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Visiting Lake Holon of Mt. Melibingoy (Mt.Parker) | A T’boli, South Cotabato Outdoor Adventure









It’s a rare invitation that was really hard to resist. My gratitude soared to heaven when Alfred "Red" Allaga of AVLDA& LGSP-LED requested me to be part of the familiarization tour in South Cotabato and Sultan Kudarat or simply the ALLAH VALLEY Familiarization Tour 2013.

I may have traveled far to reach T’boli for the first time, but this place have already stimulated my senses upon arrival to a great level of excitement with its tribal ambiance and ethnicity. The Municipality of T’boli is home to the indigenous people of T’boli, B’laan and the Ubo tribes. Our visit to T’boli was timely as the province of South Cotabato was set to celebrate the famous T’nalak Festival.

Before heading for the main course of the Allah Valley Tour, we had the chance to have a quick visit to the Surallah Tri-People Monument and to the ethnic barangay of Lem Snolon, witnessing the local artisans  for the actual hand-weaving of Malong Tedyung and Fandi Nedol.

Mt. Melibingoy (Mt.Parker) Mountain Trekking

Caution: Blogger Louie fell from the Habal Habal (Motorbike)
The most awaited part of this tour was the trip to Lake Holon, the crater lake of Mt. Melibingoy situated at the heart of the Tribal Municipality of T’boli.

Joining forces with fellow travel writers in the Philippines, our adventure started with the unforgettable 1-hour habal-habal ride (motorbike) inside the giant maze of banana and pineapple fields.

What’s amazing about this ride was, beside that we were 4 in the habal habal, it was first time for most of our companions to see a motorbike passenger be sitting in front of the habal-habal driver- and  the 'lucky' passengers were me and Yoshke!

Difficult as it may look (damn it was really difficult), I am glad that I got used to riding this cheap means of transportation when I was still in Surigao del Sur, where sitting like the “ binabae” is not unusual to see in the motor cross like unpaved roads of the community.

View from the top: River outlet of Lake Holon
The adrenaline consuming ride  used up our energy upon reaching the drop off point in Brgy.Salacafe , requiring us to refuel our exhausted body with a quick lunch and relax a little before heading to one of the most adventurous treks of our life.

Surreal as it may seem, the environment in T’boli is just so amusing and comparable to the ever famous Baguio 's micro-climate with the only difference is there are no concrete establishments standing tall aside from the small village and secondary dipterocarp forest within the vicinity.




While enduring the 4-hour long trek with a little blessing of rain, we feasted our our eyes with the various unique flora and fauna seen dwelling along the forest trail. Opps, I think I am just speaking for myself after I got excited bumping with not so common flora lurking shyly among the bushes while others were killing  their time  talking/teasing about their love life and their amazing travel experiences.

I was more amazed to discover a confusing species of pitcher plant (consider as carnivorous), clinging conspicuously on the shrubs along a two hundred meter cliff- overlooking the river outlet of Lake Holon, the Allah River. Pitcher plant is an important component of the ecosystem as it helps balancing the population of insects in the environment.

Pitcher plants discovered along the trail going to Mt. Melibingoy


Not far from the cliff, I almost jumped to happiness, discovering even smaller pitcher plants that I have never seen in my life. I am suspecting it was a dwarf type of Nepenthes alata (common) but I still need the confirmation from experts to identify it properly. (Will update you soon.)

The carnivorous plant was attached to a decomposing branch that fell on the ground. The pitcher plant was even smaller than my thumb and almost the same height of the mosses growing on the branch where it came from.

Lake Holon, the Crater Lake of Mt. Parker/ Melibingoy

Moving forward, we reached our destination with a 'bang', slipping and tripping on the slippery trail going to the lake. Even the well traveled Yoshke gained his cuts and bruises as his trophy. With this, we recommend you to wear a pair of hard gripped shoes or slippers unless you have a death wish.

First impression on Lake Holon: PEACE, BEAUTY, MAGIC! It was a dream-like experience to witness the lake’s emerald water as if I have just entered a fantasy world. It was even amazing to learn from our local guides that the place has long been treated just like any other places in their municipality.  But for regular tourists, who seldom see hidden jewels like this, it would definitely  be an experience to treasure for a lifetime that is worth telling your children and grandchildren, witnessing it with your own eyes, how beautiful Mindanao is and quite far from the cry of war and torment seen on the local news.

Locals made used of the lake to propagate tilapia fish (kinda resent this practice)

Holon is a 300 hectare of freshwater lake (oligotrophic or new lake), sleeping silently in the crater of Mt. Melibingoy. With its altitude of 1750 masl , the microclimate in Holon freezes anyone who is not accustomed to a very cold temperature. Our tents were set at the campsite of the lake where we also had our dinner cooked for the night.

Just like any wanderers, our escapade would not be completed without testing and “tasting” the clear water of Lake Holon. Edgar, Lois and I rode the banca (baroto) and sailed to the middle of the Lake.

Carefree just like children, Edgar and Lois jumped into the freezing water while I simply enjoyed watching them wet and shivering. I opted not to get wet as I have little tolerance to cold temperature that might result to hypothermia.

What’s fun about this was when it was time to go ashore, we had a hard time maneuvering the boat back, leaving Edgar and Lois with no other choice but to use their feet to paddle, pushing the boat towards the shallow side of the lake. I was wondering whether the guardians of the lake wished for us to stay longer or wanted us to be stuck there forever because of our craziness. 

What Happened in Lake Holon, Stays in Lake Holon!

After dinner, a little “wild” drink was initiated by Edgar making all of us drunk, setting the mood for “party time”. Wow, I could barely recognize some of these bloggers when they transform from angel like ‘beings’ to parteeeeey animals.

Well it only proves that being a writer and travel teller is not all about being geek as we share also some of that cool and wild personality but it did not come to a point of having kinky moments with our fellows. Stop thinking “dirty” people, behave!

Caution! We recommend that you moderate your ill actions and noises as there are local stories that mystical creatures or guardians of the lake are very mindful and are watching over you. It is also a way of respect to other visitors who seek a little peace of mind, the very reason they went up to this serene place.

Top of My Mornings!

The night slipped too fast that we were awaken up by this soft alluring cool breeze. The oozing and freezing morning could only be comforted with a sip of fresh and hot “3 in 1” coffee while sitting quietly outside our makeshift tents. 

As the sun have slowly risen and perfectly shone on the surface of the lake, it created a rushing golden rays of colour, embracing the morning chirps of birds nesting at the canopy of the crater side dwarf forest.

It was one of the most serene moments that put shiver to my skin and missing it would be a great sin. So without a second wasted, my camera went like clicks here, clicks there and clicks everywhere. I was so glad that I have seen a rare beauty so scarce to be appreciated by everyone. It was on the top of my best mornings ever!

An overnight visit In Lake Holon would put you in a droopy feeling as you would literally wish you could stay for a little longer, at least compensating the difficult and tiring climb just to reach the beautiful lake.

We descended way back wearing smiles on our faces. Laughter also echoed in the forest due to some unavoidable circumstances like Gaile's story of  untimely "call of nature" and my 10 pieces of wet wipes. Sorry Gaile I can't help it!

The trip ended with so much blessing from the sky. We were dripping wet when heavy rain poured in the middle of our trek. Picture this! We were like Bea Alonzo and Atom Araullo as the "Girl in the rain" and the "Man in the rain" epic moments. Glad I had my super mini umbrella that protected the upper half of my body and the rest of my parts, unimaginably shivering to cold. But at least we made it to finish and proud to say, "We survived Lake Holon!"

My experience in Lake Holon was one of the best climb ever specially I was accompanied by the cheerful fellow Pinoy Travel Bloggers Lois, James, Gay, Gaile, Yoske, Edgar and Louie. Thank you guys.

This is my Lake Holon story, tell me yours!

Tey Bong Nawa hu Kuy T'boli! 
(Thank you T'boli!)


How to get to Lake Holon?
  • The gateway to T’boli is via General Santos City. Daily flight is available from Manila and Cebu from major Airline operators like Cebu Pacific and Pal Express.
    • Airport to Gen Santos City Terminal : Php 50.00 (multi-cab)
    • Gen Santos to Koronadal : Php 83.00 (bus)
    • Koronadal to Surallah:Php 24.00 (bus)
    • Surallah to T'boli: Php 25 (van)
  • At T’boli proper, you may opt to visit first the local tourism office located in front of the municipal hall for some advice to maximize your stay in the vicinity.  From there, you can hire a habal habal (motorbike) to take you to Brgy. Salacafe. Fare is Php 100 per head. From the jump off point you have to take the 3-4 hour trek.Trail is already established so there is no reason for you to get lost but it is always advisable to hire a guide for a minimum of Php 300.00/day  plus meal.
        Note: Fares are estimate based on personal experience in 2012.

Recommended Accommodation in T’boli

  • SAR’s Paradise:     +639165017879
  • Travelers’ Inn:        +6392653971

More Questions?
Office of the Municipal Mayor
LGU Compound, Poblacion, T’boli, South Cotabato
Telefax No. (083) 237.1002

Arts , Culture and Tourism Development Office
Municipal Planning and Development Office
Tel No. (083) 238.8030

E-mail: Tboli_Municipality@yahoo.com

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