South Cotabato’s Lake Holon closed for 2 months

Tourists pitch tents beside Lake Holon in T’boli, South Cotabato. MindaNews photo by BONG S. SARMIENTO

T’BOLI, South Cotabato (MindaNews/ 07 Jan) – The mystical and scenic Lake Holon here, one of the famous tourist destinations in Region 12, will be closed anew for over two months, from January 7 to March 10, to allow it to rejuvenate, officials said.

Mayor Dibu Tuan said the temporary closure of the town’s top tourism drawer has been a measure implemented by the local government unit in the past several years to protect its environment from degradation.

“Lake Holon deserves a break from the influx of tourists. This is the best way we can preserve the beauty of Holon,” the mayor, a T’boli native, told MindaNews.

Rodel Hilado, municipal tourism officer, said that Lake Holon will be reopened to tourists in March when the town celebrates its Seslong Festival, a celebration that showcases the town’s cultural heritage.

A ritual was held at the lake on Monday to mark its temporary closure, Hilado said.

Tuan said that a pilgrimage to Lake Holon will also be conducted as part of the annual Seslong Festival, signaling the lake’s reopening to the public.

During the closure that is implemented on the strength of a local ordinance, Tuan said the lake’s caretakers and tour guides will be subjected to retraining courses.

The local government first restricted the lake to the public for nine months from June 2014 to March 2015. In 2016, it closed down the spot for about two months. In 2017, the lake was closed for over two months. Last year, it was closed for about two-and-a-half months.

Tourists largely flock to the lake for the adventure trek, to swim in its cold waters and to commune with nature. Camping overnight, it is advisable to bring thick clothes due to the usually cold temperature in the area.

Lake Holon (previously named Lake Maughan), which is touted as the “Crown Jewel of the South,” is nestled on Mt. Melibengoy, also known as Mt. Parker.

The mountain and the lake were named after Frank Parker and Russell Maughan, both US military officers who died when their plane crashed while they were mapping the area in the 1930s.

Long before it became a tourism attraction, Holon, which means deep water in T’boli, is considered a sacred place by the tribe, though it had been associated with death and destruction.

On Sept. 6, 1995, Lake Holon’s crater wall collapsed, allegedly due to treasure hunting activities, sending an estimated 30 million cubic meters of water crashing downstream for 130 kilometers. At least 53 people were killed and P278 million worth of infrastructure and farm crops were damaged.

In 2003 and 2004, the national government recognized Holon, which is part of the Allah Valley Protected Landscape, as the cleanest inland body of water in the country.

From 2016 to 2017, the lake was also recognized among the world’s “Top 100 Sustainable Destinations,” an initiative by the global Green Destinations.

According to folklore, the lake is protected by the so-called 15 Guardians of Holon, each represented by mountains surrounding the lake. (Bong S. Sarmiento/MindaNews)