Into the wild: 100 couples spend Valentine’s Day in Lake Holon

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

KORONADAL CITY (MindaNews / 14 February) – Instead of dating in restaurants, hotels or other crowded places, around 100 couples trekked Friday to Lake Holon, touted as the “Crown Jewel of the South,” to celebrate Valentine’s Day in the wake of the 2019 novel coronavirus (COVID-19) threat.

Dubbed Feb-Ibig Trek, the event is organized by the local government unit of T’boli, South Cotabato as a way to raise love and care for the environment among the public, according to Rodel Hilado, the town’s tourism officer.

“It’s our unique way to celebrate the love month, a date in the wilderness for couples who love the great outdoors,” he said.

Hilado said the participants will pitch tents for a romantic overnight at the scenic Lake Holon, considered a sacred place by the T’boli tribal members.

The Feb-Ibig trek is part of the closure of the lake to the general public, with the participants planting trees in the mountains for the benefit of the environment, he added.

Lake Holon was closed anew to tourists for over two months starting January 6.

Hilado said the lake would welcome tourists again on March 14 through the Pilgrimage to Holon Season 6, which is themed “The Enchanted Trek” (May Forever nga ba?). The pilgrimage is part of the celebration of the town’s 46th foundation anniversary and the 22nd Seslong Festival.

A view of the mystical Lake Holon (previously called Lake Maughan) in T’boli, South Cotabato noontime of October 7, 2018 via the Kule trail. MindaNews photo by BONG S. SARMIENTO

T’boli 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 is also one of the famous tourist destinations in Region 12 or Soccsksargen region.

The local government first restricted the lake to the public for nine months in June 2014 to March 2015 to allow it to rejuvenate. In 2016, it closed down the spot for about two months. In 2017 to 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. (Bong S. Sarmiento/MindaNews)