I PLANNED to spend the Holy Week at home. I had plenty of reasons for not wanting to go anywhere, but the night before the EcoTrek to Lake Holon in T’boli, South Cotabato, something pushed me to join my group, Team Bundol Mountaineers, in what was going to be one of my most unforgettable adventures.
When I heard about Lake Holon, it never occurred to me that it is the same lake that I used to know as Lake Maughan. Even some of my friends wondered where that place could be. I learned later that the reason for the confusion is the name.
What’s In A Name?
Lake Holon, popularly known as Lake Maughan, is the crater lake of Mt. Parker. By the way, Mt. Parker is really Mt. Melibengoy. Here’s the story.
The T’boli people, the indigenous tribe in the area, used to call the stratovolcano, Melibengoy and its crater lake, Holon. Sometime in 1934, an American General, Gen. Frank Parker, who claimed to have discovered the lake, crashed in the site, with another American, known only by his last name, Maughan. From then on the volcano was called Mt. Parker and its crater lake, Lake Maughan.
Recently, local officials moved to restore the local names of the volcano and the lake. They now prefer the names Mt. Melibengoy and Lake Holon.
According to some sources, Melibengoy is the T’boli term for volcano, while Holon is for “portal to heaven,” from a local legend about a T’boli witch who led a pack of followers to the lake, thinking that they were going to earn eternal life. No one has seen than since. They are believed to have gone straight to heaven after diving into the water.
The Trek To The Philippines’ Cleanest Lake
Lake Holon is accessible via Barangay Salacafe in the municipality of T’boli. To get to T’boli fromGeneral Santos City, you can take a bus to the City of Koronadal. From there, you can take a bus or a van to Surallah Integrated Terminal, where you can ride a jeepney or hire motorcycle to T’boli. It is encouraged that you drop by the municipal tourism office of T’boli before going to Salacafe and sign your name in the logbook.
In our case, the organizers of the 9th EcoTrek and Fun Climb hired a vehicle that took straight from GenSan to Salacafe.
The trekking begins at Salacafe. It took me about 3 hours to reach the highest point of the trail. The trail is lined with trees for the most part. we were just lucky that it was not very hot when when we traversed the open path. The next 45 minutes was spent going down to the lake.
As we were nearing the camp site, I began to catch a glimpse of the lake through the branches of the tress that surround the lake. By merely looking at the bluish green body of water my weary soul began to revivify.
Other campers were already pitching their tents when we arrived but I couldn’t wait to gaze at such a wonderful creation. I ran to the lake shore and gaped in awe of the beauty that was Lake Holon.
I saw some campers scooping water from the lake. The water of Lake Holon is crystal clear and mountaineers use it for cooking and, yes, drinking. Why not? Lake Holon was adjudged as the cleanest inland body of water in 2003 and 2004. I don’t know what happened in the years that followed. To me, it is the cleanest lake I have ever seen. I had to wait for the next day, though, before I was finally able to wallow in the cool and clean water of Lake Holon.
It was my first time to swim in a lake and I couldn’t forget it. It was so refreshingly cool that I didn’t want to stop swimming.
Reportedly, the lake covers an area of over 300 hectares. There are floating cottages there and some dugouts for those who would want to go boating around the lake. It’s depth, however, remains unknown. There were attempts but they were not able to measure it. Given the right equipment, I’m sure, we can finally get the correct data about its depth.
Leave No Trace
While we, mountaineers, show concern for the conservation and protection of natural resources, there are people who don’t. Mountaineers abide by mountaineering ethics that we leave no trace in the places we visit. There are some people (locals) who visit the lake and just leave their trash anywhere. I even had to ask a group of teenagers to pick up the empty cans, plastic, and other litter they left near the lake. I hope that local government can act effectively act on this if they want Lake Holon to still be the cleanest lake in the country.
There is an even bigger problem. Along trail, I saw some trees felled by a certain company. I think, that part of the forest is being converted into a plantation. It seems that the plantations are crawling towards the lake. It is so sad that things like this continue to happen despite the warnings the place has received from nature when the walls of the lake collapsed in 1995 that led to the death of 24 people and left hundreds of families homeless and when heavy rains caused the lake to overflow in 2006. There seemed to be no trace of learning left in the minds of the people living in the area.
I did not regret that I decided to change my mind and went with my friends to Lake Holon. It was an experience of discovery, learning, and strengthening of the bond of friendship and connection with nature. Lake Holon is a destination I would always want to go back to.