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
It 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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
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!