(Sultan Kudarat Province, Philippines)
By Apolinario Villalobos
The historical significance of Lambayong could be traced back to the time when its vast expanse was ruled by a Muslim Royal House connected to Sultan sa Barongis. The Ala River played a major part in the lives of the early inhabitants being the main artery of commerce due to the absence of a road system. During the time, the four thriving settlements in the whole of Cotabato aside from what is now Cotabato City, itself, were Dulawan, Lambayong, Midsayap and Buluan. Before Lambayong was created as a town, as it was then part of Sultan sa Barongis, the area was referred to as “Torre” due to the presence of a Spanish tower which time has deteriorated. Ferdinand Marcos, issued PD #341 on November 22, 1973 that transferred Lambayong from Cotabato to Sultan Kudarat with its name changed to Mariano Marcos in honor of his father. But when Corazon Aquino took over as President, it was renamed Lambayong by virtue of Republic Act #6678 signed on October 12, 1988.
Lambayong is named after the flower-bearing creeper that grows in profusion on wet lands with which the town has plenty. The purplish cup-like petals are a sight to behold from a distance as they undulate with the dark waxy-textured green leaves when blown by the wind.
Christians began to settle in Lambayong as early as the 1930s but the early 1950s saw the greater volume of hordes from Visayas, particularly, Iloilo. Among them was led by the late Serafin Bernardo whose son, Nonito, confided that their group which consisted not only of their family but friends and relatives, took a barge from Cotabato City for Dulawan from which they took another barge to Lambayong. The Rio Grande de Mindanao that emanates from Cotabato City and the Ala River that flows through the Lambayong area, join at Dulawan.
During the 1950s, Lambayong was already a thriving settlement with many Christian families dominating the settled area along the highway. Purportedly, many prominent families who got settled in Tacurong City stayed for awhile in the homes and buildings of the early settlers of Lambayong, one of which was owned by the Guerreros. Some families decided to settle around Gansing and Kipolot while the rest, such as the group of Serafin Bernardo went on to New Passi which at the time was part of Katil. From there, some families settled in Rajah Muda and went up the hills of Magon.
Buluan was made accessible from Lambayong through Gansing and Kipolot by foot trails which the settlers blazed toward President Quirino which at the time was called Sambolawan, to trade in a designated area that settlers during the time, referred to as “Pamasang”. Buluan is the “mother town” of Tacurong and President Quirino. (This information was confirmed by my interviewees from Buluan who got the information from their parents.)
There was an early attempt of the government to connect the thriving settlements in the hinterlands of Cotabato that included Midsayap, Sultan sa Barongis and Lambayong with Makar in Dadiangas which is now known as General Santos City. It is named after General Paulino Santos who cleared the once sandy area for settlement by Christians from Visayas and Luzon . The proposed highway was what is now called in Tacurong City as “Alunan Highway”, but before was known as, “Mid-Makar Road” or “Midsayap-Makar Road” that passed through Lambayong and ended at Kalandagan in Tacurong, beyond which was a trail fit for carts only. Affluent students from Gansing and Tacurong hiked from Tacurong to Marbel on Sundays and hiked back home on Saturday, as for the rest of the week, they stayed at boarding homes in Marbel. Heavy provisions such as sacks of rice were loaded on a cart pulled by carabao. There were no tricycles, jeepneys, most especially, buses yet.
Lambayong, during the arrival of the settlers from the Visayas and Luzon, was covered with thickets and cleared for rice paddies and corn plots which in time expanded. Water for irrigation was coaxed from streams that abound in the area. The manifestation of this abundance of water, in fact, “sweet” spring water, is the presence of the six (6) continuously flowing water out of upright tubes at the town’s six (6) purok or sitio and the one used by the District Hospital. The fertility of the soil is also fit for rice which ensured abundant harvest and made Lambayong earn the title, “Rice Bowl of Cotabato” when it was yet one whole province before the creation of the four provinces. Today, it is still fondly referred to as a “Rice Bowl” but of Sultan Kudarat Province.
The 26 barangays of Lambayong are: Caridad (Cuyapon), Didtaras, Gansing (Bilumen), Kabulakan, Kapingkong, Katitisan, Katitisan, Lagao, Lilit, Madanding, Maligaya, Mamali, Matiompong, Midtapok, New Cebu, Palumbi, Pidtiguian, Pimbalayan, Pingulaman,Poblacion (Lambayong), Sadsalan, Seneben, Sigayan, Tambak, Tinumigues, Tumiao (Tinaga), and Udtong.
The municipality covers a total land area of 226.99 square kilometers or 87.60 square miles.
Though without impressive big commercial structures, Lambayong is trying its best to maintain a harmonious and cordial ambiance which is necessary to erase the bad image it had at the height of the conflict between the Christians and Muslims during the early 1970s. Impressively, farmers hold with steadfast firmness to their rice fields and vegetable plots instead of converting them into subdivisions. Attempts are being made to raise the nutritious dragon fruit which consistently commands a high price in Manila. Another tradition which is maintained is the production of raw sugar in the form of muscovado. For more delectable offerings of the town, one should visit the public market on a Sunday for tinagtag, panyalam, smoked fish and many more.
To commemorate the harmony between Christians and Muslims in Lambayong, the government came up with TIMPUYOG Festival celebrated every October of each year. Groups compete for the best in street dancing and costume.
Currently, the mayor of Lambayong is HON. RAMON M. ABALOS.