Thursday, March 13, 2014

Hiking Mt. Melibingoy/Mt. Parker and Smiles from T'boli locals of Sitio Nabol, South Cotabato

We woke up early in preparation of our trek up to Lake Holon, one of T'boli's prized tourist destination. I originally saw it featured at Pinay Travel Junkie's page and so we really meant to visit the place before heading to Lake Sebu. It was said that Lake Holon is Philippines' cleanest lake and seeing images of the pristine lake from those blogs, I couldn't resist to grab the chance to see its beauty with my own eyes!

tboli house
traditional T'boli house - notice some differences to the nipa hut?

With the help of Kuya Ronnie from the Tourism office, we were able to join a group of experienced hikers who were also going to the lake on the same day, we figured we might as well join them. Little did we know that they were doing an outreach activity before the trek. I felt really bad because we didn't bring enough money for other relief goods we could have contributed. Anyway, it was still a good opportunity to help out so we decided to join in.

Our first stop was at Sitio Nabol, a small yet friendly T'boli community, the town is also a common rest stop for folks heading out to Lake Holon. Before you can reach Sitio Nabol, you have to take a one-hour ride to Salacafe, from there you have to trek your way up for about 30-45 minutes. Sitio Nabol is really far from the city, but you wouldn't really hear any dissatisfaction from the people. They are happy and content with what they currently have. It is one of the lessons I have learned from them.

filipino kid
excited faces :)

The mini outreach program was a Christmas gift to the T'boli tribe of Nabol. The group distributed food like spaghetti and chicken fillet meal from a certain fast food chain. It was not shocking to hear that the locals haven't got the chance to try these kind of dishes before, seeing how remote their place is from the city. Afterwards, there was gift-giving of other goodies and toys. It was such a delight seeing those smiles and hearing their laughter. I couldn't really explain the sincere joy I felt at that time. To think how simple and menial these material things are for people who grew up in the city, but for them, holding those toys in their tiny hands, eating the food like it was from a five-star restaurant, it made me realize how lucky we are to be experiencing these "luxuries" in Manila.

mindanao outreach
the kids graciously offering a gift of song to the group
outreach tboli
their first sight of the gifts, a reaction so simple and genuine, yet enough to warm ones heart
christmas outreach
gift giving!
filipino smile
The wonderful children of Sitio Nabol, Salacafe. Shy but full of smiles! This was just priceless!

After the program, we left to start our trek which took us around 3-4 hours. It has been a long time since I have been involved in such strenous activity, and mind you, they actually label the trail to Mt. Parker for beginners! This is Mother Nature's way of telling me to get fit!

trek lake holon
"Nabol" tree that is quite common in this town, thus the area was named Sitio Nabol
lake holon lake sebu

After our stay at Lake Holon, we went to visit Celso Kutan, who serves as the sitio or community leader of Nabol. We were told that we can sample their native coffee at their house so we didn't hesitate to say yes to their offer. What could have been a short chat turned out to be an educational cultural exchange! During our stay there, we were able to learn more about the tribe's daily routine and culture. They also told us about some of thir traditions, including an introduction to their very colorful clothing and dances! I was just amazed!

tboli travel
our guide, Kuya Alex, and Sitio Nabol's community leader, Kuya Celso
tboli headress
trying out the traditional T'boli headpiece worn by women. bagay ba? :P

I didn't expect that our trek to Lake Holon would be this heartwarming and special. The indigineous community of Sitio Nabol definitely made our trip unforgettable in so many ways. Their smiles, stories, and hospitality is something that I will make me come back here again. Tey Bong S'lamat!

tboli blog
cultural exchange with the locals, one of the most memorable moments during our stay in Mindanao

How to go to T'boli, South Cotabato

From Davao:
Take buses that head for Koronadal/Marbel. Yellow Bus Line offers Davao-Koronadal route that pass by General Santos, trip will take around 2-3 hours. From Marbel, there are vans that can take you to T'boli with "Direct T'boli" sign. Trip will take around 45 minutes to an hour.

How to reach Lake Holon/Mt.Melibingoy:

From T'boli:
Tourists must register first at Municipal Tourism Office of T'boli to secure local guides. From there, you have to take a one-hour skylab ride to Barangay Salacafe (100 pesos per person), that would serve as the starting point of the trek to Mt.Melibingoy. You may also negotiate for porters before you proceed with the trek. It would take around three to four hours of hiking to Lake Holon. 

Contact Persons (T'boli Tourism Officers)
Ronilo Magsael "Kuya Ronie" - 09056454662
Alexander Montallana "Kuya Alex" - 09354206981

Day 0: T'boli
Traveling to South Cotabato

Day 1: T'boli
Mt.Parker and T'boli Locals

Day 2: T'boli
Lake Holon

Day 3: Lake Sebu
Tour of the Lakes

Seven Falls

Day 4: Lake Sebu
More of the Lakes

What to do at Lake Sebu

Day 5: Gumasa - General Santos City
Gumasa Beach

Food Tour

5 Day Trip
Itinerary & Budget

T'boli Culture

More of Mindanao here


  1. Nice experience you had. This is one of the places I wish to go to.

  2. You always travel solo? Or that is what you preferred mostly?

    1. hey Ian, not necessarily. usually I travel by group, or I try to join a group (even though I don't know anyone there) so I can save more. but if not, I'd go solo. My trip to Lake Holon was with two friends :)

  3. Hi ,

    Nice blog! :)

    Wanted to check. if i have 6 days, can i combine Lake Sebu and lake Holon? How to go from Lake Sebu to Lake Holon ?

    Appreciate your reply.


    1. Sorry for the late reply! Sure you have enough time to really explore both places! You can split three days for both T'boli and Lake Sebu or do a 2 day stay in T'boli then the rest at Lake Sebu, there are still some things you can do in T'boli that we weren't able to cover, you can inquire at their Tourism Office for more information. Good luck!


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