T’BOLI, South Cotabato (MindaNews/8 March) – The mystical and scenic Lake Holon here, one of the famous tourist destinations in Soccsksargen region, will open to the public on March 10 after a two-month closure, officials said.
Mayor Dibu Tuan said the temporary closure of the town’s top tourism drawer had been a measure implemented by the local government unit in the past several years to protect its environment from degrading.
“Lake Holon deserves a break from the influx of tourists. This is the best way we can preserve the beauty of Holon,” said the mayor, a T’boli native.
Lake Holon, touted as the “Crown Jewel of the South,” was closed to the public on January 7.
Rodel Hilado, municipal tourism officer, said that a “Pilgrimage to Lake Holon” will be conducted on Saturday, where rituals will be held, to signal its reopening to the general public on Sunday.
He said that 300 “pilgrims” registered to join the event, which is among the highlights of Tboli’s 21st Seslong Festival and 45th foundation anniversary celebration from March 5 to 16.
During the closure that is implemented on the strength of a local ordinance, Tuan said the lake’s caretakers and tour guides were subjected to retraining courses.
The local government first restricted the lake to the public for nine months in 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 at 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) 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)