Friday, March 28, 2014

Love at first sight at Lake Holon, T'boli, South Cotabato

Our trip to T'boli was something we planned almost last minute. We only knew about this place while drafting our itinerary for Surigao del Sur and Lake Sebu. We would never have seen this beauty if not for those wonderful blog posts and pictures posted around the Internet so we were actually enticed and dared to travel to the remote community of Sitio Nabol. The trek to Lake Holon would be less special if not for the T'boli locals who made sure we enjoy the whole experience and have also shared their culture, home and smiles with us.

lake holon tboli
birds eye view of Mt. Parker and Lake Holon - define lovely!!! (photo credit: Len Marcelo Jingco ChoosePhilippines)

Mt. Melibingoy, also commonly known as Mt. Parker is a dormant stratovolcano located at the municipality of T'boli, South Cotabato. Towering for over 1,800 meters above sea level, it has been said to have only erupted thrice, the most recent one recorded September 1995, when the lake overflowed, taking with it lives of more than 50 people.

lake holon mindanao
Welcome to Lake Holon!

While the background of its T'boli name, Mt. Melibingoy , means "to be seen everywhere" in the native tongue, and has also been long considered by T'boli locals as sacred, the origin of how it got its English name was actually quite tragic. Parker represents the demise of General Frank Parker, an American pilot who have died on a plane crash while surveying the surroundings of the mountain. Hearsay from locals was that the body was never found, attesting to how mystical the place is.

lake holon

Even though we were already at Mt. Parker, we did not ambition to reach its peak, but only to see its majestic and not (yet) so famous lake , Lake Holon. Formerly named as Lake Maughan, this was the result of the devastating eruption of this volcano on January 4, 1641. It now brings pride to the province by being recognized as one of the cleanest body of water in the Philippines. The history of its name is said to come from a T'boli ancestor named Ma Ugan. It was officially named as Lake Holon last 2002. There is no recorded data yet as to how deep exactly Lake Holon is, same as with the Enchanted River of Hinatuan, Surigao del Sur.

mindanao lake holon sebu
panoramic view - sweet!

The trek had been arduous and a painstaking task for me (literally), even though everyone kept telling me the trail was labeled for beginners. I could not imagine what advanced trails must be like. The three-hour upward hike has proven to be worth my time once I have seen this obstructed view of the lake. It pained me to look away from this, but it just motivated me more knowing I'm only few minutes away from getting a wide photographic scene of Lake Holon. Knees and ankles aching, I pushed myself to move forward.

trek lake holon
My first glance at Lake Holon

Even though the trail down was slippery and proved to be more difficult, I was able to reach camp after thirty minutes. Heart thumping wildly, eyes filled with joy and grin so wide, I felt like I've gone bananas. Broad and majestic, yet so serene, its waters clean and still. I wanted to have this moment last for a lifetime. Yes, this could probably be a love at first sight.

tboli lake holon

mindanao lake holon
it must have been nice to try out this local wooden boat, but of course, I chickened out.

I distanced myself to the group come nighttime. The crater lake shed a different shed of color and it seemed like I was in a different place again. It seemed like the perfect backdrop for a music video and thank goodness for my iPod to supplement the right music. The temperature dropped as low as 15 degrees, I slept shivering and my back crushing the cold damp grass, but I did not complain, that was probably one of the best sleep I have had for years.

We were told that Lake Holon has been a home to the enchanted creatures such as diwatas, locals even attribute its serenity and clean pristine state to their guidance and powers. There were stories of hikers actually hearing jubilant sounds at around 3am morning. I woke up different times of the night hoping to have a sighting of the mysterious "party" of the Encantadias, to no avail.

night lake holon
blue hues of the lake, I am in heaven!

I never thought there could exist such place in province rarely visited such as South Cotabato. This almost surreal beauty is now gaining some popularity, thanks to its striving tourism officers, friendly indigenous tribespeople and amazing panoramic landscapes.

The next morning, I woke up early to hopefully catch the sunrise view at the crater lake. Though the sky is still warning us of great rain, it was also that bitter sign of the need to leave and move forward to our next destination. And just like one's first heart break, it will probably take me some time to get over Lake Holon.

travel lake holon

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. WOW. I'm going on a trip to South Cotabato via Gen San this November and your post just made me want to visit Lake Holon! :O

  2. HI I have question, where did you get the info of the historical background of Lake Holon? thanks!

    1. Most of the info were shared by our tour guides :)

  3. This place is amazing, I wish I'd get that aerial view shot too!

  4. Very informative blog for Lake Holon! Hope it stays that beautiful and mystical. But I just want to correct minor statements. It did not erupted in 1995, the crater just overflow because of illegal mining. Fallen trees blocked the flow of water causing the water level to rise and caused the release of millions of cubic meters in an instant. Second is Maughan did not came from a native name but was from the American who joined Parker during that trip. People in the valley (South Cotabato) call the volcano Mt Parker and the lake as Lake Maughan. The term Holon and Malibongoy was just recently used.

    1. Hmm my information is from locals and travel blogs, could you please share your source so I can correct my information? According to our guide residing in T'boli, the local name of the lake is Maughan, coming from a name of their tribal ancestor. And yes, Parker was derived from the American pilot who died in this area.

  5. hi mariane, is there an accommodation around lake holon.. or did you bring tents?

    1. We brought tents when we went, though there is a small house (?) in the area that is supposed to be used as "tambayan" lang for hikers since it's an open space with no walls, you can also bring hammocks. I believe the local government of T'boli is planning to build small houses to serve as lodging for travelers though I am not updated whether the plan has pushed through or not. I suggest connecting with their tourism officers for updated info :)

  6. Mariane, my friends and I are planning to trail to Mt. Parker this december. May I ask if they would allow a group to trail anytime or we just have to follow a trail schedule? thank you

    1. We didn't really hike up all the way to Mt. Parker's summit and just went to Lake Holon so I cannot really give any information, I suggest you contact some of their Tourism officers since they should know about the schedule and whatnot :)

    2. I'm going to Lake Holon at the end of this month. This is just my second climb. The first was at Sanchez Peak, the highest point in General Santos City. I suggest you also try Amsikong Twelve (12) Falls at Barangay Conel, you will climb sheer rock walls with just stones for hand and foot hold to see all the falls.

  7. Try the Amsikong Falls (12 falls) at Barangay Conel/Olympog, General Santos City. You reach the falls by climbing the sheer rock walls with stones as your hand and foot holds.

  8. Hi Mariane,

    I guess your article was one of the few who gave justice to Lake Holon's background. Can I link your blog in one of my uploads in youtube during our trip in Lake Holon? We didn't pass through the same route though but it's fine. Hope to get a positive impact. ;)


    1. Hey Kim, thank you for the kind words. Please go ahead :D Hope was your experience at Lake Holon/Mt Parker and when was your hike there? Feel free to share your video as well so that we can give the readers here more info esp if they are interested to follow our routes.

    2. hey marianne..... i would just like to ask if how much the fare of the van from marbel to tboli? i am planning to climb this june.... sheila here from davao

  9. Hello!

    Do you mind sharing of how much should we budget for the trip in Lake Holon?

  10. Hi Maam. I will be in UPI Maguindanao this coming December for a Meguyaya Festival and thinking how to maximize my time in the area. Upon browsing the net, I stumbled upon your blog about this beautiful spot in Cotabato area. Do you have any idea on how to get there from the Cotabato City or do you know someone who can be my guide going to the area? (PS. Asik asik Falls is also on my bucketlist.) Thank you.

    1. hey Vince, sorry for the very very late reply.
      frankly I'm not sure how you can get there from North Cotabato, but you need to go through Koronadal or Marbel as locals call it. then from there, take another FX to Tboli. Not sure if there is a direct way as I havent been to North Cotabato yet. I suggest calling someone from the Tboli Tourist office. :) Hope to see Asik asik someday too! :D


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