Aerial Shoot: Lake Holon, Mt. Melibingoy and Mt. Matutum from the Sky

I yelled my loudest "whoah, f#*k!" when the plane took a sudden dive! What seemed like a momentary dead air and seconds-close to hitting the hard ground was in fact a deliberate attempt to scare our asses off!

I used to just climb this mountain. Now, I'm hovering above Mt. Melibingoy. Click photo to enlarge.
Then the sudden 80 degrees flip of the tiny Cessna 206 plane back to the clouds! 

The pilot and the co-pilot laughed as if they scored a gazilion points against the four passengers behind them. One of us had to beg "stop" as the rest of camera-toting passengers were sweating the size of corn kernels. Seasoned aerial photographer Len Jingco kept his cool although obviously discomposed by the scare try.

Allah River somewhere in the town of Surallah. Click photo to enlarge.
We were so low we thought we we're on a plane crash situation. Click photo to enlarge.

It's easy to get scared up there when the paper light "sport-utility vehicle of the air", as what the C206 is fondly called, is the only thing that holds you hovering above between the infinite sky and the earth. But once you manage to find the stillness within, no amount of scare tactics can keep you from getting amazed with the landscape only the birds often see.

That was my first shoot from above. You know the thrill and excitement during "first times".

Allah River and one of the tributaries back dropped by Mt. Matutum. Click photo to enlarge.
We took off from Surallah Airport, a small airport that used to cater small commercial  flights, to photograph the mystical Lake Holon (Lake Maughan), the crater lake of Mt. Melibingoy (Mt. Parker). The mountain is South Cotabato's most famous adventure destination. It is revered by the Tboli people, the dominant indigenous tribe in South Cotabato, as a sacred ground and playground of the otherworldly. In the modern times, it is considered both as a gift and a curse.

South Cotabato's crown that connects it through rivers and plains to the province of Sultan Kudarat.
The connection is known as Allah Valley. Click photo to enlarge.

Nearly a hundred lives were lost in the two major tragedies that occurred in and from the lake in the past 2 decades. The Lake also links major rivers, visible and gorgeously swerving from above, that feed some 20,000 hectares of farmlands in Allah Valley or the connecting provinces of South Cotabato and Sultan Kudarat. The curse could be growing as the pineapple and banana plantations companies race to acquire more lands to plant in the uplands of Tboli. From above the thinning forests are visible.

The surroundings of the the dormant volcano is still lush least for now.

The gorgeous Mt. Matutum from the Cessna's window. Click photo to enlarge.

It's surreal to see the mountain I have climbed more than twenty times in a new perspective. Clicks are all I heard as the plane takes flight around the lake. Of course, I remember the "story" of Captain Maughan whose plane reputedly crashed and drowned in the lake during his exploration in the 30s. 

Behold the 304-hectare lake caldera! Click photo to enlarge.

The rugged and the beautiful. Click photo to enlarge.

To the east lies another mountain that is one of the prominent landmarks of the province. Mt. Matutum at 2,286 meters in Tupi town humbly points to the sky in blue haze, the rugged mountain ranges surrounding it bows to its feet. The big bonus is capturing in one frame three of my most favorite mountains to climb - Mt. Melibingoy,  Mt. Matutum and the grand Mt. Apo, and one of the most difficult but lesser known peaks, Mt. Melibato.

There are moments when I would put my lenses down and just be at the moment. There's stillness despite the roaring single engine of the C206. The perspective leaves you silent inside and out, it flips your old views of the place you knew all along and leaves you asking more questions. I think that's what an aerial view does to the peeper. 
Spell surreal. Click photo to enlarge.

In one frame: Mt. Melibingoy, Mt. Matutum, Mt. Apo and Mt. Melibato. Click photo to enlarge.

The stationary wheels of the C206 touched the asphalt runway and it was over. Forty minutes up in the clouds was too short. I could have bargained for more scary dives to the pilot just for longer flight. But even birds do take a break..a break to think about the flight that has been.  []


Special thanks to Sir Bary Lugan and Mayor Dibu Tuan, the flying mayor/the second pilot. Thanks too to the pilot/captain (I forgot his name), who, in connivance with Mayor Dibu, gave us a spiking adrenalin rush with the dive. To Sir Len Jingco, the humble sky shooter. Cheers to more flights!


  1. And I thought you already nailed it with your aerial photo of Lake Holon that I used in my blog. The last photo in this entry may have just trumped that. It's definitely one for the books. ;)

    Baktin Corporation

  2. i am always fascinated by the shapely Mt Matutum! I'm glad to have visited it again last November with my GBG family led by Kuya Avel.
    Great photos you got there!

    1. oh, nice to know its GBG that led you there. balik lang, ms maricar.
      oi, thanks. cheers!

  3. I am always fascinated by the shapely Mt. Matutum. Glad I visited it again last November with my GBG family led by Kuya Avel.

    Great photos you got there.

  4. Wonderful pictures of the volcano and its lake ! Thank you for sharing.
    They are probably the best ones I have seen so far. Mayor Tuan
    did two air trips but the pictures were not that good (the problem
    may come from the camera he used). Was Dibu your pilot ?
    The best time for flying over the volcano must be between 7 and 9AM,
    because after that you already have clouds and fog, somewhat blurring
    the landscape. Another option is after a heavy rain, usually in the
    afternoon, the sky and quality of air become crystal clear.
    I did know the Surallah airport was still functioning (used to be
    in the 70's).

    1. good observations about the best times for the aerial shoot. yep, the chief was with us during the flight. thanks for dropping by. cheers!

  5. Lou, lake maughan pala is named after a pilot - capt.maughan. so, it is lake "mow-han", not "ma-ug-han". Hahaha! Tnx for the info!

    1. yes, nang Luz. There are a lot of interesting stories about the volcanic lake besides these. see you around. :)

  6. Lou, lake maughan pala is named after a pilot - capt.maughan. so, it is lake "mow-han", not "ma-ug-han". Hahaha! Tnx for the info!

  7. So, lake maughan is named after a pilot - capt maughan! Then, u say lake "mow-han" and not lake "ma-ug-han". Hahaha! Now I know!

  8. Thanks to these photography guys, they were extremely approachable and fun to work with. They respect your opinions and what you want and will stop at nothing until you get perfect shot.

  9. I hope I get the chance to experience the same thing Pareng Louie (minus the scary dive) lol. Nice blog post pre!

    1. i'm willing to fly again no matter how small the plane will be, basta walang dive! haha. thanks, pareng Fra.


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