Lake Holon: The Reward of Patience

Good things come to those who wait.

Well, that is the most fitting quote for our story when we climbed Mt. Melibengoy (Mt. Parker) and visited the wonder-inducing Lake Holon of T’Boli, South Cotabato. Lake Holon is Mt. Melibengoy’s crater which spreads more than a hundred of hectares in measure.

It all started with a meticulously laid-out plan. Straight from Lake Sebu, we consciously followed our itinerary as much as possible. Catching the earliest trips and revving up our pace. From Lake Sebu, we went straight to Surallah which serves as the junction going to either Lake Sebu or T’Boli. It was in Surallah where we bought our camping supplies before heading to T’Boli. We then went ahead to Surallah’s van terminal where we rode a van heading to T’Boli proper.

Our plan was to arrive at T’Boli’s municipal tourism office before their cut-off time at 1:30 PM. Then take the 1 ½ hours of habal-habal ride to Brgy. Kule to start our 2 hours trek to Lake Holon via Kule Trail. We had this image in our head where we camp on the lake while basking under the light of the stars. Sleeping while lulled by the songs of the forest and the chorus of the lake water. Then waking up by the gentle whispers of morning air and the sweet kiss of sunrise. Just by the thought of it made me shiver from excitement. But not all things do come as planned. Diversions may come and doors to better chances may open.

Journey to Kule

Lake Holon

At last, we arrived at the tourism office before their 1:30 PM cut-off time. There, we paid several fees including camping fees. Then we went straight to our habal-habal ride. Just watching how tight they tied our bags at the rear end of the motorcycle, it already gave me the idea of how rough the ride will be.

Lake Holon

Indeed, it was a hell of a ride. We passed through rough and unpaved roads, muddy sections, steep ascents, narrow cliff roads and erosive volcanic silts. The agony lasted for more than an hour before arriving at Brgy. Kule where we supposed to start our trek. We arrived at the humble and simple village of Brgy. Kule right on our schedule. The people in the village were so welcoming and hospitable. You can see the smiles on their faces even before arriving at their receiving area. We were then greeted by our contacted guide, David Suanzon, who was kind enough to offer us their local coffee.

Sometimes, when a door closes…

But just at the nick of time, the atmosphere suddenly got foggy and darker. Alas! It rained. David suggested to not proceed with the trek. Heading on would be a risk. The fog will sacrifice trail visibility and the strong wind might cause trees to fall down. Not to mention, the temperature can cause hypothermia. Instead of proceeding, he suggested for us to take a homestay among the local houses. Instead of camping at the lake, we will be spending the night with the locals and trek straight to the lake by dawn the next day. We pondered before deciding while waiting for the rain to stop. But the rain really took its moment, delaying us more and more. So we decided to take David’s proposal.

another door opens.

The thoughts of camping under the light of the stars and waking up in the morning by the lake were all crashed out. That’s okay, there will always be a “next time”, hopefully. But sometimes when a door closes, another door opens. We stayed in the village’s “Gono Bong“, which translates to “big house“.

Lake Holon

There we spent the rest of the rainy day having an informative talk with David. We learned a lot about the history, the culture, and the recent events of the village and the myths behind the reclusive Lake Holon. It was a day filled with stories of sadness, persistence, love, and triumph. We were able to roam around the village and immerse ourselves in the Tiboli culture.

Check out our story during our stay in Kule: Welcome to Kule – A T’Boli Culture Immersion

Kule Trail to Lake Holon

Past 3 AM, we woke up from our deep slumber. The air was freezing cold and the surrounding was still dark. But a faint chorus of voices rose up from the silence as some villagers were singing the Mananita song for someone celebrating his/her birthday. David was so kind enough to offer morning coffee to warm ourselves before our climb. We started our trek towards the lake by 5 AM. But first, we dropped by their local church where we were blessed by offering our prayers in their own Tiboli words. With us were other locals who joined to serve as our porters. We decided to hire porters not because we can’t carry our own loads, but as a way to help the living of the locals and to be able to interact with them more. I was amazed by the pace of the porters even though they were carrying at least 20 kilos of bag loads each. There’s nothing to be surprised as David said, for the locals are already used to carrying kilos of crops from the mountain down to the town proper on foot.

Lake Holon

Morning trek to Lake Holon probably is one of the best treks I had. Morning dews dripping from the blades of leaves as we traipse our way while relying on the dim light of our lamps. Cold air slowly dispersed from our skin as our bodies started revving up.

Lake Holon

Lake Holon

Little by little, specks of light started leaking from the sky enabling us to see the beauty of the trail even more. It was still foggy and hazy, but our spirit of adventure is eager to see the spectacle waiting for us at the top. Too thrilled to be tamed, we hastened our pace that it took us only an how to arrive at the view deck of Lake Holon.

Good things come to those who wait.

Good grief! The Gods and the guardians of Lake Holon have not yet unrolled the clouds covering the pleasing view of the lake when we arrived at the view deck.

Lake Holon

So we waited for a while hoping for a clearing. Hopes turned to prayers as minutes turned into hours. We patiently waited for hours.

Lake Holon

Entertaining ourselves with few laughs was our way of passing time while enduring the freezing breeze at the top. We could have proceeded straight towards the lake, but the view of the lake from the top is a matter we surely cannot miss. That moment could be our first and last chance to see the wonder of Lake Holon on a different angle and elevation. So we waited and stretched out patience beyond its limitation.

Lake Holon

For several hours, we waited without a complain, only prayers and faith. Then suddenly, Lake Holon slowly unmasks its face from the hindering layers of mist and clouds. We were all stupefied by the astounding beauty slowly unraveling right in front of our eyes.

Lake Holon

Like kids, we were screaming and squealing out of amazement, excitement, joy, and thankful for our answered prayers.

Lake Holon

We spent more than fifteen minutes taking pictures and stay awe-spired by the magnificent beauty of Lake Holon before heading down to the lake.

Lake Holon

The descent from the view deck down to the lake surface was a breeze. We were trail running by then, getting us faster to the lake.

Lake Holon

We arrived at the lake at exactly 10 AM. Getting to the camping ground, we still have to cross the lake.

Lake Holon

There we met local Tiboli people living by the lakeside. They took us to the camping ground with their traditional Tiboli canoe.

Lake Holon

Lake Holon

Lake Holon

Lake Holon

As our canoe sliced through the calm water of the lake, the sound of the forest birds echoed throughout the lake, as if welcoming us into their sanctuary.

Lake Holon

David said that the sound of the birds is a sign that the spirit guardians of the lake permitted us and welcomed us into their Haven. The lake water is so clear and cold and judging from its hue, it could be several meters deep.

Lake Holon

As we arrived at the camping grounds, we immediately enjoyed the place and soaked our feet in the cold water of the lake.

Lake Holon

Lake Holon

We were like bunnies hopping from one spot to the other, appreciating the wonders of the lake and its peace and tranquility. There were moments when I feel spiritually connected with Lake Holon.

Lake Holon

The smooth lapping sounds of the water, the echoing whispers of the air, the percussions of the forest, and the choir of birds; all of these uplifted my spirit to another dimension of peace.

Lake Holon

This may be the reason why the Tiboli tribe mark Lake Holon as a holy place.

Going down via Salacafe Trail

Lake Holon

Past 12 noon, we bid our farewell to Lake Holon and to our porter buddies. We now have to carry our own backpacks as we traverse the Salacafe Trail going back to the Brgy. Salacafe. Salacafe trail is way too different from Kule. It is way wider and more established. There is also another view deck on the trail but not quite as overseeing as in the Kule trail.

Lake Holon

Lake Holon

It rained as we traversed in the middle of the trail. What made it even worse was the visibility, as thick fog engulfed us. We did not care anymore. Instead, we enjoyed the rain and soaked ourselves. It could be a parting blessing from Lake Holon. But on the positive note, our pace is now faster as we are already descending which does not need much effort anymore. Upon the trail, we passed through a village with a store selling traditional bamboo cups. Each of us bought one as souvenirs.

Farewell T’Boli

We arrived at Brgy. Salacafe proper after 2 hours or trek, where we logged out and had our last photo with our guide David. We bid farewell to the happy people of Salacafe as we engaged in another habal-habal ride going back to T’Boli tourism office.

Lake Holon

As we pass through the rough roads, we can’t help but reminisce our experiences and learnings as we stayed in the humble village of Kule and the magnificent Lake Holon. All that was left in our minds was the thought of visiting back the place sometime soon. As the cold wind kiss our cheeks, all that got out from our mouth were nothing but appreciation. The place really deserves a revisit.

In less than an hour, we finally arrived at the tourism office where we took our shower and changed our clothes before heading to their van terminal for our next destination which is General Santos City. It was already late in the afternoon when we departed T’Boli for Koronadal City. From Koronadal, we took another bus ride to General Santos City where we stayed for several hours before our flight back to Cebu the early next day.

Lake Holon

HOW TO GET TO LAKE HOLON:
  • Coming from General Santos City, take a bus (Yellow Bus Line) bound for Koronadal City (Marbel).
    • Fare is around 85 pesos
    • Takes around 1 and ½ hours.
    • From Koronadal City (Marbel), take another bus (Yellow Bus Line) bound for Surallah.
      • Fare is around 50 pesos
      • Takes around 30 minutes
    • From Koronaldal City (Marbel), there are also vans (by chance) heading straight to T’Boli.
      • Fare is around 60 pesos
      • Takes around 1 and ½ hours.
  • Coming from Cotabato City, take a bus (Husky Bus) bound for Isulan.
    • Fare might range from 150 to 200 pesos
    • Takes around 1 and ½ hours.
    • From Isulan, take another bus (Yellow Bus Line) bound for Surallah.
      • Fare is around 60 pesos
      • Travel takes around 1 hour.
  • From Surallah, take a van bound for T’Boli
    • Fare is around 30 pesos
    • Travel takes around 30 minutes

Currently, there are two jump-off trails heading to Lake Holon. The lesser steep but time-consuming Brgy. Salacafe Trail and the moderately steep and less time-consuming Brgy. Kule Trail. I personally suggest taking the latter, which was what we also took. Not only because it is less time consuming, but because the trek experience in Kule Trail is more immersive with nature.

  • Head on to T’Boli tourism office for registration and other arrangements.
    • Take note, they have a cut-off time of 1:30 PM.
    • Entrance and Environmental Fee is 150 pesos.
    • Camping fee is 100 pesos per tent.
    • Tree Planting Seeds 10 pesos per person.
    • Standard Guide Fee is 600 pesos for a group of 5.
    • If you choose Kule trail, which I prefer and suggest, contact David Suanzon: 0912-880-6453
  • Take a habal-habal (skylab) ride bound for the chosen trail
    • Salacafe Trail
      • Fare is around 300 pesos per motorcycle. If there are 2 passengers, you’ll only pay 150 pesos each.
      • Travel time takes around 1 hour.

      Kule Trail

      • Fare is around 400 pesos per motorcycle. If there are 2 passengers, you’ll only pay 200 pesos each.
      • The road going to Kule is really difficult. So a tip for the driver should not hurt.
      • Travel time takes around 1 and ½ hours.
  • Kule Trail
    • Fare is around 400 pesos per motorcycle. If there are 2 passengers, you’ll only pay 200 pesos each.
    • The road going to Kule is really difficult. So a tip for the driver should not hurt.
    • Travel time takes around 1 and ½ hours.
  • Start trek and enjoy the scenes
    • Salacafe Trail usually takes around 4 hours of constant assault
    • Kule Trail can be done in just 2-3 hours.
    • But everything really depends on your pace.
  • Other expenses should you choose to stay in Kule village:
    • Homestay usually costs around 500 pesos per group. Provide your food and they’ll cook for you.
    • Porter fee is 20 pesos per kilo
NOTES and REMINDERS
  • Be prepared when trekking Lake Holon.
    • Bring extra food and water and always have first aid kit on your packs.
    • Most importantly, prepare yourself mentally and physically.
    • Always water-proof your stuff as the weather in Lake Holon is unpredictable, but mostly rainy.
  • Be sociable with the locals. Always wear your best smile.
    • Buying their local products can help their living.
    • They have local coffees for sale which are very affordable.
    • They also sell hand-crafted souvenirs like walking sticks (30 pesos), bamboo cups (50 pesos) and etc. f
  • You can actually swim in the lake or just stay at the side and have yourself a free fish foot spa.
    • The lake is quite deep so be cautious and always wear safety gears like floaters when swimming.
    • You can rent
  • Always remember to observe and practice LNT (Leave No Trace) principle.
    • Always have your trash bags ready.
    • Do not throw or leave your trash anywhere. Bring it with you.
    • Picking plants and or flowers as souvenirs is highly not allowed.
  • Lastly, enjoy and feel the connection with mother nature!
    • Don’t forget to take the most precious souvenirs which are your experience, learnings, and of course PICTURES!

3 Responses

    • It really is a paradise. 😊 You should really visit this place. 2 days will do if you want to juat climb lake holon and camp out. But I suggest you spend at least 3 days. Homestay and immerse with the locals in Kule Village for a night then traverse to Lake Holon.

      Thanks for dropping by Agness 😊😊😊

Leave a Reply