Seven Falls | Lake Sebu, South Cotabato
There is nothing like waking up to the gushing sound of Hikong Bente (‘immeasurable’ in Tboli; Falls No. 2) at the 7 Falls in Lake Sebu, Southern Philippines. Although we camped out far from the cascade, we could still feel the gentle rumble of the ground beneath our tents. Mother Nature’s alarm clock has also served as an unconventional lullaby that lulled us to sleep that night (the first in “Project Aerie” or our adventures in South Cotabato). How that delightful ambiguity became possible is still beyond me up to this point.
When everyone else was still sleeping, I went as near as possible to the waterfall to capture good photos of it. There is a concrete foot trail that leads to the foot of this majestic giant. You could also get climb up the ridges if you want a unique Facebook profile. But at 6:00 AM, I could say that I had the falls to myself. I would say that is a pretty rare moment because the 7 Falls has seen an upward surge in tourist arrivals lately.
I felt overpowered by its loud and long cascade but at the same time soothed by the mists that formed as a result. I also wonder how many centuries it took the waterfall to carve out the jagged cliffs on its left side portion. In the absence of words to process what I have seen that time, I just broke out into a fitting song despite the fact that I do not have any obvious talent in singing. I am not surprised now why photographers like Allan Barredo and Jojie Alcantara find themselves coming back to this place.
Hikong Alu (‘passage’ in Tboli; Falls No. 1) is shorter compared to Bente. It may not be as grand as the latter, but it holds a unique charm of its own. Its water drop is wider and the vegetation on both sides of the waterfall invoked a tropical feel. It can be reached by a convenient dirt road or by walking up the 774 concrete steps near the foot of Falls No. 2.
There was already a family picnicking near the falls and a number people staying at the concrete bridge when we got there. They are probably waiting for the zip-line rides to be opened that morning.
The remaining waterfalls (Falls No. 3 to Falls No. 7) could be reached by a recently developed concrete trail. But you could also briefly see Hikong Lowig (‘booth’ in Tboli; Falls No.4) and Hikong Kefo-I (‘wildflower’ in Tboli; Falls No.5) at your right side, midway through an exhilarating ride at the 7 Falls’ first zip-line ride.
Hikong B’lebed (‘zig-zag’ or ‘coil’ in Tboli; Falls No.3) is hidden from view and could be reached by embarking on a different trail. We did not continue our hike to Hikong Ukol (‘short’ in Tboli; Falls No.6) and Hikong Tonok (‘soil’ in Tboli; Falls No.7) because we had to leave for Sitio Kangko before lunchtime.
The South Cotabato provincial government has continually developed the area to become a more convenient place for everyone else. A tourism center and some huts are being constructed near Falls No. 2. I can only hope that its steady development would be closely monitored so that efforts like this would be sustainable in the long run and not disruptive of the 7 Falls’ ecosystem.
For those who would be visiting the place soon, please practice the principle of leaving no trace behind:
- Take only as much photographs as you can. It is very easy to become a pro when you have the beautiful falls as subjects. 🙂
- Throw away your garbage at the designated trash bags. We picked up a few junk food wrappers at the foot of Hikong Bente.
- You might also want to reconsider buying the monkey skulls (and other exotic animal skeletons) at the souvenir shops. What would you need those for anyway? Settle for the cheaper beads and necklaces instead.
I would really look forward to another opportunity where I could visit the 7 Falls again. Three things on my list: try the zip-line rides in sitting position, trek to all the other waterfalls and find out what other surprises the place has in store for me.