THE WARMTH AND RICHES OF THE T’BOLIS

We agreed to meet by 11:30 on Friday night but I was still home at this very hour packing up for this trip I’d been preparing so hard the day I got invited to join. I remembered the last time I had this kind of trip, it almost cost my life. This is the only kind of trip I would consider to decline – it’s strenuous and “buwis-buhay”. But how can I say no for such invitation if the destination was among the places I drooled and bucket-listed. I would die in envy seeing my friends up there and me at the comfort of my bed lamenting for not saying yes – because the destination is worth all the pain, all the exhaustion and the hard work.

Destination: LAKE HOLON | T’boli, South Cotabato.
Mission: TAKLADTAMIG | Outreach Climb

Tboli 1It was past midnight when I hurried to Davao City Overland Transport Terminal where my friends waited for the next trip to General Santos City and Koronadal, South Cotabato. The whole travel from Davao City passing through these two important cities in SoCCSKSarGen takes about 5 hours. At 1:30, we left Davao and got to Koronadal City at 7:00 in the morning and from there a tourist bus boarded us bound to our main destination, the Municpality of T’boli.

T'boli South Cotabato (40)

The Very Challenging Open Trail

The butt-numbing drump-truck ride to Sito Kule

The butt-numbing drump-truck ride to Sito Kule

The municipality of T’boli is located in the hinterlands, on the southwestern portion of Province of South Cotabato. With rugged, rolling terrain, valleys and high slopes a top the mountain ranges, T’boli is home to the two important ethnic tribes in the province – the T’boli and B’laan. Our outreach destination is the Tboli community in Sitio Kule, Barangay Salacafe, and jump of point to the famed Lake Holon.

Sitio Kule, Barangay Salacafe

The Quaint Sitio Kule, Barangay Salacafe

TAKLADTAMIG | Outreach Climb is an outreach program of Friends of Holon and Melibingoy (FHM), a group of independent and solo mountaineers in South Cotabato. This year’s program was in partnership with the Mindanao Tourism Council (MinTC), a voluntary non-stock, non-profit organization of private tourism players in Mindanao where I am designated as the unofficial Travel Blogger. Sitio Kule, Barangay Salacafe is about an hour ride from the town’s Poblacion and about 45-minute hike to the sitio proper.

The Welcoming faces of the Children of Sitio Kule

The Welcoming faces of the Children of Sitio Kule

Children beaming as we exchanged morning greetings!

The beaming Kids as we exchanged morning greetings!

It was the genuine hospitality of the T’bolis that welcomed us as we arrived at the Sitio Kule. The elders, the young and the children were all beaming as we exchanged morning greetings. Everyone went outside of their homes lining in the narrow street welcoming us like we were their most valued guests. They spoke their tongue but I knew those were words of welcome and that warmth, that hospitality defines the richness of their culture and their way of life. And it sweetly lessened the exhaustion we endured going up there.

T'boli woman dressed in colorful T'boli apparel.

T’boli woman dressed in colorful T’boli apparel.

Ma Sinam Muan, an elder  and chanter of the Tribe helped me with my scarf.

Ma Sinam Muan, an elder and chanter of the Tribe helped me with my scarf.

As program started, an elder of the tribe named Ma Sinam Muan welcomed us with a soulful T’boli chant. As he chanted, his people were cheering for him yelling out words I didn’t comprehend. But sure those were welcoming words from a very welcoming tribe. I was glued from where I stood listening to him wondering what it meant but so mesmerized by such astonishing ethnic tradition. Later I’ve learned that Ma Sinam Muan is one of the few remaining Tboli chanters. We are so lucky to have heard him chant.

T'boli South Cotabato (75)

With the T’boli Kids of Sitio Kule

TTT or The T'boli Teens

TTT or The T’boli Teens

Just among the many items we give to community. Thank you DONORS.

Just among the many items we give to community. Thank you DONORS.

The welcome chant was then followed by ethnic performances from the members of the tribe. Dressed in the full colorful T’boli costumes, T’boli women started dancing while accompanied by the rhythmic beat of the T’boli gongs. I’ve seen many cultural performances in the city and places I’ve been but this kind of performances only become more significant when played and performed by authentic members of the tribe. I find it amusing seeing them perform these traditional dances that are handed down to them by their ancestors.

T'boli South Cotabato (104) T'boli South Cotabato (108) T'boli South Cotabato (111) T'boli South Cotabato (113) T'boli South Cotabato (116) T'boli South Cotabato (160) T'boli South Cotabato (164)Their colorful woven costumes, headdresses, amulets, anklets, earrings and necklaces beautifully depict their rich colorful tradition. And seeing one little girl dancing gracefully before us made me see that this tribe will flourish and their culture will be handed down to the next generation of T’boli people.

I found a DOLL in T'boli. She's so adorable.

I found a DOLL in T’boli. She’s so adorable.

After the distribution of school supplies, medicines, canned goods, packed food items and slippers to 200 kids and 52 households, the community treated us for scrumptious lunch where local and indigenous food were served. We shared and feasted over local gastronomic finds some of us haven’t eaten in years. Oh, the taste of the local coffee is still fresh and I wish to taste it again when I chance to come there.

Local Food Overload

Local Food Overload

We brought some of these at Lake Holon.

We brought some of these at Lake Holon.

Native na Mais

Native na Mais

I was looking for Ginamos for this.

I was looking for Ginamos for this.

Honestly when I left Davao City that morning, I thought it was only Lake Holon that will mesmerize me. I was surprise to realize that its people can melt my heart. It wasn’t only Lake Holon that made me so connected to this town – but the people who welcomed us, who embraced us with their warmth and kindness. These are their exemplary traits – their riches.

MAY YOUR TRIBE INCREASE!

Oh by the way, I planted a tree at Sitio Kule.

Oh by the way, I planted a tree at Sitio Kule.

Friends of Holon and Melibingoy (FHM), a group of independent and solo mountaineers in South Cotabato.

FHM is a group of independent and solo mountaineers based in South Cotabato.

How To Get To Tboli:

From General Santos City, the Municipality of T’boli is just 1.5 hour away by private ride or barely 2 hours by public ride. If you are traveling from Davao City, it will take you around 3.5 hours to get to General Santos City. Buses and utility vans are available for those who will take the public transportation.

Travel Time and Transpo Fare:
Davao City to Gen.Santos City – est 3.5 hours – P270.00
Gen.Santos City to Koronadal City – est. 55 minutes – Php 97.00 by bus, P75 by van
Koronadal City to Tboli – est. 45 minutes – Php 70.00 by van

WRITER’S NOTE:

I would life to express my heartfelt gratitude to the Friends of Holon and Melibingoy (FHM) and the Mindanao Tourism Council (MinTC) for organizing this event and for inviting us to be part of it. To the leaders and members of Tboli Community, thank you for welcoming us to your homes. To our sponsors and benefactors who generously shared their possessions, namely the Philippine Charity Sweepstakes Office, Senator Misis Cynthia Villar sa Mindanao, GUIDE Davao, South Cotabato Provincial Tourism Office, Lake Sebu EcoTourism Council, the LGU of Lake Sebu, our birthday girl Ate Ju Dy Pazon and of course the LGU of  T’boli and its Local Tourism Office.  Special thank you shout out goes to Louie Pacardo and Jonalier Perez.

Bong S’lamat. Hanggang sa muli!

SPENDING CHRISTMAS IN MY HOMETOWN CATEEL

Merry Christmas! Today, I write this post straight from my hometown Cateel in the province of Davao Oriental. Spending my Christmas here brings back a lot of memories. And yes, spending Happy Holidays in one’s hometown is certainly the most wonderful time of the year.|

It’s been a while since I spent my Yuletide Season here. And now that I am here for Christmas, I felt I am reconnected again to my yesteryears. Seeing old faces, mingling with my townsfolk and spending great time with family are among the best things I am relishing while I am here.

In the province, everybody knows everyone. Neighbors and friends become instant family members. The joy and spirit of Christmas is all around. And yes, Christmas in the province is certainly different from those in the City. House party is everywhere. There are even street parties if it isn’t raining.

At Cateel Centennial Park, the spirit of the Yuletide Season is greatly felt as Christmas Lights and Giant Christmas Tree put the whole park in jovial Christmas spirit. Family and friends gather around to enjoy the sparkling and glistening scene. I, on the other hand, enjoyed perfect night photography.

In the eve of Christmas, Saint James the Apostle Church was packed with parishioners hoping to receive Christmas message from the Christmas Eve mass. The church is jam-packed. For most of the time, going to the church on the Christmas Eve is also a perfect time to see old friends and relatives.

During the Noche Buena, the neighbourhood decided to celebrate it together in a simple street party. Potluck foods were joyfully shared. Parlor games and exchange gift highlighted the occasion. If in Davao City, fireworks and firecrackers are strictly prohibited, in Cateel, it is widely practiced. It feels good to see them lighten up the evening skies and hear its deafening sound.

Street Party with Neighbors and Relatives together with Uncle Isid Castro, the Vice Mayor of Cateel.

On Christmas day, it was the gift giving time. Inaanaks (godchildren) came to see me for their gifts and it feels great to see their smiles when they got their presents. In the afternoon, it has been practiced to spend the Christmas at the beach. So, despite the gloomy weather, my family hit the beach. It was fun. It made me feel I was home – real home sweet home.

Hitting the beach on Christmas Day.

As we head back to our house, the rain poured harder. It was a raining Christmas Evening but still the joy of Christmas is felt in our hearts – a Christmas Like No Other.

The Rainy Christmas Day at Rizal Street we fondly called EDSA (Eulysis Delos Santos Avenue) in honor of our neighbor Tiyo Lingling.

And I have to admit, I had a heavy wounded heart when I left Davao, but now that I am here, it enlightened me to see things in better perspective – seeing my worth and my value as a person. Being here for Christmas is enlightening and above all gracious.

MERRY CHRISTMAS EVERYONE!

THE JELLYFISH SANCTUARY OF BUCAS GRANDE ISLANDS

Among the many breathtaking natural attractions that I have explored in the whole Bucas Grande Islands, there is one magical place that until now bedazzled me. This place is called Jellyfish Sanctuary.

Having toured to the key tourist spots in the whole islands, I thought I had seen enough. Truthfully, all these wonders of nature were captivating. But when our tour guide led us to the Jellyfish Sanctuary, everything seemed surreal. As if we were brought to the other world. Here’s the story.
After our island tour at Bubon Group of Islets, we sailed back to Sohoton Reception Center. It was already late afternoon. Upon reaching the Center, we were told that we will be transferring to small paddleboats in going to the Jellyfish Sanctuary. Motorized boats are strictly not allowed getting inside the whole sanctuary. The small paddleboats can carry two passengers and a boatman. In my case, I was the only passenger.
The sail going to the Jellyfish Sanctuary was out of the ordinary experience. The waters were calm. The whole environs were wrapped by tranquility I can hear the rowing of the paddles. The enigmatic chirping of various wild birds made the sail more exciting. I’ve tried boating in different places but this one was entirely surreal.

The Entrance of the Jellyfish Sanctuary

Nearing the mouth of the Sanctuary, my boatman named Richmond began narrating the story behind the mystical beauty of the Jellyfish Sanctuary. I learned from him that some years ago the whole place was originally inhabited by multitude of sea urchins locally known as “Tujom” hence they formerly called the place Tujoman. One day, for some unknown reason, this huge number of sea urchin dwelling at Tujoman began disappearing until none of them was left. As days gone by, a smack of jellyfishes began congregating the place. It was becoming a larger group and local folks began noticing. Soon, the locals found out that these jellyfishes dwelling in the waters of Tujoman were non-stinging. The smack of jellyfishes grew into a great number. It even multiplied to millions of jellyfishes permanently dwelling in the place. Soon after, they called the place “The Jellyfish Sanctuary”. They later opened the place for tourists but intense protection and preservation of the Sanctuary were maintained.

Limestone forests abounds inside the Jellyfish Sanctuary

As we enter the opening of the Jellyfish Sanctuary, there was one thing I instantly noticed about the place. There was a profound tranquility that enveloped the whole environs. Everything that I see there was filled with calmness and peace. It was a very contagious serenity I can feel it inside me.

The first jelly fish that i saw made me shout in amazement.

Sailing forward, jellyfishes began to appear in the waters. I shouted in amazement seeing the very first jellyfish that appeared in the waters. Another smack of jellyfishes we passed by. And then another. And another. As we moved towards the very heart of sanctuary, multitude of jellyfishes surrounded our boats. Again, I felt I was on another planet. This was surreal. Slowly, I was beginning to get emotional. Teary-eyed, I looked around praising and admiring such a spectacular body of water fully inhabited by millions of stunning jellyfishes.

Sitting at the edge of the boat, I noticed a smack of jellyfish flocking around out tiny vessel. I learned from Richmond that jellyfishes here are naturally friendly. They even come closer when boats are coming in. Since these creatures are non-stinging, I excitedly caught one jellyfish out of the water and held it in my hands. As soon as I felt its texture and seen its form, I let go of it. Richmond told me jellyfishes can only last for ten seconds out of the water. So, I had to put it back.

I had to admit I fear jellyfishes. They are noted to be stingingly perilous. But the jellyfishes of the Bucas Grande Islands are non-stinging and friendly. They even came closer towards us. It seemed they wanted play around with us. They were so welcoming. I put my hands in the waters at once and they came nearer. They were like wonderful pets. Amazing creatures.

Before the sundown, the group started to leave the Sanctuary. All of us left the place charmed and amazed by what we saw. In my case, I felt overly joyous having experienced such tremendous encounter with the jellyfish. I was very lucky too that my boatman Richmond was kind and smart enough to tell me everything I want to know about the Sanctuary. After all, it is one of their prides.

This is ME with a non-stinging jellyfish in my hands.

Having gone and experienced this unique adventure with the Jellyfishes of Bucas Grande Islands, I felt another dream of mine has realized. I used to dream of going to the island nation of Palau and swim with the jellyfishes at the Jellyfish Lake of Eil Malk but now I need not to go out of the country to fulfill this bizarre experience. My beautiful island of the Philippines now boasts the Jellyfish Sanctuary of Bucas Grande Islands that is undeniably a world-class natural attraction that can definitely put all tourists, local and foreign alike, in so much awe and amazement like those in Palau.

Me and travel buddies amazed by the enchanting Charms of the Jellyfish Sanctuary.

My closest encounter with jellyfish at the Sanctuary is the highlight of my Bucas Grande Island Exploration. Other natural wonders of the Island are indisputably attractions to behold. But experiencing Jellyfish Sanctuary is absolutely an exceptional experience. It is commendable and worth to experience again. If given a chance, I shall back there and swim and play with the jellyfishes again.

Meet Richmond, my gracious boatman. Many thanks.

Experiencing Jellyfish Sanctuary of the Bucas Grande Islands is the final stop of my Bucas Grande Island Exploration.

FOR GUIDED TOUR, you may call contact:

VINCENT ADLAO TAMAYO
Accredited Tour Guide of Socorro Tourism Office
0930.802.8704 

This is the sixth part of “EXPLORING CARAGA REGION: The Travel Series

  1. CATCHING SUNRISE AT CLAVER, SURIGAO DEL NORTE
  2. SOCORRO AND THE BUCAS GRANDE ISLANDS
  3. CLUB TARA AND TIKTIKAN LAKE OF BUCAS GRANDE ISLANDS
  4. SOHOTON NATIONAL PARK OF BUCAS GRANDE ISLANDS
  5. THE SANDY BEACHES AND STUNNING ISLETS OF BUCAS GRANDE ISLANDS
  6. THE JELLYFISH SANCTUARY OF BUCAS GRANDE ISLANDS
  7. EXPERIENCING SAN JOSE AND THE PROVINCE OF DINAGAT ISLANDS
  8. THE LEGEND OF DINAGAT ISLANDS

THE TEN TRIBES, ONE VIBE OF KADAYAWAN FESTIVAL 2011

TEN TRIBES, ONE VIBE. This is the theme of Davao City’s Kadayawan Festival 2011. The tribes of Ata, Matigsalug, Ovu-Manuvo, Klata-Djangan, Tagabawa, Tausog, Maguindanao, Maranao, Kagan, and Sama are the ethnic groups that comprised the 10 different tribes of Davao.

Though diverse in cultures, traditions and beliefs, these tribes are very much connected by a common origin that binds them together as ONE and the SAME. An origin that traces the core of history of DAVAO CITY.  Ten Tribes, One Vibe.

Many years ago, it was believed these Davao’s ethnic tribes especially those residing at the foot of Mount Apo, THE Philippine’s highest peak, would converge during a bountiful harvest. This ritual serves as their thanksgiving to the gods. During the thanksgiving, various farming harvests like fruits, flowers, vegetables, rice and corn grains were displayed on mats. It was the tribe’s way of paying respect and thanks to the gods of the harvest for the year’s abundance. The offering of thanksgiving dances and songs highlighted the ritual. This was a ritual that was passed from generations to generations.

Today, times have changed yet this tradition of thanksgiving is still practiced. Descendants of the Ten Tribes, the modern day Dabawenyos and the neighboring tribes of Southern Mindanao would converge every third week of August for the celebration of KADAYAWAN FESTIVAL – a merriment of blessings for the bounties of nature, the richness of culture, the gifts of bountiful harvest and the tranquility of living.

In the much anticipated Street Dancing locally called “Indak Indak sa Kadalaan”, the vibrant colors, heart pounding drum beats and awe inspiring dances of the different tribes of Davao and other tribes of Southern Mindanao dominated the main streets of Davao City. The melody of every song, the rhythm of the smashing drums and the groovy vibes of the surroundings joyfully set the whole city in a jovial mood.

It was a great showcase of different cultures reflected on the well rehearsed dances of the 23 contingents vying for the grand prize. The choreographed dances showcasing tribal rituals and ways of lives of the different tribes truly showed the richness of culture and prosperity of living of each tribe portrayed during the performances.

Being a Dabawenyo, seeing these performances made me proud of the heritage of my home city. This made me realized despite differences of culture coming from different ways of lives; we all got to embrace the multicultural diversity of the city.

PHOTOS BELOW SHOW THE FESTIVE COLORS OF KADAYAWAN FESTIVAL 2011











Truly, KADAYAWAN FESTIVAL is a celebration of Davao’s richness and diverse artistic, cultural and historical heritage. A celebration that, I, as a Dabawenyo should never miss.

This Blogger and the Kadayawan Indakers

A NOSTALGIC VISIT TO DANOG FALLS

I was at home for a day spending the rest of my stay in Cateel when suddenly a great boredom struck me. I must go somewhere and spend time to a place that would reconnect me to my yesteryears in hometown of Cateel. But to where? At a second, a good plan popped up in my mind that gave me an instant thrill. Yes, I wanted to visit a place I never get to see in 17 years. That thought, that plan instantaneously made me exhilarated.Right there I thought if there is one place I’d like to willingly rediscover in our hometown, it would be a place where my love for waterfalls started – Danog Falls, a place worth of my sentimental reminiscence. It is my first waterfalls experience shared with high school friends in Cateel. Every time we recall that experience, it always leaves beautiful smiles on our faces. [Read more…]