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!

WHY DO WE NEED TO PROTECT BUILT HERITAGE?

When the provinces of Bohol and Cebu was hit by a destructive earthquake last year, the country mourned not only for the loss of lives of many people and for the devastation of many homes but also for the many century old structures, churches in particular, that were brought into rubble and wrecked by an intensity 8 tremor. Three weeks after that, the strongest tropical cyclone ever recorded hit the Visayas Region killing more lives, damaged countless of infrastructure and destroyed a number of century old historical sites.

Built Heritage Sites 1Many grieved for such loss saddened and shocked by such successive mishap. Many, including myself, grieved not only for the lives and homes that were lost but also for the heritage sites that was shaken and destroyed in just hours – built heritage that was inherited from our great ancestors.

Built Heritage Sites 2

Century Old Churches of Bohol After Typhoon Yolanda

While my heart bleeds for those who perished in this disastrous mishap and for those who survived yet remained unsound, another part of me laments for the chances I missed beholding some of the most important ancient historical structures we have in the country. I regret for not being able to marvel at these heritage sites long before earthquake and typhoons battered and vanished them.

Built Heritage Sites 2

The Old Church of my Hometown Cateel after Typhoon Pablo

The same sorrow I felt when Typhoon Pablo ravaged my hometown of Cateel in the east coast of Davao Oriental devastating almost every structure we have there including institutions that molded my education. Old houses and buildings were destroyed and what remained are few remnants of our olden timest. Until today, I can still feel the sadness for all the things that were taken away from us – including built heritage that would have served as a great reminder of our past.

Philippine Built Heritage Sites 11

The Century-old Church of Boljoon, Cebu Province

Dalaguete Churh in Southern Cebu Province

The Dalaguete Church in Southern Cebu Province

But somehow, these ill-timed misfortunes teach us to love, to value more of what we have – including those that we consider things and sights of great history and heritage of our ancient times. It opened our eyes to see the importance of these sites in molding our country to be become what it is now and shaping its people to become who we are at present – a country and people of great history and heritage.

The Heritage City of Vigan in Ilocos Sur

The Heritage City of Vigan in Ilocos Sur

The Bantay Bellfry

The Bantay Bellfry

I may have regrets and lamentations for not traveling around discovering more heritage sites in different corners of the country, somehow I feel so privileged that in one of my humble wanderings, I was led to see and marvel at places that once shaped this nation and its people. Seeing those numbers of sites made me prouder of my race as a Filipino.

The Ruins at Corrigedor Island

The Ruins at Corrigedor Island

The Ruins of Cuartel in Oslob, Cebu

The Ruins of Cuartel in Oslob, Cebu

Cape Bojeador Lighthouse in Burgos, Ilocos Sur

Cape Bojeador Lighthouse in Burgos, Ilocos Sur

Today I say enough of lamentations, enough of so much regret. These 7,107 islands so called the Philippines host to thousands of heritage discoveries waiting to be seen, to be unearthed. I still get all the reason to wander around and see all these for myself. And I vow to see them, if not all least half of what we have.

Cagsawa Ruins at at the foot of Mount Mayon, Albay

The Cagsawa Ruins at the foot of Mount Mayon, Albay

The Ruins of the Old Church in Camguin Island

The Ruins of the Old Church in Camguin Island

Call me fortunate, I was among the chosen few flown to Manila last week to join the Wikimedia Philippines Cultural Heritage Mapping Volunteer Workshop sponsored by the Wikimedia Philippines and the National Historical Commission of the Philippines. It aimed to teach the participant/volunteer the fundamentals of built heritage in the Philippines, as well as training with the necessary skills in heritage documentation, heritage photography, geographic mapping and content creation using the Wikipedia, Wikimedia Commons and other Wikimedia projects. The workshop is an eye opener for me to understand more the value of our built heritage and why do we need to protect them.

Wikipedia Philippine Cultural Heriatge Mapping Project

Wikipedia Philippine Cultural Heriatge Mapping Project

Built Heritage is our identity. It is what makes us different from others. It shows our wealth as a nation and shows our diversity. Heritage is something that, once lost, can never be found again. And that I came to realize that we should protect it, preserve it because it is the remnants of in our glorious past that without doubt defines our present. We are part of that heritage and it is apt to preserve it.

PAOAY CHURCH, a UNESCO Heritage Site

PAOAY CHURCH, a UNESCO Heritage Site

Our built heritage represents the way of life of those who went before us – our forefathers who fought for us. It signifies their vision and aspirations and today it is bequeathed to us for us to enjoy, to enhance and to hand on to future generations.Thus, the need to protect it.

Me and the old church of St. James the Apostle Parish and the old monument of Jose Rizal in my hometown of Cateel.

St. James the Apostle Parish and the old monument of Jose Rizal in my hometown of Cateel.

Along with millions of heritage admirers across the globe, I pray that heritage conservation in this country will flourish and I pledge to take part of that conservation in my own little way. For I am a Filipino, I’m proud of my race, my history and my heritage.

By the way, just so you know, Built Heritage is described by law as any building 50 years and older.

TINABANGAY FESTIVAL 2014: A Celebration of Socorro’s Greatest Living Tradition

The country’s widely-practiced tradition of bayanihan is probably the most celebrated tradition among the many notable customs and traits we have as a nation. This practice has spread out all over the archipelago and the world regarded it as one great trademark of the Filipino race. But in the islands of Siargao in the northern part of Mindanao, bayanihan is not just a common tradition. It is a communal way of life deeply rooted from a glorious past. This extraordinary tradition is called tinabangay. Home to this is the island town of Socorro in the province of Surigao Del Norte. And the celebration of this remarkable tradition is called the Tinabangay Festival.

Socorro Tinabangay Festival 155More popularly known as the Bucas Grande Islands, Socorro is an island municipality in the island group of Siargao. The island town is home to CARAGA’s pristine beaches, unspoiled coves and enchanted lagoons that is fast becoming a major tourist destination in the region. Two of these most prized attractions are the Sohoton National Park and the Jellyfish Kingdom. But not known to all, Socorro is not just about eco-tourism destinations. Its people, culture and way of life are among those that made up one beautiful reason why must travel and experience Socorro in different way. Tinabangay Festival sums up all that is good about Socorro and the Socorrohons.

Socorro Tinabangay Festival 48Like bayanihan which refer to a spirit of communal unity and cooperation, the term tinabangay is derived from word “tabang” which mean help and tinabangay in the real sense means “helping one another” – as group or as a community. In Socorro, tinabangay has been practiced since the very early days and their amazing stories of collective heroism were told from generations to generations.

Socorro Tinabangay Festival 159This started in 1920 when the people of then Sitio Bunga responded and saved Spanish missionaries from drowning while on mission sailing bound to island. The sailboat was battered and ravaged by the gigantic waves of the Pacific and was on the verge of capsizing but the people of Sitio Bunbga came to the rescue. Everyone was spared including the Spanish priest who was overwhelmed by the goodness of the people. He then called them Socorrohon and the place Socorro. Socorro in Spanish means help and so Socorronhon means helpful people. It was the start of how Socorronhons came to fame as helpful individuals among its neighboring island towns.

Socorro Tinabangay Festival 20

In 1924 during American occupation in the Philippines, Socorronhons fought as one community against the US Constabulary Forces when they were attacked and suspected as members of “Colorum” or unregistered society founded to rebel against the government. Many Socorronhons perished. Their lives and livelihood were greatly affected. Many lost hope. But despite all these, Socorronhons stood up, helped one another and braved to start all over. That was the start of tinabangay – one community, one goal, one Socorro.

Socorro Tinabangay Festival 73Today tinabangay has remained the most important tradition in Socorro and being matinabangon (helpful) is the greatest trait of every citizen of this island town. Widely practiced, tinabangay is often done during the month of July and August through collective house building, farming and other communal activities. Socorronhons would leave the comforts of their homes to offer their labor services for free in the construction of houses and collective farming activities with the house or farm owners shouldering the food and material costs. This usually lasts for 30 days. The first day of the volunteer work is called intrada and the last day is called “last trip”.

Socorro Tinabangay Festival 167When the work is done after the long tiring days of tinabangay, the house/farm owners will then call for a modest celebration locally called “paglipay-lipay” as a way of gratitude to all those who help him build his house or toil his farm. This is also a great way to celebrate the burning spirit of unity and volunteerism in them that lead the way to achieve their goals. It is then a celebration of joys, efforts, pains and feat of tinabangay. In the early days, paglipay-lipay comes with merry-making and dancing. This where a local dance called “collegiate” or “sayaw Socorro” was born. Today, this traditional dance is still performed by the locals even the young generations.

Socorro Tinabangay Festival 141Because of such invaluable significance of this tradition that defines the truest meaning of Filipino’s Bayanihan culture, it paved way to the birth of the annual celebration of Tinabangay Festival celebrated during the Foundation Day of Socorro which falls every 22nd of February.

Socorro Tinabangay Festival 171The creation of Tinabangay Festival is aimed to make this bayanihan tradition known outside Socorro. It is also meant to inspire the rest of the country and the world with its living legacy widely practiced even to this date.

Socorro Tinabangay Festival 191As a colorful festival filled with lively music and spectacular dances, Tinabangay Festival promises to attract tourists to come to Socorro and take part of this rich living legacy that depicts the goodness of the Filipino people.

Socorro Tinabangay Festival 180And just like the previous staging of this event, this year’s Tinabangay Festival was a grand showcase of Socorro’s rich heritage portrayed in the much awaited performances of the six contingents from the different clustered barangays of this island town.

Socorro Tinabangay Festival 203The dances and choreography performed by each contingent project the concept and practices of tinabangay. Each storyline behind choreographed presentation portrays the pains, joys and triumphs exerted and made during tinabangay.

Socorro Tinabangay Festival 236Like the famous scene of bayanihan where neighbors work together to carry a house to its new place, the performances showcased during the stationary presentation centered on the communal practices of tinabangay – neighbors helping neighbors build their houses, communal fishing using bobo, a fishing tool made of bamboo, and farmers planting and harvesting rice together. These are actually pictures of our great culture as Filipinos practiced not only on the country but even those Filipino communities scattered around the globe.

Socorro Tinabangay Festival 185There are ample of festivals in the Philippines that reflect the rich and colorful culture of our country but Tinabangay Festival of Socorro is simply distinctive. It is something that every Filipino wherever he may be in the world can relate. Tinabangay or bayanihan is a universal culture practiced and shared among us.

Socorro Tinabangay Festival 261In the times of great calamity, of great catastrophic disaster, Filipino spirit of bayanihan is felt – tinabangay is made to alleviate the burdens of our fellowmen even if we are not there. This is one of our traits that made us a strong nation. In fact we are admired by many nations for being such compassionate and caring citizens of the world. Socorro’s Tinabangay Festival mirrors that compassionate and matinabangon in us.

GLAD TO BE PART OF THIS YEAR’S TINABANGAY FEST. It means so much to me. I am deeply honored.

TINABANGAY FESTIVAL 2014

Socorro Tinabangay Festival 17 Socorro Tinabangay Festival 30 Socorro Tinabangay Festival 35 Socorro Tinabangay Festival 50 Socorro Tinabangay Festival 77 Socorro Tinabangay Festival 83 Socorro Tinabangay Festival 91 Socorro Tinabangay Festival 98 Socorro Tinabangay Festival 103 Socorro Tinabangay Festival 114 Socorro Tinabangay Festival 123 Socorro Tinabangay Festival 134 Socorro Tinabangay Festival 150 Socorro Tinabangay Festival 166 Socorro Tinabangay Festival 194 Socorro Tinabangay Festival 202 Socorro Tinabangay Festival 207 Socorro Tinabangay Festival 217 Socorro Tinabangay Festival 226 Socorro Tinabangay Festival 234 Socorro Tinabangay Festival 238 Socorro Tinabangay Festival 246 Socorro Tinabangay Festival 247 Socorro Tinabangay Festival 249 Socorro Tinabangay Festival 255 Socorro Tinabangay Festival 258 Socorro Tinabangay Festival 259 Socorro Tinabangay Festival 260

*****My heartfelt gratitude to the LGU of Socorro headed by their beautiful Mayor Denia Florano and Vice Mayor Dominador Taruc for inviting this blogger along with other friends in the media to witness this very spectacular event. 🙂 To Mr. Edelito Sangco who initiated this Media Tour, my depest gratitude. I am looking forward to come to your beautiful islands! CONGRATULATIONS Socorronhons!*****

The Travel Teller with media friends from Davao City

The Travel Teller with media friends from Davao City

 

PHOTOGRAPHS FROM HOME: A Year After The Great Storm

Cateel, as you know it, was hard-hit by Typhoon Pablo last December of 2012. It was the most devastating calamity that flattened the whole town and spared nothing including the many beautiful natural wonders we have there. Like our very homes destroyed completely by the ravaging typhoon, these natural attractions are like our own homes where we find joy and pride everytime we visit there. Thus, our great sadness seeing them in awful state. But a year after that dreadful catastrophe, these natural wonders are getting back to their beautiful shape like our people there getting back to their feet – this time with a great promise of become more beautiful, more enticing.

Cateel 2013 Christmas (192)Last holidays, I spend my whole two weeks break there celebrating the Christmas and New Year with my family and friends. Like an old practice, vacationing there is never complete without roaming around visiting the places I grown up loving with. And the best way to make love with these magnificent places is though my lenses – frozen and cherished!

HERE ARE SOME OF THE PLACES THAT RECONNECTED ME THERE AGAIN.

Cateel 2013 Christmas (218) Cateel 2013 Christmas (168) Cateel 2013 Christmas (162) Cateel 2013 Christmas (1647) _DSC0028

_DSC0007 _DSC0012 _DSC0084 _DSC0094 _DSC0127 _DSC0166 _DSC0191 _DSC0233 _DSC0236 _DSC0239CATEEL: Love Ko ‘To! 

TAGUM CITY’S GIANT CHRISTMAS TREE LIGHTING

The Palm City of the Philippines officially welcomed the Yuletide Season as they lighted the city’s grand holiday tree that once said to be the tallest in the whole Davao Region. The traditional lighting of this giant steel structure is an annual event every Tagumeños looks forward to witness every year. I am so honored to be among those guests privileged to witness Tagum City’s most glistening event every year.

Tagum City Giant Christmas TreeThis year’s Holiday Tree measures 23.94 meters (78.56 feet) in height and prettified by thousands of colorful twinkling lights in different shapes and forms that symbolize the Christmas Season. The towering steel tree is filled with decorative shapes from flowers to birds, stars to angels that seemed to come alive as multi-colored glistening lights were lighted. Among those interesting symbols, it is the giant Eagle Wings on the very top of the Holiday Tree that stand out as the main highlight.

Tagum City Giant Christmas Tree (115)Tagum City Giant Christmas Tree (108) Tagum City Giant Christmas Tree (111)The ceremonial lighting of the holiday tree was accompanied by a street choir performance by the 200 Voices Choir with the Tagum City Junior Symphonic Orchestra. It is very interesting to note that Tagum City is also the home of the famous and one-of-a-kind Musikahan Festival, an annual cultural event that celebrates the Filipino excellence in musical composition, performance and production, thus, so apt for this significant affair. Along with these angelic voices of Tagum singing melodious Christmas Carols, the welcoming of the Yuletide Season was made even more momentous. I was like swayed away while listening to the old Christmas carols I’ve grown up singing with.

Tagum City Giant Christmas Tree (19) Tagum City Giant Christmas Tree (37) Tagum City Giant Christmas Tree (78) Tagum City Giant Christmas Tree (84) Tagum City Giant Christmas Tree (85) Year after year, the traditional lighting of the city’s holiday tree is an event to remember. The city’s Freedom Park where this Holiday Tree is erected was jam-packed with hundreds of Tagumeños and guests thrilled to witness this grand event. The ceremonial lighting was spearheaded by no less than the father of the City, Mayor Allan Rellon and attended the other local city officials. This also marks the beginning of the long and exciting Christmas Season in the whole City of Tagum.

Tagum City Giant Christmas Tree (118)Tagum City Giant Christmas Tree (61)Now that the city’s Holiday Tree is fully lighted, it is once more expected to attract not only the many Tagumeños but even those visiting guests. In fact for 8 years now, it has become the city’s iconic Holiday landmark that excites everyone to enjoy every Holiday Season. Such is the reason why the Local Government of Tagum valued the Giant Holiday Tree as a landmark fit to be given much interest as part of the City’s tourism campaign. And just like this towering Holiday Tree, its annual Traditional Lighting is also an anticipated event that everyone, including this writer, fails not to miss every Holiday Season.

Tagum City Giant Christmas Tree (153)With such eye-catching appeal, the city’s grand holiday tree is definitely the perfect place that offers Tagumeños the venue to commune together to celebrate and immensely feel the spirit of yuletide season. It is where the message of love, peace and hope can be felt and shared – the grand spirit of Christmas.

From the City of Tagum, MERRY CHRISTMAS EVERYONE!