Behind the Beauty of Lake Holon is an Ugly Past No One Wants to Remember

The view of Lake Holon from Salacafe Viewdeck. This is not its best look because it was foggy when we took this shot.

A lot of  beautiful stories have been told about Lake Holon. I heard nothing but praises printed on newspapers, exciting experiences published on blogs, beautiful views featured on TV documentaries, and overwhelming narratives coming from different people who have witnessed the beauty of Lake Holon. I am a local of the neighboring town of T'boli, but unlike strangers and travelers, Lake Holon was a nightmare for me, until I came to visit it.

It was September 1995, I was 10 years old then, I woke up one morning from the hammock where I was sleeping. I was flabbergasted by the weird sound of the raindrop. It was raining for a week already and I was supposed to get used to waking up to the sound of the rain on the rooftop. But that day, that particular day, it was a different sound. It's a sound of a water flowing heavily towards an uncertain direction, it's a sound of horror.  I heard on the radio that the Allah River, situated a few meters away from my community, went haywire. The culprit? It's the uncontrollable level of water flowing from Lake Maughan. I heard about treasure, about gold, about bombs but I don't understand anything about it. All I knew was, we're in trouble. We're lucky our Barangay is located in an elevated area. The water from the river reached up to the foot of the riverbank. I was afraid as I witnessed how the water dominated the rice fields and corn fields and our farm area. I was there, the very moment when the water from the lake killed every living creature it passed through, including humans and animals. I saw dead bodies, houses crashed into pieces, farms destroyed and communities wiped out from the map. It was a terrible sight, a frightening experience. I can still remember the smell of the mud and the decaying corpses, the sound of raging water and the feeling of fear.

Conquering the mountain of T'boli for Lake Holon

Fast forward 23 years after the disaster, Lake Maughan was dubbed as the Crown Jewel of the South. Yes, that very lake who killed a lot of lives and destroyed several households. It has a new name too, they call it Lake Holon nowadays. How come a disaster that is Lake Holon attracts so much attention to the wanderlusts? I have to find out myself, so I decided to go to Lake Holon since it's just near me.

I joined a group of perfect strangers to climb the mountain of T'boli, South Cotabato just to see the mysterious and infamous lake of the town. Since this is under the Tourism Department, we were required to pass by the office at their municipality to log our arrival. Then we  hired a habal-habal to take us to the receiving area of Salacafe Trail, a trail for the beginners. I don't mind riding a habal-habal because I used to ride it when I travel from our Barangay to the town because I have no choice, or lack thereof. However, I was not prepared for a roller coaster ride because the road from the town proper to the T'boli tribe community was not easy. We traveled for more than one hour through habal habal, which means more than an hour of torture too. Despite the rough road, the area going to the tribal community is well developed as there are banana and pineapple plantations. I also noticed that aside from the fertile land, T'Boli is also blessed with cool climate.

The receiving area at Salacafe Trail where people can buy food, raincoats and more.

As soon as we arrived at the Salacafe receiving trail, we were assigned a tour guide. Yes, a tour guide is required when you climb to Lake Holon. We also went through proper orientation just so we know the dos and donts of the place. It's almost noontime when we commenced our climb. The weather was pretty bad because it was gloomy.

Entrance going to Lake Holon

After a few minutes and a few meters of walk, it drizzled. However, nothing could dampen our spirit as we still enthusiastically braved the rain. Believe it or not, I brought with me an umbrella, so I guess that had saved my day and that had won me friends as I shared it to as far as I could share. Still far from the middle of our journey, we stopped in some sheltered area to take our lunch. So there we are, a bunch of strangers in some unknown place somewhere in the mountain of T'Boli sharing food and hopes and fears as we faced the unknowns just to conquer the mystical Lake Holon.

Hiking at the mountain of T'Boli
 As we continued our hike, I started to feel that the trail was impossible to conquer.  We went through everything challenging  trail I could ever imagine. The muddy,  steep, rough  and difficult road challenged our exercise deprived hearts and caused us to  breathe heavily as we ascend to the mountains, our shirts were damped with the combination of sweat and rain. It felt like forever, until we reached the viewing deck of the Salacafe Trail. The struggle we experienced with 4 hours hike was suddenly turned into excitement as we witnessed right before our eyes the beauty of the majestic Lake Holon. It was surreal, I was like looking into the painting of God. The weather didn't favor us that day, although the fogs hid the full view of the lake to us, we still admired the beauty of it to as far as we could see.

Our team at the Salacafe Viewdeck
 We were staring at the beauty of the lake under the heavy rain when I asked our guide what he knew about the tragedy that happened in 1995. He shared the story to me, a little bit controversial story, and I found out that what happened 23 years ago that caused me nightmare was not the Lake's fault. The lake had just reacted to the actions of greedy human being. What we know about Lake Holon is that it's a gem of the south, a jewel, an important piece but what we don't know is that, it's literally a gem because there's a gold deposit, according to legend (and don't quote me on this), in the middle of the lake but nobody can ever dare get it. Aside from the feels and the ambiance, what makes Lake Holon really mysterious is its story.

Raining while overlooking the lake

So there I was, overlooking Lake Holon while listening to its story, conquering the nightmare circa 1995, and the promise of hope that the Lake could forgive me and that we could be friends forever. At last, the ugly story that I tried to forget about Lake Maughan has found its closure. I was like hypnotized by its beauty that all bad memories were snapped out of my system. Although the Salacafe viewing deck is still far from the lake, we were determined to go near it. After being soaked in the rain and the moment where we all in awe  of its greatness, we continued our business. 

What happened during our camping and our trek at the Kule trail will be featured on part 2 of my narrative about Lake Holon. It took us almost 5 hours to conquer the Salacafe Trail which is for beginners. How do you think we managed to face Kule Trail which is for expert climbers? And what more treasures we discovered on that trail? Find out soon!

Read part 2 of our journey HERE!!!