Mt. Parker (1824 MASL) is an inactive stratovolcano in T’boli, South Cotabato. It was named after American General Frank Parker who supposedly discovered it during a flight back in 1934. But long before his subsequent expedition to the crater lake, the local T’bolis have always called this sacred mountain as ‘Melibengoy.’ In Tboli, this name means a ‘mountain that peeks.’
The volcano’s 3 km crater lake called Holon (which means ‘lake’ in Tboli) has been repeatedly recognized as among the cleanest in the Philippines. It is also known as Lake Maughan (which is sometimes pronounced by the locals as ‘Ma-ughan’ and not as ‘Mow-han’) after Col. Rusell Maughan, a celebrated American aviator. A popular account would claim that both Parker and Maughan crashed into the lake’s very deep waters or perhaps somewhere along the volcano’s slopes.
Its last eruption or activity was recorded on January 4, 1641. But on September 6, 1995, a loud thunderous explosion was heard from the volcano. One of Lake Maughan’s outlet gave in which unleashed its waters into several towns in the vicinity. This devastating flashflood wiped out agricultural fields, destroyed villages and claimed hundreds of lives.
The Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology (PHIVOLCS) would later find out that the explosion was man-made. Some treasure hunters believed that the Yamashita loot was somewhere hidden beneath Holon’s tranquil waters. They probably thought that it would cause a lesser stir if they drained the lake rather than use proper diving equipment to search for this elusive treasure. They were mistaken of course as they successfully disturbed not only a diverse ecosystem but an entire province as well. No one knows if they got what they came for or if they were apprehended afterwards.
But nature has its on way of amazingly healing itself through the years. The mountaineers or outdoor enthusiasts who have been to the lake many years after tht tragedy, could only speak of its very pristine environment. A group even said they saw a baby eagle, flying beneath them when they reach the ‘view deck.’ This is a spot along the hiking trail where one could see where the water gushed into the nearby towns. Other than that, there is little reminder of that unfateful afternoon since the portion of the caldera that gave in has already been overgrown with vegetation too.
While there may have been wildlife that were destroyed during that 1995 flashflood, it is also amazing to note how life seemingly sprang out, thrived and flourished. A research from a local university established that there are rare butterflies such as the Parantica dannatti reyesi, Delias levicki borromeois and Delias woodi t’boli which are only endemic to Mt. Melibengoy. One could only imagine what other species of insects, fishes, primates and plants exist at Mt. Parker and remained unidentified to this day.
The stakeholders of Mt. Parker indeed have more than enough reasons to protect the place since its real riches has far more worth than an imaginary Japanese treasure. Local ordinances and national laws must then be strictly enforced to ensure that similar tragedies would not happen again. Academic research along with sustainable ecotourism would also protect the largely undocumented biodiversity in the area. And finally, conservation drives would allow future generations of adventurers to enjoy a spectacular scenery that could only be witnessed at this side of the Philippines.