What would possibly get a night owl like me to wake up 4:30AM in the morning? If I’m on the road, there would only be two possibilities: to catch an early morning flight/commute or chase a photo opportunity that MUST be worth the effort. Bernie, my travel buddy during my trip to Lake Sebu and blogger behind HabagatCentral, told me about his plan to take photos of the lotus flowers in Lake Sebu during the wee hours of the morning. It sounded interesting … a chance to photograph beautiful lotus flowers in a scenic mountain lake setting. But why do it so EARLY? Bernie answered that the lotus flowers in Lake Sebu only bloom during sunrise … It was a done deal, basically :|  I was too intrigued by the morning lotus blooms to just brush the opportunity off. At first it was mostly because of curiosity … I haven’t read about Lake Sebu’s lotus flowers being featured by other bloggers. After pushing through with our mission to visit the “lotus fields” of Lake Sebu, I returned with one of the most beautiful sunrise experiences of my life.

Update: As one of the commenters pointed out. The flowers in Lake Sebu featured on this blog are pink indegenous water lilies, NOT lotuses.

Local kid riding a traditional T’boli canoe in Lake Sebu

Sunrise View at Mountain Log Resort

Bernie woke me up at 4:30AM as planned … yeah, I was kinda expecting that Bernie would be the first one to get up :) We stayed the night in one of the cozy rooms of Punta Isla Resort. It was probably too cozy … coupled with the cold mountain air, I didn’t want to leave the comfort of our room. Since there were no habal-habals (single motorcycles) queued up at the entrance of the resort, we had to do the lengthy walk from Punta Isla to the highway.

Sunrise view of Lake Sebu from the balcony of our room at Punta Isla

I suggested to visit the watchtower at Mountain Log Resort first. I spotted the tower, the day before and wanted to get an overlooking view of Lake Sebu during sunrise. Bernie gladly agreed. While waiting for a habal-habal, we saw a young local, assisting his grandpa on his morning walk. He approached us and asked to wait for a while until he could assist his grandpa back to their house. That was how we met Archie, our habal-habal driver for the morning. Seeing lolo (grandpa) being assisted by his apo (grandson) during the god forsaken hours of the morning was very heart-warming ^_^

Highway intersection to Punta Isla

At around 5:50AM, we were on the way to our first stop at Mountain Log Resort. There wasn’t anyone manning the gate to the watchtower, so we decided to go up and pay the entrance fee (P10) later. The panoramic view of Lake Sebu was awesome! We could see a nice view of Lake Sebu (not all of it though). It was great to witness the morning mist clear up as the sun rose ever gently over the horizon and the soft colors of the sky reflected by the calm waters of Lake Sebu.

Refreshing pines at Mountain Log 

The viewing deck of the watchtower at Mountain Log Resort

View of the highway

Bernie was the first one to notice that a patch of pink dots had suddenly sprung from one part of the lake. The lotus flowers had bloomed already! We hurriedly went down to pay for the entrance fee and ride the habal-habal to the patch of lotus pads.


Lakeside structures of Mountain Log Resort

Sunrise Lotus Flowers of Lake Sebu

Archie took us to “Pag-asa,” where a big patch of lotus flowers can be found. I’ve been there when I went on a photo walk the day before but didn’t notice the many lotus pads clumped up in that one area. We went to the lakeside to take photos but the big patch was still too far to get a satisfying view and impossible to get closer by foot since the water was deep and far too muddy.

This was the best I could do with my camera’s zoom

Ducks ducking around

Locally crafted paddle boats / canoes of the T’Boli tribe of Lake Sebu

We saw some canoes nearby and wondered if it was possible to borrow them. Archie asked around and was able to score a canoe for us. YEY! Bernie was up for the canoe ride first. He couldn’t get on the boat successfully because it was too unstable. Archie told us the boat was newly made and did not have a “katig” yet. A “katig” or outrigger is a long wooden beam installed at the sides to keep the boat stable. I tried my luck, and was able to balance myself on the boat. It was A LOT scary because one slight movement would cause the boat to wobble uncomfortably. I’ve already done risky stunts like this (with my camera) in the past and besides, I was already too “zoned in” to my mission of getting closer shots of the lotus flowers. Me and Archie went on a balancing act during the whole boat ride :D

It was all worth the risk! Being in the midst of the beautiful carpet of lotus flowers basking in the warm glow of the sunrise was just so beautiful… the experience definitely changed my perspective on sunrise photo-ops forever :D  I also felt happy because the weather was really gloomy the day before and then it seemed the gods have conspired for Me and Bernie to have the perfect morning in Lake Sebu … These are times, which remind me how much I love to travel and chase beautiful scenery in unfamiliar places.

Sunlight Opened Up The Lotus Flowers Video :)

music: “Twisted Logic” by Coldplay

Leaving the safety of land

Getting warmer

Archie, the master paddler

In the midst of the lotus garden at last!

Really Beautiful. One perfect snapshot after the another.

Me and Archie on the canoe in Lake Sebu. Photo by Bernie

Why the Lotus Flowers in Lake Sebu Bloom only during Sunrise?

I would’ve liked to spend the whole day on the canoe ride but I’m sure Bernie was already itching to go. Archie borrowed another boat for Bernie … bigger and with a “katig.” While I was waiting at the lake side, I couldn’t help but wonder at the reason why the lotus flowers bloom only during sunrise and close later in the day. Ofcourse, I could only speculate at the time … after doing a google search, I found out that my initial hypothesis was wrong. I was thinking that the lotus flowers only bloom during sunrise so the lotus plant could absorb sunlight, which it needs for sustenance, and then close when the light becomes too harsh for its delicate petals. I feel like a dummy now because I forgot that chlorophyll, the green pigment found in plants, are responsible for absorbing light. The lotus flowers, the primary reproductive part of the plant, bloom in the morning because its favored pollinators also awaken during the wee hours of the morning as demonstrated by my helpful assistant over here:

“Imma pollinate the petals out of you” -duck

Lotus Flowers and the T’boli Tribe of Lake Sebu

Bernie, the cultural expert between the two of us, mentioned in his blog that the lotus flower is closely associated with the T’boli people. It’s interesting because the lotus flower is not a significant cultural icon in most cultures in the Philippines … unlike the rest of Asia where the flower is revered, particularly in Buddhist and Hindu culture or ancient Chinese, Indian, Thai, Egyptian tradition.

According to local T’boli myth, Lake Sebu was born when a princess had a dream to come to the land called Sebu. During her visit, she saw a big leaf, and opened it. A frog jumped out from the leaf and water gushed out … flooding the place now known as Lake Sebu.

The local culture is centered around Lake Sebu. It was cool to see some of the locals use the canoe to get their way around the lake. I even saw two kids do it so masterfully … and unsupervised!?

If ever I come back to Lake Sebu, I’d really like to learn how to maneuver a canoe so I can go to the lotus fields as I please or have a tour around the lake all day :)

Lake Sebu Lotus Flowers Paddle Boat Ride Tips

  • Habal-habal service (from Punta Isla to Mountain Log to Pag-asa and back) – P150 charter
    • Archie was our driver and skillful boat captain. He didn’t ask for P150 … he said the amount was up to us. Got his mobile number before we left: (+63)9052397042
    • If you just want to ride a regular habal-habal. The local rate is just P8-P10 minimum per way.
  • Mountain Log Watchtower – P10 entrance fee