5 Reasons why Mt. Melibingoy (Mt. Parker) should be your favorite mountain too

Perhaps the most mentioned eco-destination in this blog is Mt. Melibingoy (Mt. Parker) and Lake Holon in the upland town of Tboli in the beautiful province of South Cotabato. Why? For one, its mystic beauty truly deserves to be revered. The mountain, standing proudly at 1,756 meters above seal level, and its surroundings have stories of disasters, hope and survival that are also worth learning and re-telling.

Here are 5 reasons why Mt. Melibingoy, also known as Mt. Parker, and its crater lake, Lake Holon, should be on your list of favorite mountains, too:

1. It is a mystical mountain. Ain't it awesome to experience mystical stuffs first-hand?
Mt. Melibingoy is said to be guarded by, well, fairies and gods. There have been stories from the locals of unseen forces doing their unnatural routines within the vicinity of the mountain. 

First timers to the mountain are welcomed by a blessing of rain. For the many times that I have been to the lake or the summit, it never failed me to show proof of this weird event to my first-timer companions. Get ready to be drenched in cold rain if you're planning to scale this mountain soon.

Afternoons at the lake are times of unexplained events as well. At around four o'clock the debris and leaves that float in the 304-hectare lake are gathered to the center by a centripetal force observable through fine ripples. The locals said it is the lake's natural way of cleaning itself. Although there are assumptions that there is an underground outlet that drains the pollutants out of the deep lake, no technical or scientific groups have proof to attest to this as of to date.

Be mindful of the mornings at the lake. Besides its natural cold that reaches as low as 10 degrees Celcius, some mountaineers said they heard weird jubilant sounds when waking up at 3 in the morning. Isn't 3AM considered by mystics as the time when the gates of the underworld open?

Lastly, a lady in black (black fairy?) is said to be the "tagbalay" or guardian of the summit. In two different instances involving two different persons, the lady in black called the attention of the rudest and noisiest member of mountaineer groups through their dreams...or say, nightmares. "The lady was staring at me in my dream. She was just standing there every time I close my eyes", said one of the mountaineers.

So, better behave.

The lake shore of Lake Holon
2. You can camp at the summit, in its mouth or at the outlet of the volcanic lake
You have the option to climb the summit of the volcano via the Tbolok trail. From the top the sunset is amazing and the sunrise that reflects to the Sarangani Bay in the southeast is magical. From the top an open sky may reveal Mt. Apo in Davao Region, Mt Matutum in Tupi town and nearby Mt. Melibato.

The summit can be reached through a 4 to 6 hours trek passing though steep slopes, close canopy primary forests, secondary forests and open brushlands. See the lake from the bird's eye view and witness the fast movement of the clouds as it blanket the vast lake.

To reach the outlet of the caldera lake a 4 to 5 hours trek via the mossy forests and close canopy forests is necessary. A rewarding view reminiscent of Jurassic Park movie scenes will welcome the persistent trekkers. Light green mosses layered in boulders and tree trunks are indicative of its pristine environment.

The most visited of its three campsites is at lake Holon. The lake campsite can hold as much as 100 mountaineers at once. Go fishing in the lake or simply bask in the silence under the flooding stars in the night sky. 
Share a smile and you will get more back
3. Experiencing local culture is an ingredient for good adventure 

The trek to all the campsite destinations will allow you to pass by communities dominated by Tboli indigenous peoples. Greet them and be friendly. Starting a conversation with them will usher you to new discoveries about their culture and tradition...or maybe new information no biologist or anthropologist have an idea of.

Be sensitive. Your ways may not be theirs or what's normal for you may be be offensive to them. Do a little research not just of the mountain before heading to your adventure.

My group of local mountaineers are organizing regular tree growing and outreach climbs in the mountains in South Cotabato. Barangay Salacafe, the doorway to Lake Holon and the outlet, and Barangay Tbolok, the doorway to the summit, are two of the villages we've visited a couple of times for the activity we call TAKLADTAMIG. It's our way of reaching out to the communities and giving back to nature.

The eastern sun shining
4. Mt. Melibingoy tells stories of disaster, survival and hope

The volcano's vast lake is the source of water for thousands of farmers. It connects to the 100 kilometer long Allah River that feeds and gives life to some 30,000 hectares of farm lands in South Cotabato, Sultan Kudarat and Maguindanao provinces. But in September 1995 a tragic incident claimed the lives of at least 53 people when lake overflowed and inundated the connecting villages. The incident, infamously known as Lake Maughan tragedy, cost at least half a billion pesos worth of damage to infrastructure and agriculture. Eighteen people remain missing to this day.

Surviving families in Tboli area have different stories to tell of the tragedy. Some say the overflow triggered by a very loud explosion was mad-made. There were allegations of local politicians masterminding the blast to drain the lake to find the rumored Yamashita treasures. Some say it was caused by a natural mass movement in the lake's outlet. Eighteen years later a legal battle is still on in a hope to answer the question: what really happened on that tragic day?

The local communities are moving on but the scars remain and the threat of recurrence of the tragedy is still disturbing them.

5. It is connected to an array of eco-tourism destinations
Tboli is the adventure destination in Allah Valley Landscape. Allah Valley covers portions of South Cotabato and Sultan Kudarat and is home to adventure, cultural and natural tourism destinations. Mt. Melibingoy is only one.

From Tboli, the scenic town of Lake Sebu with its three lakes is just 40 minutes away. The famous seven falls of Lake Sebu and its daring twin Zip Lines that hovers above pristine forests 800 meters from the ground is astounding.

From Tboli it takes only an hour by road to Sultan Kudarat. The province is home to Baras bird Sanctuary in Tacurong City, the hot and cold springs in Esperanza and the architecturally impressive and one of the biggest provincial capitols in the country standing in Isulan. []

See you there!


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