Among the three major islands of The Philippines, Mindanao is probably the least popular among travelers. It is notorious however in making headlines in the international media as one place any person with a normal functioning brain should be wary about. Hence the aversion of many to this unsung paradise. Before any traveler could think about going to The Philippines, they’re already hindered by travel bans issued by their respective countries. That’s because of Mindanao and how unsafe a place it is. Even Filipinos from parts of Luzon and Visayas are scared of the southern region of our own country mostly because of the negative things they hear exacerbated by mainstream media which only has poorly researched news flashing on their viewers’ TV screens.
I was born and raised in Mindanao where I spent the first 5 years of my life running along the beaches of Cateel and exploring the lush greenery of its mountains. Then I moved to a small progressive town of Midsayap in North Cotabato during my school years and for the next 15 years, it was my home. After I graduated college, I flew to Manila to start a life of my own. During the first few months, only one question would I get asked most of the time and that is “If I am a Muslim.” Even up to this day, exactly 9 years from the first time I set my foot in the country’s metropolis, I still get that same freaking question whenever people learn I am from Mindanao that it’s actually starting to get annoying. And I can’t blame them. Our disdain to Muslims is and has been part of a totally misguided system in our society for decades now.
I am a Roman Catholic but I can’t help but feel bad for our Muslim Filipino brothers and sisters and how they and Islam is pictured as symbols of war and chaos. I feel sad for the indifference some Filipinos have towards them that being a Muslim is starting to seem like an oddity in a society dominated by Christians. I pity those people who will never get to see the beauty of Mindanao and experience the warmth of its people because of their prejudices. Yes, there is war. There is conflict in Mindanao but it isn’t in any way different from other places in our country. Tragedy. Heinous crimes. Conflict with the rebels. It happens everywhere. Some are even worse than what’s happening in Mindanao. So what makes Mindanao any different? If only we could get past the barrier we had put on against Mindanao and the Muslims, certainly we would see this feared island in a brand new light and more and more will it open its doors for us to discover all the wonderful things it can offer.
You probably have heard about Siargao and seeing pictures of it made you want to fly straight to the island in an instant. Siargao Island, dubbed as the surfurs’ paradise is just one of the many treasures hidden in Mindanao. If you need further motivation then there’s the alluring Tinago Falls in Iligan, adrenaline pumping adventure in Cagayan De Oro and the mysterious Enchanted River of Hinatuan. Even our beloved province of North Cotabato recently made headlines for the discovery of an enchanting curtain waterfall of Asik-Asik in Alamada. Truly, the abundance and richness of this so-called “promise land” is of immense greatness and just when you thought you already got plenty on your bucket list, wait until you hear what I have to say about Lake Holon.
Pristine waters. Remarkable views. Luscious forests. One of a kind adventure. These are just some of the things Lake Holon has in store for those brave enough to explore her world. Sitting idly in one of the peaks of Mt. Melibingoy (Mt. Parker) in T’boli, South Cotabato, this treasure of a lake sure does live up to its name as “The Crowned Jewel Of The South”. It’s paradise! Both literally and figuratively. Calm mornings. Quiet starry nights. Peaceful azure waters abound by vast greenery. You’ll never see anything quite like it anywhere else. And the people? The T’bolis are just one of the kindest and friendliest people you will ever get to meet in your entire life. You will love how they worship and strive to protect their mountains and the environment. If there is one thing that sets Lake Holon apart from other beautiful destinations in our country, it’s the T’bolis unwavering will to preserve it.
TIPS AND INFO ON HIKING LAKE HOLON
- Lake Holon is accessible through two trails, Salacafe and Kule. Salacafe is the easier trail which only takes 3-4 hours to the lake. Kule however is the more difficult trail which takes to about 5-6 hours to Lake Holon.
- Salacafe’s trail although identified as the easier of the two trails is not to be underestimated. Although it doesn’t require navigational skills unlike Kule, it is still consist of straightforward assault from the start of the hike until the descent to the lake.
- Salacafe’s trail may be easier but you will be rewarded less as the best views are found in Kule’s trail which offers the 360-degree view of the entirety of Lake Holon.
- If you would opt to go with Kule, you are required to be at the tourism office before 12NN as you will not be allowed to hike through Kule anytime after lunch.
- From the tourism office, reaching the registration site for each of the trails is still an hour of motorcycle ride along rough roads.
- Make sure to waterproof your bags and belongings since weather in Lake Holon is kind of unpredictable and is dominated by rains.
- A payment of P350 is required to take care of your garbage which is refundable at the registration site when you get back carrying your trash with you.
- Day hike is possible but staying overnight and camping in Lake Holon is most recommended.
- There are tents available for rent at the tourism office but some of them are not in good condition and kind of smelly so it’s still best to bring your own.
- There’s toilet and bath rooms situated near Lake Holon but they’re pretty small and poorly maintained.
- Observe silence especially in the wee hours. Don’t make too much noise as Lake Holon is said to be inhabited by enchanted creatures that may be disturbed by loud noises.
- Going back to the registration site is always through Salacafe which would only require 30 minutes to an hour of assault along steep concrete ladder at first followed by a rugged and muddy earthen path.
HOW TO GO THERE
- From Davao – From the terminal in G-Mall or SM City Davao, ride a van going to Marbel (4hrs ; P300). From Marbel, ride another van going to T’boli and asked to be dropped off at the Tourism Office which is also adjacent to the terminal and the public market (1.5hrs ; P125) or if you miss the trip then you can ride a van going to Surallah (1 hr ; P75) then another van to T’boli (45 min ; P50). Register then ride a habal-habal (motorcycle) to the registration site, either to Salacafe or Kule. (1hr ; P300/2-3pax).
- From Gensan – Ride a van straight to T’boli, South Cotabato (2hrs ; P150). Trips are limited so if you miss it then your other option is to ride a Yellow Bus going to Marbel (P85). Follow instructions above.
- From Lake Sebu – Ride a van going to Surallah (45hr ; P40). From Surallah, ride another van going to T’boli (1hr ; P50).
- From Midsayap – Ride a van going to Marbel (3-4hrs ; P250). Follow remaining steps above.
SUMMARY OF EXPENSES, SAMPLE ITINERARY & OTHER ESSENTIALS
|SUMMARY OF EXPENSES (5 Pax From Midsayap)||Bus Fare Midsayap-Kabacan - P60
Bus Fare Kabacan-Tacurong - P135
Mini Jeep Fare Tacurong-Isulan - P25
Van Isulan-Surallah - P50
Van Surallah-T'boli - P50
Entrance Fee - P100
Environmental Fee - P50
Tent Rental 2 Tents - P40
Guide Fee - P80
Porter Fee - P150
2-Way Motorcyle - P120
Van T'boli-Marbel - P120
Van Marbel-Midsayap - P250
Food - P400
Total <<>> P1630
***Note: The big chunk of expenses is from transportation cost. It may vary depending on where you will be coming from.
|SAMPLE ITINERARY (From Midsayap)||Day 1
0400 Assembly Midsayap Terminal
0500 ETD Kabacan
0530 ETA Kabacan. Breakfast
0700 ETD Tacurong
1100 T'boli. Register.
1200 Salacafe registration area. Lunch
1300 Start hike
1600 Lake Holon. Photo Ops
1700 Set up camp
2200 Lights Out
0600 Wake up. Freshen Up
0800 Kayak. Swim. Activities
0900 Pack Up
1000 Start Hike back to Salacafe
1200 Salacafe. Lunch.
1300 Tourism Office
***Note: We dropped by Kabacan as we were meeting a friend. You can ride a van directly to Marbel instead if you don't have a need of stopping by Kabacan.
|THINGS TO BRING||Tent
|MANDATORY & OPTIONAL FEES||Entrance fee - P100/head/day
Environmental Fee - P50/head/day
Tent Rental - P100/tent
-Salacafe - P400/10pax
-Kule - P600/10pax
-Mt. Melibingoy - P600/10pax
Porter Fee - P20/kilo/way
Horseback riding fee - P400/pax/way
-Kayaking - P200/head/hour with driver
|CONTACT||T'boli Tourism Office:
Landline - 083 237 1205
Mobile - 09072832968
BEWILDERED MOMENTS WITH THE CHARMING LAKE HOLON
There you have it folks. I will be writing a separate narrative of our hike via Salacafe Trail so stay tuned. For questions and suggestions, please drop them on the comments box below. Until next time. Ciao!