Mt Melibingoy (Mt Parker) from a New Perspective

Obviously Mt Melibingoy (Mt Parker) is one of my favorite climbing destinations and this article with the attached photographs is my invitation for you to understand why. 
The 304 hectares wide caldera Lake Holon as viewed from the peak of Mt Parker
I can still remember that warm Friday noon where about thirty mountaineers were readying their outdoor gears as they gather at the town park of Tboli, an upland town southwest of South Cotabato province.  Excitement and anticipation can be read from their faces. Perhaps they can also sense the same in my face, I thought.
"The freedom and simple beauty is just too good to pass up"
I asked myself this question: I have conquered the same mountain a dozen times already, but why do i feel the same excitement as i did during my first Holon climb here eight years ago? Firstly, maybe because I always consider each climb, even if its of the same peak, as my first time; always anticipating for new things, new experiences. Secondly, maybe because I'm going to have a view of the lake from a new perspective. It was my twelfth climb of Parker but all of the first eleven were through the common trail to the Lakeside campsite.
They say it looks like a Windows desktop wallpaper.
That's the view of the mountain ranges in the western side of Melibingoy at dusk.
A 40-minute ride through the unforgiving Afus-Tbolok road ends in Barangay Tbolok. From Tbolok Mt. Melibingoy looks near but it took us more than six hours to get there. 
Mt. Melibingoy stands 1,756 meters above sea level in the south-eastern side of Tboli. From the peak climbers can have the full view of its 304 hectare-wide caldera known as Lake Holon (Lake Maughan). 
Also visible are the lake’s outlet and the portions where mountain walls have collapsed during the 1996 Lake Maughan tragedy. Google and Wikipedia can take you back to this tragic past that affected eleven towns in two provinces in Central Mindanao region. 
One of the walls of the mountain that collapsed
Mt Melibingoy was its original and native name but it was changed to Mt Parker sometime in the 50s. It was named after Captain Parker, one of the two American pilots of a helicopter that crashed at the lake while doing their rounds. His Partner was Captain Maughan, to whom the lake was named after from its original name Holon. After the Lake Maughan tragedy the local government of Tboli poposed to use again the  original names to do away with that tragic memory.

Visual Rewards
The Tbolok trail that leads to the new campsite at the eastern portion of the Parker summit has just been opened to climbers last March through the First Ascent Climb: Mt Parker through Tbolok trail. The new trail is the second established trail aside from the popular 7-kilometer Salacafe route that leads to the Lakeside campsite.
The ever imposing peak of Mt Matutum as viewed from Mt. Melibingoy
Early mornings at the peak is the best time for photographing the surrounding landscape. From the peak a successful climber can have a full view of a landscape that can put in one picture Mt Matutum in Tupi, Mt Apo in Davao and Mt Melibato in Tboli at the same time. Mt Busa and Three Kings Mountain in Lake Sebu also peek at the western side of the scenic landscape. 
A little turn to the east and the salmon sunrise will give you a golden reflection of Sarangani Bay and a bluish silhouette of Balut Island in the far east.
A fellow mountaineer enjoying the refreshing perspective of the pristine lake
Large Earth Cracks
The peak’s carrying capacity can be up to 50 persons only as established by the local tourism office based on the terrain and space available at the campsite.
Large earth cracks can be observed at the peak. Locals say it was caused by the March 5, 2002 earthquake. The quake registered a powerful 7.5 magnitude which originated near the Cotabato trench. 
It spawned landslides at the walls of Mt Parker which triggered the overflow of Lake Holon and inundating for the second time the 6 towns in South Cotabato and 5 towns in Sultan Kudarat.  The quake also created tsunamis as high as 3 meters in the coastal town of Kiamba, Sarangani province.
A fellow mountaineer standing near one of the large cracks
The earth cracks have gaps as wide as two meters with depths that are still unmeasured. One mountaineer fell inside one of these cracks during the First Ascent climb. What would you feel if it was you hanging there with half of your body inside the hole of unknown depth? 
Going to the peak
The summit of Mt parker through the Tbolok trail can be accessed through the Barangays Afus-Tbolok road. From the poblacion, a habal-habal ride can be taken for a fare of P60.
Locals are still inexperienced in terms of climb guiding and accommodating tourists but they can be negotiated to guide or as porters for fair fees.
It's a long way up but you will forget about everything once you reach the peak
Going to the peak climbers have to cross small creeks and rivers that serve as tributariesof Ga-o and Tbolok Rivers. These rivers merge at the entrance of Tbolok proper. These tributaries originate from Lake Holon and merges with Allah river that extends more than 100 kilometers to Maguindanao and Cotabato City. Riparian zones of the rivers that exit Tbolok are not well-vegetated and degraded, perhaps partly because of the past flashfloods.
The villagers of Tbolok are ready to give a lift to a tired visitor
From Brgy Tbolok, it will take approximately two hours before reaching Camp 1. Climbers have to pass through rolling hills filled with buyo-buyo (Imelda bush), secondary forests, top ridges, rivers and open farm lands planted with a variety of vegetables and farm crops. The top ridges are covered with creeping bushes which could lead a careless climber to a bad fall.
From Camp 1 to the peak is another long trek of approximately four hours. The longer trail passes through open brush lands on top ridges and close canopies of mossy forests.  
The trail used to be a hunters trail for the local huntsmen thus animal traps (for deers and wild boars) can be seen along the way.

The Rare Flora and Fauna

A variety of ferns, wild orchids, weird-looking mushrooms, wild flowers and rare flora like pitcher plants are aplenty along the trail. Red stick insects also thrive in the forests of Parker and my group was lucky to have seen one. The bad news was one of my climbing buddies accidentally sat on it. The red stick insect was already lifeless when we saw it inside her tent.  These creatures of fiery red color are said to be endemic to Melibingoy.
Aha! the carnivorous pitcher plant (nepenthes)
in its different forms . Phallic symbols, ey?
A rare find - the red stick insect 
A variety of endemic flora abound in the forests of Mt Melibingoy
An alimatok letting loose after its sumptuous meal
We also found a young mountain rodent at the campsite.
Many parts of the trail are considered alimatok (leech) country, meaning places where these blood-sucking assassins thrive.
What can be done?


Here are my unsolicited recommendations on what can be done for the community and in developing the   Tbolok trail as new climbing route:
·         Provide capability building trainings for officials and community leaders of Brgy Tbolok on community-based eco-tourism and organize a group of climbing guides
·         Establish official rates for climbing guides, porters and habal-habal fares
·         Package Tbolok trail for adventurers’/climbers’ preference aside from the common trail to the lakeside campsite
·         Rehabilitation of eroded road from Sitio Kanahay to Brgy Tbolok to allow vehicles to pass through
·         Rehabilitation of riparian zones along Tbolok and Ga-o rivers for advance protection against flash floods
·         An ocular inspection of the peak by the Mines and Geosciences Bureau Region 12 of DENR to assess the condition of the earth cracks.
Seizing the moment with the jolly children of Tbolok
What can you do as visitors/climbers? 
Leave No Trace! That's an all-encompassing rule. Secondly, respect the community - their traditions, practices and their vulnerabilities. 
Lastly, understand yourself. When you truly understand your purpose of going to the outdoors
only then will you appreciate best the mountains and the landscapes, the people you meet, the new things you experience or even the hardships you will encounter. 

8 comments:

  1. mga estudyante q sikat2 bah...hahahah...

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    1. they've been very nice to us. thanks for visiting my page. ;)

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  2. makapunta din ako dyan promise:)

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    1. you have to. it's an experience u must try. meet the people to. they'd love to see good visitors. ;)

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  3. I strongly agree with the recommendations... mga teachers find hard in going to their station..masyadong rocky road!!!!sana this would serve as wake up call sa mga Brgy. Officials na walang pki alam...

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    1. thank you for agreeing. we hope that the local officials will do more to help ease the situation of the teachers and the children. Thanks for visiting this page. cheers!

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  4. pwede po ba sumamam next trek nyu sir ?

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    1. of course, pwede maam. you may join our group of independent and solo mountaineers in our outreach climbs. For more updates on the group's activity, check out our facebook page, here: http://www.facebook.com/takladtamig

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