✈ South Cotabato 2018 — Now I Get the Hype, Lake Holon

If you got to read my stint at Panimahawa Ridge this year, you'd know I kinda swore off hiking. "Let's go to the beach," I said. And well, I did, which I am still to blog about. Totally overdue, I tell ya *facepalms* (PS. It's Talikud Island.)

An invite from an officemate came around May, if I remember correctly, and since it was still to happen on October - 5 months away - agreeing to it was no biggie. Like, okay, we'll see, but okay. You consciously do so but subconsciously? God, I think I can't commit. Oh, commitment.

So months passed and this was very well in the back of my mind. Of course, I had my Hongkong Kong and Macau trip to focus on... But whoa, moment of truth. September. Decision time. It got really topsy-turvy; I was torn for numerous reasons... I srsly almost backed out. As I always say, I AM NO ATHLETIC PERSON. For this climb, I was only able to do a single jogging session. Was I crazy or what? Haha

A number of the folks from work have already visited Lake Holon but they still chose to come back. It was intriguing~ I don't like it when people hype me up though, so I kept my expectations to a minimum. But really, there must be a reason they keep going back, right!?

Bottom line, I did succumb to their buildup of the place and I had such a great time! I think I even surpassed my own standards! Well, overthinking just really holds us back sometimes. And underestimation. Let's stop underestimating ourselves, yeah?

October 5, 2018. We (3 vans) left Cagayan de Oro by 11PM and that's it. I slept almost all throughout. Hihi I only got to wake up around 6AM the next day and this was what greeted me in our stopover in Sultan Kudarat:

Doesn't that just perk you up? I'm not a morning person either, but when you catch such beauty when you get to be awake in such early hours, there's just good vibes all over~

October 6, 2018. It's officially Saturday and climb day! Dropping by the Tourism Office is a must as each one of us has to write our names down. Opportune time to stretch from the looong road trip. Breakfast time then ensued at a nearby carinderia.

From here, I thought we were already to ride the habal-habal towards the base of Mt. Melibengoy / Mt. Parker. We were warned that it was gonna be a rough ride and while I was a lil bit anxious, I was a tad more excited. I srsly become braver somewhere else. Lels

After a lot of twists and turns, we arrived here! This right here is where we actually set off by pairs, trusting our lives to the expert habal-habal drivers.

I imagined that we will already be hiking by 10AM but reality was we were still here then. Marleni told me the arrangement was such for her previous trips (this was her 3rd) but well, circumstances. Our lunch that day was on us (not included in the package) but I was full from breakfast. Then again, I didn't wanna risk myself and climb on a semi-empty stomach, so I obliged when these gals shared their food with me. Ayeeeh

Before anything else, this journey to Lake Holon was via Trekkers Travel and Tours. For 3,248 PHP, these are the inclusions:

• RT van transpo from CDO to T'boli
• Motor single transpo
• 3 hosted meals (dinner, breakfast, lunch)
• Food porter 
• Guide 
• Tent
• Entrance, tent and environmental fee
• Gwapa og gwapong facilitator
• Emergency kit
• Jersey

The rate is pretty steep but with the price hike nowadays... *shrugs* I might DIY next time though, just to compare. In all fairness, the package was convenient coupled with such a fun team so no complaints~ Hihi

Whew. Habal-habal ride done and I swear it was like being on a rollercoaster. Our driver was the rugged type (spoiler: unlike the one when we went back) so I can't even tell you enough how crazy but exhilarating our run was. Hmm someone who loves off-road riding will definitely find that trail satisfying~

This was 12NN already. First order of business was to get our own hiking sticks for 30PHP. The ones in the Tourism Office cost 40-50PHP. If you wanna save some money, then it's better to buy here. You're also directly supporting the locals, right?

I would srsly recommend a walking stick! Except if maybe you're super fit and confident about your condition... I wouldn't force you. Lels but based on my experience, it was really helpful! We brought our sticks home, if you're curious. Hihi

Some more waiting time... Our companions unpacked their lunch boxes; others roamed around for photo ops. You can also hire a personal porter here for 20PHP/kilo. I was tempted but I also wanted to challenge myself if I could make it to the peak and campsite with my semi-heavy bag. Chos. That or wala nkoy budget 


Apparently, there are 2 trails to the peak: Kule and Salacafe. We took the first trail and then exited through Salacafe. Best of both worlds? Kule is a sitio of Brgy. Salacafe, by the way.

Before the trek, there was a short orientation in this wooden house. It's such a cozy setup that I want for myself. Lels we also signed up here. By this time, there were already 100+ names (including ours) so we're sharing the campsite with a lot of people, huh!

Let me call her Lady Hugot. That's because aside from introducing the place to us, she was sneaking in hugot comments so smoothly. At least that made the talk livelier. Plus you've got funny people with you... 


Fresh look muna si ate gurl before the real thing~ START!!!!

There are 5 stations (in order): Blete Hemglung, El Kini Hot Spring and El Tanaw Cold Spring, Lemdlag Jungle, the Nabanghagang View Deck and Kenebeg.


Judging the path here, it was actually pretty chill. I mean, I still had my let-me-stop-and-rest moments but there was nothing too major like I'd feel I'm dying. Lels my mantra for this climb anyway was "Slowly but surely."

Below is the 1st station with a mini shed. The hot sun emerged so we didn't stay long. Facilitators advised not to take too long resting (a minute is enough daw) as it can break your body's momentum. O haaa



Before arriving to the 2nd station, we got to pass by here where you can drink and / or refill your water bottles. I sprinkled some water on my face though because it was too hot to handle~

If we knew there was a water source up there, we wouldn't have filled our 1-litre bottles to make our load lighter. Or will it really make a significant difference?? Lels

The different stations helped a lot; we felt we achieved something for each one. Basically we're getting nearer and nearer to the view deck!



As much as I wanted to document every step of the way with my mirrorless camera, I couldn't because I had to save myself first. Lels and of course my XT10 should be in safety too. Hihi I wasn't able to borrow a GoPro this time so boohoo.

Most, if not all, stations had benches, by the way. Out of *respect* for these benches, we did sit on them and stayed a bit for Jelly Ace time! Hahaha respetar kuno.

And before you know it... It's almost the view deck!!!!

See them people? This was our last ascent before finally beholding the lake and all its glory~ Hihi


Even if it was quite hot, our bunch halted because our tour agency had a drone fly over us. At least there are clips that will show we DID trek! I don't know if they'll turn it into a video or something but it was cool to think our adventure was captured at such an angle. Dual purpose: at least the group before us will be done with their view deck photos when we get up the peak!


And BAM! How about this?

When I first saw this view, I went "WOW," srsly I don't know how my photos translate for you but Lake Holon was bigger than I imagined + it was super calm it seemed like all the stress was sucked out of me. Lels does that make sense!? Basta it was such a fantastic sight I don't regret anything (anymore)!!!! Now I GET THE HYPE / CHARM, friends


The rock was THE spot for the ultimate souvenir picture but you really have to wait for your turn. So we ventured by the side and took more shots. Because duh, there will never be enough~ Never enough~

Pak ganern! Hahaha if yall curious about the space of the deck, see below:

And this is courtesy of the drone from Trekkers Travel and Tours! That's the entirety of us! Can you spot me perhaps?? And do you believe me now when I said the lake was massive?

Competitive but slow-moving dream team! 
Ended up being the last batch to go down because snap, snap, snap! I think the fact that we might arrive at the campsite at dark urged us to just move on~ If not for that, we would've probably stayed forever

The descent was the challenging part. Why? The trail was new as it was a detour. The old one to the Kenebeg station (the 5th one) was affected by landslides so... Unfortunately, it also means we won't able to get on the canoe ride that'll cross to the campsite. It would've been fun! But what can we do~ *shrugs* We basically went down the longer way and it was muddy too! I almost slid but good thing for fast reflexes!? Charot


Just in time before it got really dark! Whew! By this time all I could think about was dinner... Lels organizers divided us into tents and naturally, I was with Marleni, Diana and new friends Rowena, Emily and Evita

I was not really exhausted as I expected - charot npud - but I was still tired so I had a nap alongside Marleni who was (surprisingly) feeling sick~ Dinner was still being prepared by this time so the waiting had us drifting to sleep.

Regarding their comfort rooms, there's a bit of a hike before you get to them. Prepare your coins. For pee: 5PHP, for : 10PHP and for bath: 20PHP. It's such a hassle for me, like why do guys have it so easy!? 

Well, anyways, here's an incident that happened to one of us that you and I should learn from. While we were gathered as we ate, someone stole an iPhone~ Louis left his phone inside their tent and after eating, he discovered it was gone just like that.

I know this is such an unpleasant experience to recall but I'm sharing this so that everyone will be extra careful with their belongings. I, for one, also left my gadgets in our tent. I might have been a victim too! Therefore, let's all be cautious. The campsite is open and shared with many others, after all. This slips out of our minds sometimes, especially if with a large group.

Let me shift this to positivity with these! 

I love the stars. Because they can't say anything.
I love the stars. Because they do not judge anyone.
― Natsuki Takaya

Stars are my precious, priceless thrills~ And this view that night was just invaluable. I just wanna share it with...  The above shots are not as clear and sharp as I want them to be but I didn't bring a tripod. The photographer / organizer had one, so I borrowed a bit~ I srsly wanna relive this moment. The sky was full of stars I wanted to bring them home!!! Awww


They started a bonfire too~ Ahh, the experience would've been more special had I been with friends and people close to my hearteu ♡ Lels stayed by the bonfire until past 9PM? Because by 10PM, it's lights off / quiet time. Then again, I woke up around dawn and it was even noisier

October 7, 2018. It was refreshing to wake up to cool air. I'm so used to the heat in the city, after all. Woke up at around 6AM and well, whipped out camera quick. No hilamos is real. Hahaha


Bangka ride was 50PHP / pax + another 50 PHP for the ring bouy. I don't know why I didn't get a life vest?? Thinking about it now, I must've been losing my mind. Or maybe giving no fucks anymore?

After having breakfast, packing our lunches, clearing up our tents, it was time to go home!

That's the jersey provided to us as part of the package. I adore the color because WINNER and Inner Circle

One last panorama!


Minimal photos. My bag felt heavier too - weirdly. Or I didn't organize well. Lels basta mkauli lng jud, gora! It was different when we were still on the way to Holon since there's still curiosity, excitement... On the way home you just wanna get over it, yeah? Hahaha


This is the other view deck. The lake is not seen as much here~ By this area is also the terminal for the horses. If you can't handle it anymore, you could ride one down. It's a personal expense so feel free. I don't have information on how much it'll be though. Sorry!

It seemed like the trail back was 50% shaded then 50% open field. The umbrella I brought was very useful! Hihi it was around 12NN when we got to this place again:

I thought our vans would be there to fetch us and it'll all be rainbows and butterflies~ Lels another habal-habal ride followed! It was a different way this time and longer! But later I learned it was a shortcut. Whuuut

Hmm this is where it ends!? Overall, I totally don't regret it now. I mean, suuure, I'm not gonna regret it much if I declined. But because I said YES to this invitation, because I pushed through, I was able to realize my capabilities~ It sounds sappy and dramatic but #realtalk I actually survived! Congratulations, self!

Once more, thank you everyone and thank you, Trekkers Travel & Tours!

Another mountain? Let me still think about it But Lake Holon, I might consider going back *winks*


  1. Wow! I didn't realized lake Holon is in Mindanao. Very nice adventure Pearl, how many kilometers is the walking distance? :)

  2. Clap Clap Clap* What a wonderful world. :)


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