South Cotabato: A Colorful Blend of Cultures

South Cotabato: A Colorful Blend of Cultures
by Apolinario Villalobos

The dazzling colors of the blended cultures of South Cotabato can be seen in the fabrics woven by the T’bolis, B’laans, Manubos and other ethnic groups. The fertile 7,469 square kilometers of land covered by the province is separated from neighboring provinces by a great chain of mountain ranges that roll down to the seemingly endless coast embracing the Celebes Sea. The major cities of the province are General Santos and Koronadal. The airport is located in Tambler, General Santos, while the short strip of runway for small inter-island aircraft located at Surallah has been closed for commercial flights. This is the only province of the country that retained almost 90% of the native references to barangays and towns. Some of these are, Mindupok, Lebe, Pangi, Kling, Katabau, Hudan, and Turguis. As one goes around the province, he will encounter more exotic sounding names.

The prime city of the province, General Santos is accessible on flights from Manila and Cebu, as well as ships and roro ferries that dock at Makar, purported to be the biggest wharf of the country, albeit, underutilized. The main produce here, are the tuna and deep-sea fishes, and of course, pineapple. During the time that the province had limited cargo flights, the marine products which are blast-frozen were packed in coffin-like corrugated boxes and transported to Davao by cargo trucks, for airfreighting to Manila. Those who are fond of marine food will surely enjoy their stay, as right at the public market and some corners of the fish port, stalls sell them grilled and at ridiculously low prices.

A dream come true is what General Santos City could be aptly called. The city grew from a once arid land, desert-like, that seemed unfit for a comfortable life. Cogon grass that swayed to the sea breeze consisted its vegetation, accentuated by sparsely distributed “enyam” trees. Based on historical notes, the development of the informal settlement wasteland which was opened to the have-nots of Luzon and Visayas was funded with Php20,000,000.00. At the helm of the project was the retired General Paulino Santos, called from his retreat by the late President Manuel L. Quezon. In no time, the “wasteland settlement” developed so fast, that more hordes of migrants from Luzon and Visayas filled ships bound for the yet, undeveloped port to overflow, and who scrambled throughout the plains upon arrival, to lay claim to precious parcels of land. Even the desert-like coastal areas were not spared.

In 1969, there was a move by a group of Muslim groups to name the highly developed settlement Rajah Buayan City, through a plebiscite. Unfortunately, the good intention was overpowered by the bloated population of migrants. The other proposal to name it General Santos City in honor of the late General Paulino Santos won. Finally, by virtue of the Republic Act 5412, the bill of which was authored by the then, South Cotabato Congressman James L. Chiongbian, General Santos City was finally created on September 5, 1968.

Less than an hour from the city is Polomolok, where thousands of hectares of rolling hills and plains are planted to pineapple by Dolefil, one of the country’s exporter of this particular produce – fresh and canned. In addition, the company has added orchards of fruits and vast plots of exportable salad vegetables. Dolefil is the sister company of Dole Banana which concentrates in producing exportable bananas. From the company’s club house at Kalsangi, a fascinating view of the Mt. Matutum (7,600 feet above sea level) can be had. This is also a good starting point for a Mt. Matutum climb. When I visited the city years ago, two inland resorts, Dasera and Olaer were the popular weekend recluse of the city dwellers as well as those from neighboring towns.

For the more adventurous, a trip can be made to Lake Sebu, a town nestled on a more than a thousand feet above sea level elevation that makes it cool throughout the year. Manda Elizalde whose objectives have been questioned when he explored the T’boli land, opened the gates of this once reclusive Filipinos to the lowlanders. A little later, the Sta. Cruz Mission followed suit, but with a different intent, that of spiritual uplift of these highlanders. A mission school, Notre Dame was later opened and with the former Imelda Marcos’ use of the tribe as a showcase for her cultural projects… the rest was history.

Lake Sebu, the biggest mountain lake of South Cotabato, serves as the focal point of town. The other two lakes are Lahit and Siloton. A trip to the hills can bring one to waterfalls and forests still alive with bird calls.

For those who want to see the colorful attire of the T’bolis, not just worn as a costume during special occasions and parades, but as daily garment, a visit to this town is a must. The woven fabric called t’nalak is made of abaca fibers dyed with roots, barks and leaves of indigenous trees and patiently pounded into softness. The natives’ attire is made more colorful by the beads which are considered as family heirlooms and treasure, just like the t’nalak garments, some of which have been handed down from generation to generation. To reach Lake Sebu, a van or jeepney can be contracted all the way from General Santos or from Koronadal, as well as, from Isulan and Tacurong City. A whole day is suggested for a tour itinerary , that should include Dolefil, Koronadal and Lake Sebu, and using General Santos as a jump off point.

Despite some financial limitations, South Cotabato is exerting much effort to be at par with the rest of the provinces of Mindanao as regards commerce and tourism. One world-renown son of South Cotabato, particularly, of General Santos, is Manny Pacquiao, the “national knuckle” or “pambansang kamao”, although his political portfolio as congressman carries Sarangani, which is actually the home province of his wife, where they have conjugal properties.

Ang Taong Kawatan

Ang Taong Kawatan
Ni Apolinario Villalobs

Ang taong ayaw tumanggap ng pagkakamali
ay nabubuhay sa pagkukunwari.
Siya ay bilib na bilib sa sarili,
na sa paniniwala niya
ay walang bahid ng anumang kasalanan
sa Diyos o kapwa-tao man.

Hindi siya nahihiyang humarap sa mundo
kung gawin niya ito’y taas pang noo.
Dahil wala naman daw nakakakita
sa mga pagkakamali,
wala siyang pakialam, sinumang masaktan
magnakaw man siya sa kaban ng bayan!

Ang Pagpapaubaya at Pagpapakumbaba

Ang Pagpapaubaya at Pagpapakumbaba
Ni Apolinario Villalobos

Ang pinakamahirap gawin ng isang tao lalo na ang may masyadong bilib sa sarili ay ang magpaubaya at magpakumbaba. Hindi matanggap ng isang taong masyado ang pagkabilib sa sarili ang basta na lang yumuko sa ugali o kagustuhan ng iba, lalo na kung pareho sila ng ugali. Sa ganitong pagkakataon, ang panalo sana ay ang taong magpapaubaya at magpapakumbaba, dahil lalabas na mas malawak ang kanyang pananaw. Ang girian na nangyari dahil lamang sa tinatawag na pride o pagkabilib sa mga sarili nila ay walang katapusan, hangga’t walang yumuko. Sa mata ng ibang tao, lalo na ng Diyos, ang yuyuko ay nakakabilib. Sa pagkatanggal ng galit sa kanyang dibdib, para na rin siyang natanggalan ng tinik at bigat sa kanyang balikat, dahil nawala ang inaalala niyang hidwaan na para sa kanya ay tapos na. Kadalasan, ang hindi yumuko ay nakokonsiyensiya pa!

May mga pagkakataong ang girian ay sa pagitan ng mag-asawa. Dahil sa tradisyong hindi dapat sinasaktan ang babae, ang dapat na magpaubaya ay ang asawang lalaki. Umiwas na lang hanggang lumamig ang ulo ng asawa niya. Kung sa pagitan ng magulang at anak, dapat lawakan pa ng magulang ang pang-unawa at pagpasensiya. Dapat niyang isipin na kung maaga niyang dinisiplina ang anak, hindi ito magkakaroon ng ugaling barumbado. Dapat aminin ng magulang ang kapabayaang ito na pagsisihan man niya ay huli na. Ang ganyang kaisipan ang dapat magpakalma sa kanya – isang kaisipang may pagsisisi. Hindi naman bulag ang Diyos para hindi makita ang ginagawa niya – yan na lang ang konsuwelo niya.

Walang masama sa pagiging mapagpaubaya basta ang pinagbigyan nito ay hindi naman abusado. May iba kasing tao, lalo na mga magulang, na maipakita lang ang kanilang poder o kapangyarihan, ay hindi pinagbibigyan ang hiling ng anak kahit nasa ayos naman. Palagi lang sana nilang paalalahanan ang anak na bilang mga magulang, hindi sila nagkulang, upang pagdating ng panahon hindi sila masumbatan o makonsiyensiya sa pag-isip na nagkamali sila sa pagpalaki ng kanilang anak.

Madaling sabihin subali’t mahirap gawin…yan ang siguradong reaksiyon sa sinulat na ito. Subali’t sa ibabaw ng mundo, wala namang imposibleng gawin. Dapat lang alalahanin na kung ipipilit gawin ang isang bagay, may paraan palagi. Ang balakid lang dito ay ang “pride” o masyadong pagkabilib sa sarili.