Can you fall in love with a place? Because I swear Lake Holon just gave me butterflies.
Standing atop the Lake Holon view deck, I was mesmerized by its jaw-dropping scenery.
With its towering peaks and dreamy shades of blue and green, it’s a stunning sight and a place where exhausted souls recharge.
I rubbed my eyes to see if the view in front of me was real.
And it was as real as the air we breathe.
So, I soaked up the scenery and snapped photos.
And when I looked at my phone, the images were surreal and heavenly (no filters needed).
For years, I had dreamt and yearned to see this majestic natural wonder in South Cotabato.
But life had other plans.
From a global outbreak to personal problems, there were many stumbling blocks stopping me from taking a Lake Holon hike.
And finally, it was here, and I enjoyed every second of my journey.
As I marveled at its beauty, I wondered if the lake had other surprises.
Is there more to Lake Holon than its stunning and majestic beauty?
Little did I know, I was in for a pleasant symphony of experiences.
And best of all, this weekend escape taught me the importance of self-care and self-love.
My Lake Holon Experience
Day 0 at 07:30 PM: Mactan-Cebu International Airport
Am I selfish for taking this solo trip?
Is it really so wrong to put myself first for once?
Is it selfish to want more than just existing?
Some people might say that I’m selfish for taking this trip without any of my friends and family.
They’d say I should spend more time doing other important things.
And they have a way of making me feel guilty for prioritizing my own needs.
They’d make me think self-care is a guilty pleasure.
But when did self-care become synonymous with selfishness?
And here’s the deal: there’s no rulebook saying putting yourself first is a mortal sin.
We’re so busy making everyone else’s life easier that we forget about our own.
I know it’s an unpopular opinion, but I won’t feel guilty for recharging and indulging in my hobbies.
Day 0 at 10:01 PM: Cebu Pacific aircraft
You can’t pour from an empty cup.
Ever wondered why airplanes tell you to secure your own oxygen mask before helping others?
You’ve heard this saying before.
The flight attendants always tell passengers to put on their own oxygen masks before helping others.
Because if you’re gasping for air, you’re not much help to anyone else.
The same principle applies in everyday life.
If you’re burnt out, stressed, or just plain exhausted, the quality of your interactions with others will suffer.
So, taking time to recharge isn’t just beneficial for you.
It’s crucial for the people around you too.
And that’s why I don’t feel guilty on this trip to Lake Holon.
Day 0 at 11:32 PM: Davao City
Sometimes, I question my decision-making ability.
I knew there was an easy, hassle-free way to get from McDonald’s Bajada to our meet-up, 711 Southerland.
But I, for some reason, opted for the more inconvenient way: walking.
Davao is the safest city in the Philippines, and walking here at night isn’t a problem.
Still, walking with a heavy backpack for over a kilometer with no rest isn’t the best choice, especially if you’re hiking Lake Holon the next day.
Well, at least, I got to familiarize myself with the city and had my mental map updated.
Moments later, I arrived at our meet-up point, where I met a trio of friendly hikers: Septer, Benny, and Melissa.
Although I just met them, I could feel their vibe and frequency.
I could hang out and share laughs with these people.
Eventually, we received a notification on Facebook messenger saying our van bound for Lake Holon has arrived.
And that marked the start of our journey from Davao to Lake Holon.
Day 1 at 08:27 AM: T’Boli
After a filling breakfast and a bumpy ride through an endless banana plantation, we arrived in T’Boli.
While waiting for Jovelyn, our friendly and charming Lake Holon guide, we prepared our bags and snapped selfies.
Some bought sungkods – traditional T’Boli-style trekking poles – for our Lake Holon hike.
Earlier, I thought I was the only hiker in this group from Cebu.
Surprisingly, there was another one, Niño, a fellow adventure seeker who also joins the organized hikes from Sugbo Adventours.
As expected, we have a lot of common friends who are all part of Cebu’s mountaineering community.
In hiking, even in minor climbs like this, you need a buddy on the trail.
And it seemed like Niño and I would be partners-in-crime for this weekend adventure in Lake Holon, South Cotabato.
Day 1 at 09:03 AM: The ride to Kule
I’m no stranger to insane, risky, spine-tingling, and heart-pumping habal-habal rides.
And I must say the ride to Kule, the base of our hike, was one of the craziest and most thrilling ones in my life.
Not only was the ride fast and furious, but it also had plenty of obstacles and challenges along the way.
We had to cross rivers, descend on narrow pathways, and ascend on rocky and steep paths.
Yet, ironically, I felt so safe on this ride.
Honestly, it felt safer than walking in a concrete jungle like Downtown Cebu, where you have to constantly keep an eye on your belongings.
I guess it was because the motorcycle was in tip-top shape, and the driver had mastered navigating this route.
Day 1 at 09:36 AM: Orientation in Kule
What a crazily fun ride it was!
Perhaps, it was a sneak peek of what’s to come for our Lake Holon adventure.
But before we began our hike, we stopped by a traditional building where we had our orientation.
Inside the building, our lovely host cracked up hugot jokes and shared some insights and facts about Lake Holon.
She talked about the Lake Holon difficulty level and the dos and don’ts of visiting this sacred site.
In this orientation, I’ve also learned Kissing Stone Lake Holon isn’t just for hopeless romantics seeking true and undying love.
Apparently, the kissing stone is also for people who have other aspirations and dreams.
Day 1 at 10:20 AM: The Kule Trail Lake Holon hike
Everyone knows stress is a mean son-of-a-bitch and a nasty villain.
It’s sneaky, harmful, and usually invisible.
The good news?
Self-care helps us kick stress to the curb.
Yoga, a good book, or even a simple walk with nature can dial down the tension.
Less stress means a clearer mind and a happier you.
And to me, hiking is one of the best forms of self-care.
Multiple studies have confirmed that spending time outdoors helps reduce stress, calms anxiety, and lowers the risk of depression.
Though we had just started our Kule Trail Lake Holon hike, I could already feel these perks.
Despite the scorching heat of the sun and sleepless nights, I felt my batteries recharging and my soul slowly recovering.
And the best part is I’ve met a few incredible human beings on this hike, including the wonder boy, Boyong.
Day 1 at 10:59 AM: Traffic in the mountains
There was traffic on our way to the Lake Holon view deck.
I was expecting it a bit after seeing the crowds of hikers earlier in T’Boli.
And that’s okay.
We have different paces when it comes to hiking and life.
Some hike slowly, enjoying every second of their nature immersion.
Meanwhile, others dash off a hike like trail runners.
The important thing here is to respect everyone’s pace.
For some young and fast runners, you can’t expect everyone to be as fast and strong as you.
And you can’t call them weak shit.
You may be strong, athletic, and fast today.
But what happens when the gift of youth fades?
What happens when your body starts to break down after all the mileage and abuse it has taken?
As always, I respected everyone’s pace.
Sometimes, I even had to slow down to adjust to the pace of the other hikers.
The truth is I don’t want to reach the top alone.
Reaching the summit and view is an experience best shared with others.
Day 1 at 11:34 PM: Lunch break
After overtaking the group ahead of us, we followed a steep and challenging trail to another station on Kule Trail.
I forgot to mention that there are stations on the trails where you can replenish, take a breather, and enjoy a meal.
Ultimately, we arrived at a shady station and took a break to eat our lunch.
I didn’t spend a lot of time at this station.
When lunch was done, I immediately began preparing for the ascend to Lake Holon view deck.
Together with Niño, we followed the trail that would lead us to one of the highlights of Lake Holon.
Along the way, I was enthralled by its verdant and forest setting.
There were also signs telling the story of the 15 guardians of Lake Holon.
Thus far, my Lake Holon experience wasn’t just fun.
It was an educational experience that gave me an insight into the fascinating culture of the T’Boli tribe.
Day 1 at 12:10 PM: Lake Holon view deck
My legs were screaming for mercy, and I was almost out of breath.
With a heavy backpack and the scorching heat of the sun, the climb to the view deck was a bit of a pain in the ass.
I blocked out the pain and kept climbing until I finally arrived at the view deck.
And I was instantly greeted by the stunning panorama of Lake Holon.
Jove explained to us that this is the best spot to view the pristine 304-acre beauty of Lake Holon.
I had to pause and just take in the view.
The climb and the hours of non-stop travel from Cebu to Davao to Lake Holon were worth it.
I felt rejuvenated and relaxed.
The views were spectacular.
Words don’t do justice to the grandeur of this lake.
And those Lake Holon captions for Instagram?
They don’t exactly capture the immense size and charm of this natural wonder.
One day, I’ll return to this enchanting lake together with some of my friends and loved ones.
Suddenly, a thought came into mind.
Self-care isn’t about neglecting your loved ones or your responsibilities.
It’s about setting boundaries to protect your well-being.
Taking time for yourself allows you to be a better friend, partner, and colleague because you’re not operating on empty.
Day 1 at 01:11 PM: The boat ride
I hate going downhill, especially when I’m carrying a full load.
I have developed a variety of techniques and strategies to prevent slips and mishaps when going down.
Still, it can be painful to my knees, which have tons of mileage.
I breathed a sigh of relief when we arrived at the docking station that would lead us to the Lake Holon Campsite.
Unlike other mountains like Mount Apo and Mount Pulag, you have to ride a boat to reach the campsite.
And that to me, makes Lake Holon one-of-a-kind.
The ride was exciting, and refreshing, and gave us a unique perspective of Lake Holon.
As I’ve said, this weekend escape isn’t just a hike.
It’s a symphony of experiences that would bring bliss and a dash of excitement to my adult life.
Furthermore, the green, clean waters and lush mountainous background remind me of Kayangan Lake in Coron, Palawan.
Jovelyn even called this lake a mini-version of Palawan.
Day 1 at 02:09 PM: Lake Holon Campsite
The campsite was semi-packed.
Luckily, the porters of our group secured comfortable spots for the group.
We didn’t immediately set up our tents when we arrived at the site.
We took a short rest and did a little exploration of the campsite.
I noticed other hikers enjoying the Lake Holon activities, such as swimming in the lake, taking a fish spa, and snapping pictures.
And some were taking a boat ride to the Outlet, a lake section where you can swim and dive.
As much as I like to indulge in these activities in Lake Holon, I didn’t have the energy to do so.
I guess that’s a sign of aging or maturing.
Or, maybe, the sleepless night and ride from Davao to Lake Holo took a toll on my body.
So, we pitched our tents and enjoyed a nap.
And even with all the noise and chatter, I did have a nice and re-energizing rest.
Somehow, this not-so-exciting part of my Lake Holon itinerary reminded me of life lately.
In this mad rush and head-spinning circus we call life, it can be quite a challenge to keep our mental health on the positive and sunny side.
We hustle, work, stress, and try to keep everything together.
And that is where the magic of self-care and self-love steps in.
It hits the brakes, gives us a much-deserved break, and reinstills the inner peace missing in our lives.
Without self-care, we turn into glow-lacking, under-slept, and overworked versions of ourselves.
And besides, who wants to feel like a manic Monday throughout the week?
Day 1 at 05:45 PM: Dinner
Food arrived early, and it was time to feast and refuel.
Dinner was phenomenal, hearty, and tasty.
Did I mention that it’s beautifully presented?
And this is one of the perks of having an all-inclusive climb package.
Besides not having to bring your cook set, the food is also prepared by experts.
I got to give it to Jove, Saka Ta Bai, and our guide, who prepared our dinner.
Day 1 at 07:07 PM: Lights out
In the city, seven in the evening is too early for me.
But I need to rest and recover for the hike tomorrow.
I also wanted to catch as many z’s as I could because my flight on Monday was at 3 AM.
Being a traveler has taught me to tune in to my body’s needs.
You can’t keep jumping across time zones, trying out lip-smacking exotic cuisines, or going all out for that perfect shot without giving your body some extra love.
Regular exercise, wholesome nutrition, and abundant sleep are staples of self-care to keep us going strong, so we can continue adding stories to our travel diaries.
Day 2 at 4:30 AM
I couldn’t remember what time I fell asleep last night.
But I can tell you it was the best one I’ve had in the past month.
The background was rather noisy, with so many people talking and walking around the campsite.
But I couldn’t resist sleeping, thanks to the cold and cozy atmosphere.
At 5 AM, I stepped outside my tent and explored the campsite.
Together with the other members of the team, we took photos of the gorgeous scenery.
Soon, the sun emerged, rising from one of the rugged peaks surrounding Lake Holon.
Speaking of the surrounding mountains, Jove explained to us that these mountains represent the 15 guardians of Lake Holon.
Day 2 at 06:58 AM: The Outlet in Lake Holon
The Outlet is a new attraction in Lake Holon.
On average, it takes around 30 minutes to reach this attraction from the Lake Holon campsite.
To get there, you need to pay for a boat ride (200 pesos per person).
You can swim and jump from the diving platform in the Outlet.
There’s not much to do in the Outlet, especially for non-swimmers like me.
But since I was here, I might as well have experienced it.
This might be my only chance to fully experience the Lake Holon activities.
Plus, the boat ride with the rising sun in the background was picture-perfect.
Day 2 at 8:13 AM: Breakfast
With grumbling stomachs, we headed to Jove’s store to have our first meal of the day.
And the breakfast was truly fantastic.
Taste and quality?
It had fruits, protein, and carbohydrates to give us energy for our hike to Salacafe.
Day 2 at 09:33 AM: The Farewell
Goodbye, Lake Holon.
It has been quite a relaxing, fun, and eye-opening experience thus far.
You’ve taught me to value self-love and helped me meet new friends.
You took my breath away, spiced up my weekend, and captivated me with your untouched natural beauty.
And you’ve prepared me for an upcoming major hike in Mindanao.
I know it was a quick affair.
But this isn’t a night-one stand.
Your memories will remain with me, and I’ll make sure to write about my Lake Holon experience.
Day 2 at 10:43 AM: Another viewing deck
There are two trails in Lake Holon: Kule and Salacafe.
For the second day, we took the Salacafe trail from the campsite.
Initially, the hike from the campsite was mildly challenging since it was uphill and slightly steep.
Once we survived the uphill climb, we arrived at another Lake Holon viewing deck.
And things got pretty interesting from this moment on.
The guides and porters said the hike to Salacafe from here was easy.
There were also horses for those who wanted a unique Lake Holon experience.
And what does an easy hike mean?
It means more talking, laughing, and chatting.
We took a break and discussed some exciting topics, including Davao’s Hot Legs and Kabaguio.
But the most intriguing topic of our chit-chat was Benny’s love life.
Kissing Stone Lake Holon: Benny’s Road to Forever
There was only one thing to complete our Lake Holon experience.
And that was the Kissing Stone Lake Holon.
In an ironic twist, the hike to the Kissing Stone Lake Holon seemed like Benny’s road to forever.
Niño, Septer, Melissa, and I gave him advice on how to find pure, unadulterated love.
I even shared my classic line.
If you ask her out, you either win or lose. But if you don’t ask her out, there’s only one possible outcome: you lose.
His tongue also slipped, and he shared something about having a crush on this Lake Holon hike.
And it was all friendly bullying since then.
I was right about the initial assumptions of these people.
We have the same vibe and frequency.
These people are as crazy as me, and like me, they just want to have a good time outdoors.
I’ve met several fun people on my journeys.
And these people?
They fit my personality like a glove.
And I’m looking forward to more hikes with them.
Soon after, Jove caught up with us on our way to the iconic Kissing Stone Lake Holon.
We stopped by the Kissing Stone and encouraged Benny to kiss it.
As for me, I did kiss the stone.
But I didn’t wish for love or a million dollars.
I only wished for more experiences like this and more opportunities for self-care.
Sample Lake Holon itinerary
- 12:30 am to 1:00 am: Meetup at 7/11 Sutherland
- 1:00 am to 6:30 am: Travel to T’Boli (breakfast in T’Boli)
- 6:30 am to 7:00 am: Arrival at T’boli (registration)
- 7:00 am to 8:30 am: Travel to Kule
- 8:30 am to 9:00 am: Orientation
- 9:00 am: Start of hike to Kule view deck
- 11:30 am to 12:00 pm: Arrival at Kule view deck (pictorials, rest)
- 12:00 pm to 1:00pm: Descend to lake (campsite)
- 1:00 pm to 2:00 pm: Lunch
- 2:00 pm to 6:00 pm: Free time. Kayaking, swimming in the lake, pictorials, etc.
- 6:00 pm to 7:00 pm: Dinner
- 7:00pm to 10:00 pm: Socials
- 10:00 pm: Lights off
- 5:00 am to 8:00 am: Breakfast and pictorials
- 8:00 am to 10:00 am: Start of hike
- 10:00 am to 12:00 pm: Descend to Salacafe (stop-over in a village serving local food and drinks)
- 12:00 pm to 1:00 pm: Rest, refreshment, wash-up in Salacafe (lunch)
- 2:00 pm to 3:00 pm: Travel to Lake Sebu (optional)
- 3:00 pm to 6:00 pm: Dinner along the way (optional) or go home to Davao
- 6:00pm – Davao bound
What to bring in Lake Holon?
- Hiking shoes/ sandals
- Tent (rentals are available at the campsite)
- Sleeping bag
- Jacket (for those planning to camp)
- Trail food
- Water bottle (at least 1 liter)
- Eating utensil
- Toilet paper
- Hiking outfit
- Extra cash
Where is Lake Holon located?
Lake Holon is located in T’Boli, South Cotabato, Philippines. It’s located 4,700 feet above sea level and spans more than 300 hectares.
How to get to Lake Holon From Davao City?
The easiest and most convenient way to get to Lake Holon from Davao City is to get a tour package. It’s affordable, convenient, and includes meals (dinner on Day 1 and breakfast on Day 2). It’s ideal, especially if you’re too busy to plan your trip. If you prefer to take this route, go with Saka Ta Bai as your operator.