Kofnit Cave and the Ubo Tribe of Lake Sebu
Lake Sebu is known for its lake resorts and the majestic waterfalls above which one of the longest and tallest zip lines in Asia zooms, earning the town the moniker, Summer Capital of the South. Hidden beyond the lake and the mountains lies an undiscovered natural treasure – the Kofnit Cave in Sitio Lambila, Brgy. Lamfugon, Lake Sebu, South Cotabato.
Louie Pacardo, a fellow blogger, mountaineer, and photography enthusiast (among the other interests we share), has been inviting us to join a mountaineering event he and his friends organizes, Takladtamig, which is similar to what we, Team BUNDOL Mountaineers, do here in Sarangani. We had a difficulty finding a common schedule until the 11th Takladtamig event.
Four of us from Team BUNDOL Mountaineers finally had the chance to join Takladtamig – a portmanteau of three Ilonggo words: taklad (climb), kita (we, us), mig or amigo (friend), to mean “Let’s climb, my friend!”
From Sarangani we took a bus to Koronadal City. From there, we rode a van to Lake Sebu Tourism Office where we were oriented about the area and local culture of the people there.
Sitio Lambila is a forty-minute ride from Lake Sebu proper. It was my first time to go beyond the lake. It is already close to the border between Lake Sebu and the town of Maitum in Sarangani Province.
The usual means of transportation is a motorcycle that traverses winding, steep, dirt road. We rode a dump truck on our way there which proved to be scarier because the roads along the ridges are very narrow. The height of the truck adds to the already dizzying of feeling of being flanked by steep downward slopes.
The trek to the village took us only about thirty minutes and the trail was not as difficult as the other areas we have visited before.
Sitio Lambila is a small village consisting six families that all belong to the Ubo tribe. They welcomed us to their long house.
We did not waste much time after we arrived. The organizers led us to planting site, where we planted bamboo, to help prevent soil erosion and to provide the locals a potential income source in the future.
After the tree-planting activity, it was time to explore Kofnit Cave. We were divided into three batches of not more than ten. This was done for safety purposes. It is never good to bring a big crowd inside a cave.
I was in the third batch so we had to wait for our turn. As we wait, the women of the Ubo tribe prepared boiled camote (sweet potato) for snacks and cups of hot locally-produced coffee. Imagine feasting on that while being surrounded by mountains covered with lush vegetation. It made me feel like wanting to stay longer.
I got excited when it was our time to go inside the cave.
From the village, we had to trek down to the river over five hundred meters below. The path was steep and made even more difficult by the rain that poured earlier. With us was Sir Enteng who was found the trail really difficult so I had to assist him as went down. They built bamboo railings on the way down but it wasn’t strong enough to hold on to.
Finally, after struggling for fifteen minutes or so, we reached the mouth of the cave. We stayed there for a few more minutes and waited for the second batch to come out so we can use the headgear and the lamps they used.
When they came out the cave, we saw mixed emotions on their faces but the feeling of satisfaction was the strongest, which made my heart race, dying to see what is hidden inside the Kofnit cave.
As we entered the cave, we had to wade through knee-deep – waist-deep at some point – water. The guides already looked tired but still passionate about what they are doing.
I was being extra careful as we walked along the narrow pathway. I could feel the sharp edges of rocks under my feet. It was also becoming increasingly cold as we went further inside the cave. We stopped for some snapshots and to appreciate the formations of stalactites and stalagmites. There were also points where the ceilings were as high as that of a cathedral. We also had to climb up rocks and squeezed our way through some bottlenecks.
Sir Enteng already felt tired and decided to stop at one of the convenient areas inside the cave and just waited for our return. My team decided to complete whole 550-meter long main chamber. There are a lot of interesting formations inside the living cave.
On our way out, I am happy that the people involved in this activity are aware of the need to protect and conserve Kofnit Cave. The locals themselves are aware of the steps needed to be taken to protect the cave. I have heard of plans of making Kofnit Cave as one of the major tourism sites in the municipality. I am glad to note that sustainability has always been part of their planning and implementation.
If we had difficulty in going down, it was not much different on our way back. It was already dark when we went back to the village, which made it even harder.
After our dinner, we gathered around to talk about the activities that day. We share our thoughts about the activity. After which, we turned over the school supplies, food items, and the solar lamps to the leader of the village, who expressed his gratitude that people from the lowlands remembered them.
We left the village the next day and I only realized that I left my tent there when we were already at the town proper. Given the difficulty of the road to the village and the lack of funds, going back was definitely not an option.
When I reached home I realized that it was not only my tent that I left at Sitio Lambila – I also left my heart there. I will surely be back there soon.