Lake Sebu is more than the lake, tilapia, and the waterfalls. Lake Sebu is the cultural heartland of the T’boli people. They with their colorful clothes and beautiful music. The best way to experience this is through a homestay with a T’boli family.
I came across Maria Todi on the internet and has since become friends with her. She has helped me a lot in my research, introducing me to talented musicians and weavers, and more importantly giving me an opportunity to be part of her extended family.
The homestay consists of a cluster of bamboo buildings.
The dining area is fitted with a balcony. I’ve spent many hours here going through my research notes.
The traditional T’boli house is large and spacious and can sleep several people. T’boli houses have no inner partitions as everything is communal. It’s a fantastic way to interact with the family and other fellow guests.
It’s very cool inside.
More sleeping areas are being built. This is beneath the house and will have individual rooms for those who want more privacy.
The large patio has souvenirs such as necklaces, traditional blouses and vests, and handwoven cloth for sale. They’re priced much lower here than in souvenir shops.
The toilet and bathing area is downstairs a few steps away from the house. Don’t worry, there’s a bucket-flush toilet so no need to squat. Hehehe. Expect to bathe the traditional way with a dipper and a bucket.
You can choose to have your meals here and taste traditional T’boli cooking which uses fresh ingredients and uses no-frills cooking techniques but is very tasty. At Martha’s last night of stay, we had a communal dinner.
Maria, who also goes by her T’boli name “Oyog,” is a respected artist and cultural worker. Her homestay is attached to the School of Living Traditions which she set-up to teach T’boli youth their dances, music, and crafts.
At any given time, children are practicing at their musical instruments.
If D’wata smiles on you, perhaps there’s an ethnomusicologist in town (hint: me) who has invited a musician for documentation and you get to watch and listen.
She also hosts Barbara Ofong, a weaver. You can see her tieing her “t’nalak” designs and weaving.
If you stay long enough and are lucky, you will be treated to a performance of music and dance courtesy of Maria’s family and artist friends.
Here’s Martha, a Taiwanese guest, who was here for a week at the same time I was here.
You can spend hours talking with Maria about T’boli life and culture. She is very passionate with what she does and you will take away with you nuggets of wisdom and experience from what it means to be T’boli.l
You can also play games with the children. They will also gladly engage you in conversation. Learn to say “heyu lafus” (good morning) or “t’bong s’ lmat” (thank you very much) from them.
Of course, I’m biased and this is probably more of a promotion rather than a review but that’s because I really enjoy staying here whenever I’m in Lake Sebu. I also believe in supporting initiatives like this especially if these are by the T’boli themselves.
Staying with Maria not only gives you a glimpse of T’boli culture but you also help support the School of Living Traditions, a vital link to the promotion and conservation of T’boli culture.
Maria Todi’s homestay is at Bgy. Poblacion, Lake Sebu. If you are on the public van from Koronadal/Marbel or Surallah, just ask to get off at SIKAT (the T’boli school). The homestay is right beside it on the left side of the road. You can simply drop by or call in advance at +639066345367 / +639129764041.