Our unforgettable trek to Lake Holon / Mt. Parker | Tboli, South Cotabato
Our trek to Lake Holon/Mt.Parker (Lake Maughan/Mt. Melibengoy) at Tboli, South Cotabato last November, involved a total of 20 persons – 3 guides/porters from the community, 6 churchmates from Cebu, 1 from Manila and the rest were old and new friends from Koronadal. I did not expect to be back in this province for yet another trek, but the 1800 MASL stratovolcano has captured my fancy after hearing that it has a beautiful caldera lake and that one of my friends saw a small eagle hovering beneath them at one point along the trail.
After meeting everyone else at a designated area in the city, we then headed for Tboli where a municipal officer oriented us on the do’s and don’ts along the trail and at the crater lake as well. I remember too that we were told not to make unnecessary noise at the camp site since the T’bolis regard Mt. Parker and Lake Holon as sacred places.
We headed for Barangay Salacafe which is the common jump-off in most Mt. Parker treks. The unpaved farm-to-market road leading to this small community is for the most part, winding and bumpy. It was a 1 hour roller coaster ride but the good thing is that we were safely onboard 4WD vehicles. One could also hop on a habal-habal or a skylab (motorcyle), which is an experience that is a separate adventure by itself.
We finally started our hike at around 9:30 AM. I would say that the 7 km trail is well established and manageable. The few steep ascents were countered by flat terrains and steady slopes. It was also wide enough to allow passage for a villager and his small horse carrying freshly caught fish from the lake. Halfway along the trail, we passed by a small T’boli community which is also where the last water source was located. We took our lunch and then planted a tree seedling a few more meters up this village.
The farmlands we encountered up until that point gradually gave way to towering trees. The continually ascending trail led us deeper into the Mt. Parker’s dense forest. By 1:30 PM we finally saw a glimpse of Lake Holon and descended approximately 400 meters deep into a mossy jungle. And after 4 hours of hike, we finally arrived at the campsite.
Although the fog and the passing rains shrouded the lake that afternoon, it was still a beautiful sight to behold. It looked like a screen capture from Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon with the lake’s placid atmosphere. It is then hard to imagine how this very serene lake also caused the 1995 flashflood that sent the nearby villages on their knees.
Potable water can be sourced at a spring located at the other side or by simply dipping water containers at the middle of the lake. However, there were no canoes that can be found or hailed just when we needed to replenish our supply. Since the nearest water source is 2 hours away from where we camped, we are very grateful indeed for the 1.5L Gatorade bottles that a good friend gave us the day before. Until the time when we would reach the nearest water source the following day, every single drop of this colored drink was preciously treasured.
I was actually anticipating that it would rain hard that evening. But I thank God that it did not because our simple tents would have given up under such weather conditions. And just when I was about to doze off, I noticed that the fog cleared up and revealed the nighttime sky. The placid lake at that point seemed to reflect the stars above us. I tried to capture it on my humble point and shoot camera but to no avail. It would just remain a vivid memory that I would like to remember for the rest of my life.
The group then headed back to Salacafe after a quick breakfast, the mandatory jump shots and a prayer. Our pace was faster this time as we were able to make it back in just under 3 hours or so. We then said our goodbyes to our wonderful T’boli guides and found ourselves on the familiar bumpy road to the Tboli town proper.
But I’ll probably just settle for the dugout canoe and see what is on the other side of lake. Until that day comes, I am already content to have trekked Mt. Parker and see Lake Holon, which is undoubtedly the most beautiful lake I’ve seen so far in this part of the world.