In the midst of complexity of life, I found the opposite whenever I wander to places I’ve never thought I will be. In the first place, I never thought of staying in Mindanao for the longest time I have ever been away from home. But in this point of my life when I realized what kind of paradise I must have been in; especially the kind of paradise I lived in Lake Holon.
When we planned to visit Lake Holon, I never expected anything to experience more than I even expected. All the purpose I brought with me was to get away from the busy district of Davao. In fact, I didn’t even actually know that this lake exists; only to find out that it’s one of the must-visit lakes in the country. It was closed for sometime, for uncertain reason, and was reopened last March to let travellers and tourists live in a ‘different form of life.’
Lake Holon settles at west of General Santos City, that is a two-hour drive from the city proper; or more than four hours from Davao City (where my reference point was). Before the start of the trek, we traversed an hour drive from Tourism Office of T’Boli using habal-habal. The road is quite challenging as it isn’t concreted yet. Masakit sa hita at sa mata because of dusts that welcomed us — way far from the comfortable seats we were in the four-wheeled airconditioned vehicle we used to stick with for transportation. As it brings discomfort to some, the sceneries pleased my naked eyes. A lot of old trees and crops captured my attention which tells me the diversity and prosperity in this habitat. We were just starting to make our way to the mountain and lake, yet, it feels like we were already in the most secluded part of the south.
After an hour, we reached the receiving area where registration and short orientation happen. The T’Bolis welcomed us with their mother tounge (few words sounded familiar to me after I learned it the last time I visited Lake Sebu). After which, we completed all our gears to get ready for the hike. At around eleven in the morning, we put our best foot forward to move forward.
The hike went for almost three hours. On the first 30 minutes, we passed by a small community mixed of T’Boli and Illongo. The houses were made of bamboos and were built uniformly. Abaca fibers, that looked like hair strands of an old lady ghost, were stocked all over and were ready for weaving of malong and our favorite blankets. And what delighted me most was when I saw two kids happily playing something we used to call ‘Dama’ in Manila. It only needs stones and drawn grid to use your brain and checked your opponent. Indeed delighted to my eyes because I haven’t seen such for so long after virtual games have overpowered the spirit of larong pinoy.
We continued ascending for the next two hours into this diverse rainforest. From different kind of soil we stepped in – sandy, rocky, muddy, black, whitish, etc. – to tallest, oldest, and largest trees and flowers, fruits, crops and vines. Indeed, we were walking along a forest, where preservation of all living things prevail, that seems like only few had passed by. And maybe some of those few are also the people who make a living from the rich lake down below who would traverse the mountain to the lake, catch few numbers of Tilapia, go back to the base, sell their catch and make money to buy their necessities – and you would see them smile like the experience of doing it routinely is nothing.
At passed noon time, we reached the viewing deck to the lake which I believed to be the highest point. Though I’ve been to few hikes already and has regular leg workout, I felt a little pain on my hips and legs. Suddenly, I thought again the lola carrying her dog we bumped into. In my estimate, she’s already in her 70’s yet she seems more energized and powered than any of us. It made me think how less active our lifestyle must have been to see a lola as healthy, if not stronger than, as us – given the more resources, more options and, ultimately, more convinience than anyone living in the mountain.
The pain didn’t matter anymore. We have seen the portion of the lake already, now we can’t wait to see its entirety. We descended a steep slope with all the remaining energy we have for almost 30 minutes – no stops. Nobody seemed to use up energy to speak nor to care what we could encounter along the way nor to choose where to grip beside us. The trail was one of the hardest – with very narrow steep downslope slippery trail one might stumble if not heeded.
But we survived. At pass two in the afternoon, the more than 300 hectares of water peacefully boxed in this mountain welcomed us. Although I already felt tired and dizzy, my eyes just can’t stop capturing this post-card instagram-worthy scenics we were privileged to experience. At the heights of the sun, we were chilling. T’was probably around 20-25 degree celsius in the vicinity with the fogs and clouds almost hugged us tight.
The feeling is simply captivating. I was like time-hopped to a different dimension in a strange place. But if I were to get lost in this kind of paradise, I’m probably not wanting to come back. The cold breeze in a calm lake on top of a tranquil mountain is indeed heaven on earth. The hums and chirps of birds and insects are music to my ears. The green meadow is a blanket to lay down myself. And the clouds and the sky are movies must-watch.
It was truly worth all the time we rendered to conquer the mountain. Patience is indeed a virtue because after all the wait and challenges we encounter, we were delighted to embrace the beauty of life in Lake Holon.