of falls #3.
He looked for his acquaintance who knows the unblazed way to the falls #4. Unluckily, his supposed guide was not around.
He found another old man who agreed to take us to falls #4. Our instant guide led us to a trail trod by horses going down to local farms. We know that #4 is directly below #3, so going much further from it really confused us.
After long minutes of trekking, he declared the howling sound as falls #4. He continued his way while Tata and I invented our trail down. Tata then said we were not on falls #4 but at the head of falls #7.
We decided to go down hanging on to 90 degrees cliff while clinging to roots and sharp blades of thick, itchy vegetation. Imagine yourself rappelling down without rappel.
Bruised and dirtied. Gasping and palpitating, we finally reached the river bed. I noticed his pliable twig was gone.
"Don't worry, we will go back to falls #4 later.", he said.
"Haha. Ok. But certainly not through the same way!", I laughingly answered.
We crossed the river with falls #7 in front of us. The water was deep, and so to keep our pants dry, we stripped them off.
We climbed up the concrete trail. To see falls #6, we had to get down the river and do water trekking.
When we saw falls #6, we were not convinced this was it. The falls is short. Its howling sound suggests its compact and powerful drop. Its pool of swirling water is obviously deep and dangerous.
We trailed back and decided to go down to falls #5. The way down is slippery dangerous. We slid down the little stream, clinging to any object we could grasp.
Upon reaching the base of Falls #5, I couldn't help but get more closer and catch its mists.
After short stay at falls #5, we decided to river trek down falls #6. When we finally reached the top of falls #6, we were finally convinced this was it. The falls is really short, thus the name "K'fo-i", meaning short.
|At the higher tier of Falls #6|
We climbed up and kept ourselves on trail again. When we reached the start of the trail, we again entered the other rough trail leading to falls #3. Tata tried his luck looking for his friend who knows the way. Luckily, we met Tatay Berto.
He guided us down a sharp slope. The way is unblazed. We forced ourselves against sharp twigs and other plants, clinging on the roots and blades again. I started to see falls #3. My excitement soared up.
After minutes of struggle, we finally claimed our prize! Falls #4 (Hikong Lowig) instantly became my favorite. I couldn't describe its fantastic sight. No words can intensify how beautiful it is!
I was so overwhelmed basking in the beauty of falls #4. Above it is falls #3. And below me is the powerful falls #5. Zipliners glided overhead. I was in a magnificent height.
|I am above falls #5|
|Top view of falls #5|
GETTING UP CLOSE WITH FALLS #4 IS AN ULTIMATE GOAL!
I got closer to the falls and soaked on its mist. I carefully situated myself on a giant rock above swirling water so fiercely untouchable like in a high speed washing machine.
I've been dreaming of that moment long before. After many attempts, I finally fulfilled it.
When my longing was sufficed, we trailed back to the bridge and river trekked to the most popular falls #2. We headed up its view deck.
Tata and I parted ways after our 4-hour adventure. He couldn't give me his number because he has no phone. I met my habalhabal driver and took our lunch at the entrance.
Before moving out, I had to complete all the falls. I trekked to the easiest yet awesome falls #1.
It was 1 pm. I never cared catching the last bus from Tacurong going back to Bukidnon. I asked the driver to bring me to Lake Seloton and then to Lake Lahit to complete the 3 lakes of Lake Sebu.
I departed Lake Sebu by 2:30 pm. I needed to be in Bukidnon first thing the next day so I proceeded to Marbel, then Gensan and Davao where I took a bus passing by Malaybalay and spent a sleepless night on the road home.
Reminders: Lake Sebu Tourism doesn't recommend trekking to Falls #3 & #4 due to absence of trail. TREKKING TO THESE FALLS IS AT YOUR OWN RISK.
Please check A QUICK GUIDE TO SOLO BACKPACKING IN LAKE SEBU.
HOW TO GET THERE:
From CDO: 1. take a bus going to Tacurong (Gensan route also available) 2. take a multicab to Isulan 3. take a van going to Surallah 4. take a van/jeep going to Lake Sebu (last trip is 5:00 pm)
From Davao: 1. take a bus going to Gensan or direct to Marbel 2. take a van/bus going to Surallah 3. take a van/jeep going to Lake Sebu (last trip is 5:00 pm)
Tata, my guide has no contact phone.
Million Thanks to Rubie Alzate for instantly appointing my guide.