I never thought I would set foot in Lake Holon, Tboli, South Cotabato. A few years back, all I ever wanted was to visit the more famous municipality in South Cotabato which is Lake Sebu. Tboli never came to my mind. However, an opportunity arrived earlier this year, so I grabbed the chance to travel to this off-the-beaten destination.
Lake Holon is a caldera lake, nestled in the mountains of South Cotabato, one of which is the stratovolcano, Mt. Parker or locally known as Melibengoy. The highest point is 1,756 meters above sea level. If you haven’t read my experience yet, please check out this post first before you continue reading this guide. 🙂
Climbing Mt. Parker (Mt. Melibengoy)
My friend, CJ of Four-Eyed Laagan and I originally planned to climb Sanchez Peak – the highest point of General Santos City. But somewhere between our indecisive plannings, we finally decided we would climb Mt. Parker instead. I definitely had no regrets over our endless rethinking and replanning.
Before you will reach the jaw-dropping beauty of Lake Holon, you will have to trek for about 2-4 hours, depending on the trail you choose. There are two trails going to Lake Holon: Kule and Salacafe. The Salacafe Trail is the rather ‘easier’ trail going to the lake. It will take you about 2-3 hours, depending on your pace. The second trail is called the Kule Trail. It’s the more challenging one, and will probably take you 4-5 hours before you reach Lake Holon.
If you were to ask me, I would highly suggest choosing the Kule Trail. This is because the viewing deck is accessible via this trail. You will pass by 5 stations before reaching Lake Holon, and the viewing deck is at Station 4.
Climbing Mt. Parker is relatively easy. The only challenging part is the seemingly endless steep ascents on your way to the viewing deck. Upon reaching the viewing deck which stands at about 5000 feet, you will have to endure another one hour of descent until you reach Kenebeg or Station 5. After that, you will charter a boat going to the camping site in Lake Holon.
Our exit trail was Salacafe. It took us about two hours to reach the Salacafe jump-off.
How to get there
The starting point would be Bulaong Terminal which is located at Eusebio Bulaong Avenue, General Santos City. Ride a bus bound for Koronadal City, South Cotabato (Marbel). Travel time is 1 hour. Once you reach Marbel Public Terminal, ride a van bound for Tboli, South Cotabato. Travel time is 45 minutes to 1 hour.
Inform the van driver to drop you off at the Municipal Tourism Office in Tboli. After registering and paying the required fees, you can charter a skylab (motorbike) to the jump-off. If you choose to start at the Kule Trail, you will still have to pass the Salacafe Trail jump off for your bags to be checked since alcoholic beverages and playing cards are not allowed. Travel time from the Tourism Office to Salacafe Trail jump off is about 1 hour and 30 minutes. And travel time from Salacafe Trail to Kule Trail receiving area is 30 minutes.
Tips, What to Expect, Do’s and Don’ts
- Expect a rollercoaster-like motorbike ride going to the jump off. Literally. The road from the Municipal Tourism Office to the jump-off is unpaved. And if I were to say, quite dangerous. 😉 We had to get off the motorbike thrice because the roads were too dangerous. It was one adventurous ride.
- As mentioned above, card games and alcoholic beverages are not allowed. If you get caught bringing any of these at the check-point in Salacafe jump-off, it will be confiscated.
- You will save more if you go there as a group. When we arrived, we befriended two travelers from Maguindanao, so we were able to save a lot with the guide fee.
- Guides will be assigned to your group at the orientation area in Kule/Salacafe.
- If you wish to have your bags carried by porters, porter fee is Php 20 per kilo.
- There are water sources along the way, but I would still advise bringing your own water.
- There are toilets in Lake Holon which is located a few meters from the campsite.
- The Tboli community is a Christian community. They hold devotional and praise and worship every Sunday near the bonfire area. Please respect this weekly gathering.
- Lake Holon is a sacred lake to the Tboli community. It is where they get food and water for their families. Leave No Trace. You will be required to bring your garbages back upon exiting.
- Tents are available for rent, but I would advise you to bring your own tents, just in case all tents are not available.
- Souvenir items are available once you pass by a village in Salacafe trail.
- You can buy a bundle of fresh tilapia there. Cook sets are available for rent there too.
- You will get a certificate from the Tourism Office after your trek.
- You can ride a horse to and from Lake Holon if you choose Salacafe trail.
Bus Fare from Bulaong Terminal to Marbel Terminal – Php 85
Van Fare from Marbel to Tboli – Php 60
Skylab (Motorbike) Fare – Php 200***
Lake Holon Entrance Fee – Php 100/person
Lake Holon Environmental Fee – Php 50/person
Guide Fee – Php120 (P600 per 10 pax; there were 5 of us)
Tent Fee – Php100 per tent
Tilapia – Php 50/bundle
5 packs Native Coffee – Php 50
Snacks during exit to Salacafe – Php 30
2 pcs Bamboo Souvenir Cups – Php 50 (25 per cup)
Skylab (Motorbike) Fare (Exit) Php 100 (Php 300/motorbike)
***Note: Fare is Php 450/two passengers. Our motorbike could accommodate one more so we simply added Php150 so that one of our friends wouldn’t have to charter another one
TOTAL PERSONAL EXPENSES: Php 995 (20 USD)
Tboli, South Cotabato Municipal Tourism Office
0907 283 2968