The AG Dragon Fruit Farm (Barangay Lilit, Lambayong, Sultan Kudarat, Philippines)

THE AG DRAGON FRUIT FARM

…barangay Lilit, Lambayong (Sultan Kudarat, Philippines)

By Apolinario Villalobos

 

When I reached barangay Lilit, in Lambayong, I was surprised to find an orchard, not only planted to a cactus variety bearing fruits that came to be known as “dragon” perhaps, because of the skin that looks like scales, but also to lime or “calamansi” as well. The lime trees were profusely bearing late fruits, most of which hidden behind thick clusters of leaves.

 

According to the couple, G-Anne and Arnold, they started with the mangoes in the 3 hectare- farm. Unfortunately, the tropical fruit did not fare well, so that they were cut down to be made into charcoal. They tried the lime which somehow, brought in good yields. But, when Arnold got fascinated with the dragon fruit, as it has become a fad all over the country due to its nutritional value and consistently high price, he bought starter cuttings at Php50 per post. He used the upright system with stems that bear flowers allowed to extend freely. That was in 2016. Another type of raising the cactus for its fruits is by connecting the posts with wires  or thin cables to form some sort of a trellis.

 

Of the 3 hectares, ¾ of the area is planted to the cactus while the remaining space is retained for the lime.  Mrs. G-Anne Guerrero shared that the dragon fruit venture has so far shown a good promise of success. The first week of June saw a “pick and pay holiday” when the orchard was opened to walk-ins who enjoyed the American-style of fruit picking. On the other hand there is a need to check on a regular basis the clumps of cactus tied on the concrete posts so that segments infected with fungus could be cut off.

 

During my Sunday visit, the family was preparing for the arrival of guests from Manila and other parts of the province. Also, a relative, Ferdinand Pascua of the Department of Trade and Industry, Legal Department  (DTI-Manila) dropped by. The rest who were around during my quick visit were Meciel Abalos de la Cruz and Paulo Guerrero, the couple’s son who works at the Provincial Capitol of Sultan Kudarat, and Gerril Guerrero, barangay Poblacion Kagawad. As it was a late breakfast time, kalentubo, a Maguindanao rice curry conically wrapped in banana leaf was brought out as well as slices of the red variety of dragon fruit to go with coffee.

 

The Guerrero Orchard at Purok Lilit is about three minutes travel from downtown passing through barangay Pag-asa. The way is replete with refreshing view of rice fields that would turn into a sea of undulating green and become tinted with yellow as harvest time approaches.

 

The AG Fruit Farm is a typical “micro farm” with every available space utilized to the maximum so that even standing pruned trees serve as hosts to the clinging cactus. Sharing the area are lime trees, as earlier mentioned. Even cluster of yam are left to grow on their own, as well as, cluster of kangkong for that matter.

 

 

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HISTORIC LAMBAYONG (Sultan Kudarat Province, Philippines)

HISTORIC LAMBAYONG

(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.

 

 

LAMBAYONG (tula)

LAMBAYONG

Ni Apolinario Villalobos

 

Sa tunog pa lang ng pangalan kung banggitin

Exotic na ang dating, mahiwaga pa kung isipin

Sinaunang bayan na saksi sa isang kasaysayan

Ng malawak na emperyo sa ka-Mindanawan.

 

Napapaligiran ng malawak, matabang lupain

At noon ay mga gubat, maaliwalas sa paningin

Sagana sa mga hayop, sa kalawaka’y mga ibon

Subalit nawala dahil sa pagbago ng panahon.

 

Nagkanlong ng mga dumayo mula sa Visayas

Na ang pagsisikap ay nag-iwan ng mga bakas

Nagsimula sa pusod ng minahal na Lambayong

Hanggang sa New Passi, barangay ng Tacurong.

 

Mula sa Midsayap tumagos sa kanya ay daan

Tungo sa Makar, pantalang malalim ng GenSan

Nang sa bayan ng Tacurong ito’y tumagos naman

Naging highway na ito at ipinangalan kay Alunan.

 

Nadugtong siya sa Buluan sa  bahagi ng Silangan

Tumagos sa Kipolot ang matalahib na mga daan

Umabot sa Sambolawan na  ngayon ay Quirino

Sentro ng masaganang kalakalan o mga negosyo.

 

Biniyayaan siya ng mga bukal ng matamis na tubig

Nagpapawi ng uhaw at sa kapaligiran ay nagdilig

Kaya’t masaganang ani ay hindi mapapasubalian

Mula sa mga nagluluntiang palayan sa kapaligiran.

 

Hindi lang mula sa kalikasan ang kanyang yaman

Pati na rin sa masisipag, mababait na mamamayan…

Lambayong, tungo sa kaunlara’y umaarangkada

Sa bilis ng pagsulong tila wala nang hahadlang pa!

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