South Cotabato’s Lake Holon takes annual 2-month break for rehab

T’BOLI, South Cotabato (MindaNews / 06 January)—The mystical and scenic Lake Holon here, dubbed the “Crown Jewel of the South,” was closed anew to tourists for over two months starting Monday, January 6, until March 13 to give it time 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 that we can do to preserve the beauty of Holon,” the mayor, a T’boli native, said.

Lake Holon, also one of the famous tourist destinations in Region 12 or Soccsksargen region, will be reopened to tourists on March 14, Tuan said in his memorandum order dated last January 2.

Rodel Hilado, municipal tourism officer, said that during Lake Holon’s temporary closure, they will conduct training and refresher courses for the town’s frontline tourism personnel.

“More importantly, we will conduct a rehabilitation and biodiversity assessment of the area,” Hilado said.

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, 2018 and 2019, the lake was closed for over two months.

Tourists largely flock to the lake for the adventure trek, to swim at its cold waters and to commune with nature. When 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.