Embracing nature in a mountain lake
TIGBAO, Zamboanga del Sur — Without beaches to frolic on, people in this fifth-class town of nearly 21,000 still enjoy summer, thanks to Maragang Lake.
The 20-hectare, heart-shaped crater lake, cupped by green banks and wild trees, is on top of Mt. Timolan (1,177 meters above sea level) and inside the Mt. Timolan Rainforest Park.
“I was in awe. How can that beautiful creation be there? Up there, in the middle of the mountain?” asked Annabelle Guitarte, a local radio disc jockey in Pagadian City.
The entire park is a protected area. Endowed with a unique landscape, lush natural forest, springs and swamp, waterfalls and a diverse species of flora and fauna, it is one of the country’s key biodiversity areas where endemic birds thrive, Mario Ronulo, park superintendent, explained.
Tigbao serves as the gateway to the eco park, which it shares with the neighboring towns of Lapuyan, Guipos and San Miguel. The eco park also serves as its main eco destination.
The Department of Tourism (DOT), which opened the place to the public in 2015, has been promoting it as an alternative site to Boracay.
Hike or ride
Visitors can reach the Mt. Timolan Rainforest Park (1,177 meters above sea level) either by hiking two or three hours to the park or by riding a “habal-habal” (motorcycle) from Barangay Limas to Lake Maragang.
“We make sure that all the visitors are safe and secured for the duration of their stay,” said Bong Etang, one of the 27 guides, trained by the DOT for rescue, first aid and lifeguard tasks.
The park has a multipurpose building, cottages, picnic sheds, a mini wharf, a lookout tower, a kitchen, toilets and a water system.
With the tour guides also trained as lifeguards and rescuers, the 46.94-meter (154-foot) deep lake is no longer as scary. Guests could also enjoy bird watching, camping, river trekking and swimming.
Guitarte, who spends most of her days working inside an air-conditioned room, said the trek to Lake Maragang was a welcome challenge. She insisted on walking rather than riding the habal-habal.
“I can’t even believe that I survived the trek,” she said.
Guitarte said the fatigue from the long walk easily faded with the sights and sounds along the way.
“We heard different sounds of birds. The trek was totally a commune with nature,” she said.
“The protected area gave me the chance to appreciate nature more,” she said. “I wish there were still more places that are like this.”
The best prize was reaching the lake. “You finally feel the exhaustion gone and embrace the calmness of the lake and the cool breeze,” the disc jockey said.
“I found myself staring at a beautiful, peaceful and serene lake,” Kyle Jennerman, also known as “Kulas” of the travel blog #BecomingFilipino, posted on social media.
Lake Maragang is tucked away in the hills and the only way to access it is by trekking.
“The water is clean, and the locals are great fun as well,” Jennerman said.
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