5 Things You Must Experience in Allah Valley (South Cotabato and Sultan Kudarat)


There is this vast patch of land in Mindanao that can be every traveler’s haven for adventure and cultural experience. This place is where artists can see in real life the imagined, where photographers can immortalize distinct nature’s beauty and where adventurers can pump up their adrenalin to reach new perspectives.


The place is called the Allah Valley, a vast landscape covering portions of South Cotabato and Sultan Kudarat in South Central Mindanao region. Here, the picturesque upland town of Lake Sebu in South Cotabato is the crowning destination and the rest of the eco-cultural tourism spots are equally amazing.  
Here are the five things you must experience in Allah Valley Area:

1. Fly above the rainbow and the raging series of Seven Falls

This is not a statement from a fantasy movie.

Since the installation of the popular twin zip lines in Lake Sebu in 2009 experiencing this dream-like scene has been possible. It is considered as the highest in Southeast Asia at 200 meters from the ground. The first zip line is 740 meters long and will leave you suspended for 35 seconds.

While flying in superman position above the cloud of mists produced by Falls 2 (Hikong Bente), the highest of the seven falls, you can have a good glimpse of the rainbow below if you're lucky. Rainbows are in its most vivid formduring noontime or when sunlight is enough to play with the mists. Not to mention the very lush forest below and the cascading Falls 3 and 4 (Hikong Blebel and Hikong Lowig) that connects to the evenly stunning falls 5 (Hikong Ukol).

Don’t forget your camera. It’s an adventure you don’t want to miss recording. If you prefer to concentrate on your ride or don’t have a camera at all, in-house photographers are always standing by for set of photographs you can use as authorization tickets for your bragging rights.

The zipline package can be availed at P250 per person on weekdays and P300 on weekends. Price of photographs taken by stand-by photographers starts at P100.  Entrance is affordable at P20 only.
After the zip line rides, rest if you must. But don’t miss to take the canopy walk, a paved walkway that offers a closer look of all the falls starting from Falls 1 (Hikong Alo) to Falls 6 and 7 (Hikong K’fol and Hikong T’nok). If you dare to push some more, the 774 steps steep canopy trail from Falls 2 area to the entrance gate is the answer.

2. Trek to the peak of a volcano or camp in its caldera

Yes, a volcano locally called Mt. Melibingoy (more popularly known as Mt. Parker) standing 1,756 meters in the uplands of Tboli town in South Cotabato. It is considered dormant and will not erupt in our lifetime according to predictions by the experts. That is if the Supreme Being won’t counter that prediction.


A seven hours trek to the peak will take you to the thick primary and secondary forests. There are no dinosaurs along the way although you might suspect its presence in the thickness of the forests along the trail. From the top one can see Mt. Melibato from the same town, Mt. Matutum in Tupi, South Cotabato, Mt. Apo, the highest peak in the country settled in Davao, Mt. Three Kings in Lake Sebu, the Quezon Moutain Range and Sarangani bay.


For a more relaxed trek and a different perspective of the volcano, take the four-hour hike to the lakeshore campsite in Lake Holon, Mt. Melibingoy’s 304-hectare wide caldera of freshwater (not of lava).

3. Go Bird Watching for rare endemics and some 20, 000 migratory birds

There is another hidden paradise in this side of the world where the most elusive birds are taking refuge. Sitio Kangko in Brarangay Lamlahak, Lake Sebu is home to our very own Philippine Eagle (Pithecophaga jefferyi), Philippine Hornbill (Buceros hydrocorax) and Brahminy Kite (Haliastur indus) and several other endemics.

Kangko is frequented by researchers and bird watchers for its ornithological wonders.  Eco-guide Roy Ungkal told me that foreigners armed with telephoto cameras and government researchers are his frequent visitors to the place.

An hour of away is the Baras Bird Sanctuary in Tacurong City, Sultan Kudarat.  The 1.3 hectare riverbank lot in the obscured village of Baras, settled seven kilometers from the national highway, is the refuge for some 20, 000 migratory birds.  It is the new favorite destination of bird photographers who want to catch a shot of the flying visitors that come mostly from the northern hemisphere during winter time.
A young Black Crowned Night Heron found a home in  Baras. 
Photo credit: City government of Tacurong
Cattle Egrets and Black Crowned Night Heron dominate the dense population of both nocturnal (active at night ) and diurnal (loves daylight) birds. It is also home to white egrets (lesser, intermediate and greater egrets), Rufuos night heron and Chinese egrets.

Unlike the other more popular bird sanctuaries where you have to distance yourself to avoid disturbing the birds, here you can walk among and see them just overhead through a paved walkway. Make sure though to wear a head gear to avoid catching bird poops. Best time to photograph is during early mornings and late afternoons. During these times, you can see birds flooding the salmon sunrise and sunset skies.


4. Bask in Serenity

Lake Sebu and the mountains of South Cotabato and Sultan Kudarat are the perfect spots for the meditating souls. In the silence of the secluded places you can go “emo” as much as you want. Lake Sebu’s three lakes (Lakes Sebu, Seloton and Lahit) offer naturalistic silence especially at night where you can only hear the sound of the wild.


The humming of the chilly night is also suitable for the honeymooners who want to do it in peace with nature. Beware though of resorts offering their visitors videoke machines. These are vexations to those who seek for serenity.

To soothe your tired muscles, try dipping into the pools of Hot and Cold Springs Resort in the secluded Barangay Marguez in Esperanza, Sultan Kudarat. The two adjacent pools have, yes, hot and cold waters which are naturally sourced from the nearby mountain.  There, the chorus of the birds and the sound of the flowing water dominate.


5. Meet and greet the bearers of culture

The two provinces are home to several indigenous tribes like the Tboli, B’laan, Ubo and the Tiduray.
To feel the spirit of the past and relate it to the struggle of the present generation to preserve their indigenous culture, interact with the locals.

Meet Lang Dulay, the traditional weaver of the Tnalak Cloth, and recognized by the National Commission for Culture and the Arts (NCCA) as a National Living Treasure through the Gawad Manlilikha Award. She does not speak English nor Filipino but her works, explained mostly by her granddaughters/interpreters, tell of their culture and life.


Understand how the famed T'nalak undergoes a long and tedious process and how it’s made from abaca fibers to the treasured pieces.

According to NCCA Lang Dulay knows a hundred designs with each one telling a unique story and “her textiles reflect the wisdom and the visions of her people”.

But don’t visit Lang Dulay just for a photography session. A picture of her will look good on your Facebook walls and blogs but remember that she’s not a model. Learn about history and culture and traditions from her creations.


Eco-tourism Highway

These promising destinations are lumped into a circuit of concrete and finely asphalted highways that connect  the eleven municipalities within South Cotabato and Sultan Kudarat.

The Arts, Culture, Tourism and Sports Promotions (ACTS) Office of South Cotabato and the Provincial Tourism Office of Sultan Kudarat, with the help of Allah Valley Landscape Development Alliance (AVLDA), a coalition of local governments in the said provinces, have set up a tourism road map with tourism packages to cater to the varying desires of tourists. Capability building programs involving all stakeholders and the communities are on going to further strengthen the tourism industry.

Get on the move now and enliven your wandering spirit. Always be reminded that the best destinations aren't always in the foreign lands. It could be just right in your own backyard. All you need to have is a light luggage, a carefree spirit and a steady sense of wonder.  Cheers! []
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How to get there:
The nearest airport to Allah Valley is General Santos City International Airport in General Santo City, considered as the gateway to the region. The second nearest is Davao City International Airport in Davao.  

South Cotabato is less than an hour away from Gensan. Bus fare is P83 (around $2) below. 
It's a four hour trip if you're from Davao. Bus fare is P254 (around $6). 
Traveling by van is cheaper but I still recommend taking a bus.

To roam around Allah Valley, buses, vans, tricycles, habal-habals (single motorcycles) are the common modes of transportation. 

The blogger is from South Cotabato. Should you want to explore the province or Allah Valley and need more more info or you just want to share your adventures, you may contact him through this blog or through this blog's Facebook page. You may also leave a comment below.

14 comments:

  1. Nice presentation weng...how about butterfly sanctuary?

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  2. amazing!sir isn't it dangerous to go to south cotabato alone??i'm planning to go there by my own hopefully next yr..:)

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    Replies
    1. it's safer to roam around (even alone) in the streets of south cotabato than in Metro manila, sir. you can check police records for crime rates comparison to prove that. see u here. drop me a message if u need help for your trip. :)

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  3. i'm planning to go with my husband is October ok? how hard are the treks? pwede ba sa beginners? 3n 4d kya na bang mapuntahan yung mga must see places? how about the budget?

    thanks,
    josie

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  4. i'm planning to go with my husband, is october ok? to roam around kaya naba ng 3n4d lang? how hard are the treks? pwede ba yun kahit sa beginners? and the budget, can you give me a rough estimate? thanks a lot.

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    Replies
    1. hey Josie,
      the place is good anytime of the year. 3n4d is enough to experience more than what you've read here.
      lake holon difficulty level is easy to moderate (on a mountaineer's scale. are you planning to go backpacking or get a tour? thanks for dropping by.

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  5. Hi sir,

    Very informative post, thank you so much!
    I'm planning to visit gensan-south cotabato this long weekend for 2 days only (Aug 21 & 22, thu-fri) and visit lake sebu and asik asik falls. Hopefully we can meet in this very beautiful province :)


    - JB

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  6. Nice!Lake Sebu looks amazing, hmm dati nadidinig ko lang ang Tacurong sa mga clients namin, i didnt realize may ganun kaganda na Bird Sanctuary in Tacurong, parang sa Japan lang ang style, Sana mas ma boost pa ang tourism lalo na sa Mindanao. Misconception kasi kapag sinabi na mindanao e alam na may threat agad. Pero im sure marami pang lugar sa mindanao na pwedeng pwede isabay sa coron, boracay, el nido etc.. maybe mas maganda pa nga e.

    ReplyDelete
  7. Nice!Lake Sebu looks amazing, hmm dati nadidinig ko lang ang Tacurong sa mga clients namin, i didnt realize may ganun kaganda na Bird Sanctuary in Tacurong, parang sa Japan lang ang style, Sana mas ma boost pa ang tourism lalo na sa Mindanao. Misconception kasi kapag sinabi na mindanao e alam na may threat agad. Pero im sure marami pang lugar sa mindanao na pwedeng pwede isabay sa coron, boracay, el nido etc.. maybe mas maganda pa nga e.

    ReplyDelete
  8. These photos are pronominal. eye catching and you will catch many visitor that place i also bring my friends Bali Day Trip there.

    ReplyDelete

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