I shielded my eyes from the glaring heat of the sun. From afar I could hear the distant sound of the forest, the chirping of the birds, and the rustling of the leaves as they danced with the wind. I’ve been a traveler long as I could remember. I’ve been to a lot of places, seen various faces, and indulge myself in worlds all foreign to me.
But today is different; I don’t know where I am yet my heart feels at home.
In front of me is a majestic, cone-shaped mountain with luscious rainforest that literally beckons every climber to climb it.
1. The Towering Mt Matutum
I know I’ve seen this before. If only I survived that bungee jump long ago in one of my outdoor adventures, I wouldn’t have to undergo that brain surgery that damaged my memory. Nevertheless I still thank my God for keeping me alive. And now here I am with my travel buddies alike whose names I can no longer recall, on a tour they say could help me remember.
2. Nature-ly Beautiful
“That’s Mt Matutum,” they told me, “Pride of this province. Did you know that aside from this, our province is also endowed with other gifts of nature? There’s the seven falls in Lake Sebu where you could literally FLY above three of the seven falls in just a ride of a zipline at a height of 180 meters high, the highest in Southeast Asia!
We also have the 12,000 ha pineapple plantation, the largest in the country, dazzling falls, scenic landscapes, picturesque lakes, hot and cold springs, and more!”
“Wow!” what they told me made me say South Cotabato is indeed ‘nature-ly’ beautiful.
3. Amazing Tarsiers
We then went deeper into the woods and there they showed me one of the smallest primates with thin & rough fur, big & round eyes, and its elongated “tarsus,” or ankle bone.
“They are called tarsiers” my friends told me. “People often acquaint these tiny creatures with Bohol (one of the provinces of the Philippines) for they are often found there but recently environmentalists discovered that they also flourish here in Mt Matutum. (ESI tarsier research in Tupi)
“Isn’t it’s amazing how these tarsiers are able to survive here? This just means that our forests here are still alive and can sustain growth of species like these!” I said.
Our conversation was halted as one of our buddies called to us to hurry up for we need to leave the mountain. “Let’s go! It’s almost time,” he said as we boarded the habal-habal (a motorcycle with extended seating) that waits. I started to wonder where we are going next. The journey probably took around 30minutes.
“I like travelling here”, I told them. “For one, the streets aren’t as crowded as those I’m seeing in the TV in other parts of the Philippines, vehicles are moving smoothly. And my favorite part? It’s the freshness of the surrounding air.“
Aahhh! I opened my mouth to take a gulp of the cool breeze! I wondered how many places in this country are still able to maintain the cleanliness of their air as clean as this province do.
Upon arrival at the “South Cot Sports & Cultural Center” (as the name in front of the building says) we immediately headed in. From where we are I could hear the beat of the drums and the yelling of the crowd as they applaud for their favorite performers.
4. Let’s Get Loud: Cheerdancing Competition
“Did we forget to mention that this week is South Cotabato’s biggest and brightest festival – the 13th T’NALAK FESTIVAL? And in front of you is one of the highlights of the said event, the Cheerdancing Competition!”
My eyes were greeted by teams in colorful costumes, dancing in harmony to the pound of the drums, performing astounding calisthenics – with some being thrown in the air, in beautiful formations.
A-w-e-s-o-m-e! These cheerleading teams can be made to compete even in the national level!
After the cheer dance competition, we proceeded to Gaisano Grand Mall Koronadal.
5. Agri-Industrial, Technology and Trade Expo
The Agri Expo started with a cultural dance from the natives, in a performance that portrayed their rich heritage.
The expo also became a venue for South Cotabateňos to showcase their various products like the sturdy engineered bamboo crafts, colorful outfits, native necklaces and bracelets, and the intricately hand woven T’nalak Cloth.
“By the way, isn’t this cloth the name of this festival? T’nalak,” I asked.
“Yes,” one of them answered me. The history of T’nalak can be traced down from the T’nalak cloth. It is a deep brown abaca-based cloth tie-dyed with intricate designs produced by women of Mindanao’s T’boli Tribe. It is actually one of the best known cultural products of the Philippines.
“And don’t take that cloth for granted, T’nalak production is a tedious and intensive process,” quipped another buddy of mine. “First, abaca fiber is stripped from the abaca tree, cleaned, dried and separated into strands. These are then carefully selected, hand tied and rolled into balls. Natural vegetable dyes produced by the T’boli weavers themselves are used to stain these hand spun abaca fibers, usually in tones of red, brown and black, with the end product requiring months of work to produce a single, unique weaving.”
“What?! Months? Wow!” I gasped.
“T’nalak has great significance for the T’Boli. According to T’boli tradition, T’nalak weavings are one of the traditional properties exchanged at the time of marriage and is used as a covering during birth to ensure a safe delivery.”
“It is also believed that one should not step over a weaving in progress, and doing so is to risk illness. Cutting the cloth will cause sickness or death, unless done according to traditions. And while weaving a T’nalak, T’boli women practice abstinence in order to maintain the purity of their art,” he continued.
What he said made me speechless. I just couldn’t have enough words to admire the culture that this province have. Looking at my commercially made clothes, I realized how the world today wants everything to be quick, including the production of clothes, without even giving value to where it came from or how it’s made.
7. Feast of Fruits & Food
“Have we already filled your appetite enough?” asked one of them. “Well not yet.”
They then ushered me to one of the stalls in the exhibit portraying various fruits and South Cotabato made food products. Among them are bananas, pineapples, papayas (not your ordinary ones for these are exported!), and food products such as “taro” (camote) chips (one of my favorites, taste like Piattos, even better!), banana chips, fruit candies, and jams in myriad of flavors.
“South Cotabato is indeed rich” they said. “Products like these are hard to find in other places, but here they grew abundantly.
I thought I’ve had enough of the day. But there’s more as we proceeded to the streets of Koronadal. “Now you’ll be witnessing one of the grandest highlight of T’nalak Festival – the street dancing competition,” they told me.
8. Experience of the Kiay-kiay sa dalan!
“Welcome to the Kiay-kiay sa dalan!” mused one of my friends. “Kiay-kiay?” I asked.
“Kiay-kiay is an Ilonggo word (one of the major dialects in South Cotabato) which means “to dance, to sway, or to move your body”. And this is what these dancers do. Take a look at them”, he answered.
The vibrant colors, heart pounding drum beats and awe inspiring dances of the different tribes of South Cotabato dominated the main streets of Koronadal City. The melody of every song, the rhythm of the smashing drums and the groovy vibes of the surroundings joyfully set the whole city in a jovial mood.
It was a great showcase of different cultures reflected on the well rehearsed dances of the 12 contingents vying for the grand prize in three categories – MADAL BE’LAN, KASADYAHAN SA KAPATAGAN & KADSAGAYAN ALALAN.
MADAL BE’LAN CATEGORY
KADSAGAYAN ALALAN CATEGORY
KASADYAHAN SA KAPATAGAN CATEGORY
Indeed, performers in vibrant colors and synchronized movements delighted me as they present various ethnical dances well choreographed to depict tribal stories of this emerging province. I can’t help but to dance with them in a tune that sounded so familiar. Upon seeing the entry from Tupi National High School, something at the back of my mind tells me that once in my life, I’ve already joined this and had been a performer like them. Perhaps a returning memory. I smiled.
9. Search for the Mutya ng South Cotabato
At nightfall, we’ve headed back at the Cultural Center to watch the parade of beauties of South Cotabato – no other than the Search for the Mutya ng South Cotabato.
Gorgeous candidates from each of the 11 municipalities of the province mesmerized the people as they showed off their splendor in dazzling attires.
For a spectator like me, witnessing this will surely make one realize that people here in South Cotabato aren’t just warm hearted, they are also beautiful inside and out.
10. Talented People
They also got the talent that one could be proud of. Just recall the exquisite dance movements from their cheerdancers, the street dancing performers, of course let us not forget that behind it are the creative minds of choreographers.
Their talent can also be found from their products, the aforementioned T’nalak weaving, and the pot making. Not to mention distinct achievements in the field of sports, arts, and academics in the national level.
As we lead ourselves outside the Cultural Center, we’ve decided to talk a walk along Alunan Avenue. Here one will find the Bahay Kubo and Product Display from respective municipalities.
Observing how each bahay kubo differs in architecture, feature and style, made me admire the innovativeness of these people.
12. Vice Ganda Unkabogable Concert
“Another thing that we could be proud of here in our province is the peace and order situation,” one of my fellows said. “This is one of the realities that oftentimes people from the northern part of the Philippines do not know. For they think when one mentions “South Cotabato” it means a place where there is war, rebels, etc. But actually they are wrong.”
He continued, “As a matter of fact, various popular performers can go freely visiting our province and perform without threats to their security. Just last night Vice Ganda with his fellow comedians entertained the people and left their stomachs aching in laughter.
13. Amo na ya!
“Basta South Cotabato, amo na ya!” quipped another one of my buddies.
This, to my surprised sounded familiar. It was supposed to be a foreign phrase to me but I understood it. “Amo na ya” is an Ilonggo term implying bragging rights, something that makes one shout to the whole world how proud he or she is.
And with the events that I’ve witnessed in this week long celebration of the T’nalak Festival, I could say that truly South Cotabato made a difference, and is making a difference today and in the days to come.
The tourist spots, the environment, the arts, the nightly concerts, the cheers, the yells the dances, the culture, the delicacies, the crafts, and most of all the people, these and many others set the difference that makes one proudly say, “sa South Cotabato, amo na ya!”
14. Love of the People of South Cotabato
If there’s one more thing that could make one keeps going back in South Cotabato, it is the love of the people. The welcoming smiles, the friendly gestures, and the hospitable attitude will surely make one feel at home in this gifted province.
One by one all the memories I’ve lost started to return. My childhood memories in a suburb, rural town in Brgy. Cebuano, Tupi, South Cotabato. My high school memories of climbing the Mt Matutum in a Girl Scout encampment, the joys of dancing the streets during the T’nalak 2010 street dancing competition, the proud of representing South Cotabato in a national academic competition, and even the repetitive insistence of some for me to join the Mutya ng South Cotabato.
Thank you T’nalak 2012, because of you I now remember who I am, what I do, and where I came from.
15. Improved Signal of Sun Cellular in South Cotabato
I was stopped in my thoughts when I heard my cellphone rang. It was my mother calling. Thanks to Sun Cellular’s improved signal in South Cotabato, now my mother can enjoy affordable rates of texting and calling in our municipality in Tupi (dati kasi walang signal doon).
I answered the phone and heard a familiar voice, my mom.
“It’s time for you to go home,” she said.
I just smiled and said, “Ma, I’m already home.”
PS. All the images above are all taken by the author during the T’nalak Festival 2012 except for those whose credits by another person is mentioned. You may only copy, use, or publish the images with proper permission and authorization.
|“This is my submission for the T’nalak Festival 2012 Blog Writing Contest, which is made possible with the support of sponsors such as Hon. Governor Arthur Y. Pingoy, Jr and the province of South Cotabato, Sun Cellular – get two days of unlimited text to all networks for only ₱15 with SUN TEXTALL15, Dole Philippines, Representative Teddy Casiño & Bayan Muna Party-List, KCC Malls, SouthCotabato.Org and South Cotabato News.”|