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General Santos City opens ‘Tribal Village’ showcasing indigenous, Muslim craft

The 2024 Kalilangan Festival of General Santos City also marked the opening of the 'Tribal Village' at Plaza Heneral Santos, where Blaan and Muslim craft and food delicacies are being showcased for the people to appreciate and understand more of their culture and tradition that have either become their roots as members of one of the groups. Some of the items displayed are also for sale as part of their livelihood activities. The village opens from Feb. 23 to 27. (Photo: PIA SarGen) 

The opening of the Tribal Village in General Santos City on Feb. 23 heralded the firm support of the city government in the promotion of the diverse culture of Christians, Blaan, and Muslims.

Led by the City Mayor’s Office-Integrated Cultural Communities Affairs Division (CMO-ICCAD), the week-long ethnic village is part of the 35th Kalilangan Festival, offering residents and tourists alike a chance to immerse themselves, particularly in both indigenous and Muslim traditions and craftsmanship.

Jocelyn Lambac-Kanda, chief of the CMO-ICCAD, highlighted the significance of the village in empowering tribal communities, saying that its installation hopes to make them more empowered citizens of General Santos City.

She further explained that the village’s establishment is first in the city, citing the need to strengthen the participation of the tribal sector in the city’s efforts for community development and the celebration of important milestones.

It is "imperative" to encourage them to actively participate in government activities by finding an avenue for them to somehow be able to present a glimpse of their customs and traditions, Kanda pointed out.

Located at the Plaza Heneral Santos fronting the city hall, this new hotspot is more than just a display of cultures; it’s an epitome of the rich heritage of the Soccsksargen region, considering that tri-people are everywhere in the region.

From Feb. 23 to 27, the tribal village has become a testament to the unity of Gensan’s diverse people, who have been in coexistence with one another since the arrival of its founding father, Gen. Paulino Santos, in 1939.

A Maguindanaon woman checked her supplies before going into weaving their popular Inaul, a versatile handwoven textile that can be worn and used by women as a malong, blanket, shawl, or picnic mat, and the most famous of all as a tube skirt on special occasions topped with a 'sinubley' or any other decent, comfortable long sleeve garment. Muslim men on mainland Mindanao also wear malong in lieu of trousers when at home. Other Muslim handicrafts are also showcased as merchandise at the tribal village, which will run from Feb. 23 to 27. (Photo: PIA SarGen)

Display of traditional artistic craft

Through exhibits like the 'turugan' (traditional hut), visitors are treated to a firsthand experience of cultural richness.

According to Kanda, the indigenous people's (IP) house and the Moro decorations, dresses, and food, including their instruments such as the kulintangan, are among the highlights of the showcase in the village.

One Moro house displayed three-decade-old sinubley (dresses) and malongs, while they offered free Moro delicacies such as the popular tinagtag, which is made from grounded rice, and kumukunsi, a traditional Filipino deep-fried doughnut.

Visitors can also buy their special traditional biryani [Indian Muslim dish] displayed along with the other Moro foods.

Artisan creations like Jeorgelyn Robles, a master malong maker whose works depict exquisite craftsmanship, are among the cream of the crop of the tribal village. 

Robles, who hails from Malapatan, Sarangani, showcased the intricate beauty of Maguindanaon Inaul weaving—a skill passed down through generations. 

"Mahal ito kasi mahirap gawin. Mano mano lang siya ba, ginagawa sa kamay, hindi siya machine," she said, explaining the process of inaul weaving. She noted that she can finish one inaul a day and sell it for a minimum of P1,700.

[It's expensive because it's hard to make. It's being made by hand, not by a machine.]

Her dedication to preserving this heritage underscores the cultural significance attached to each piece of Inaul, which symbolizes barabangsa (dignity) and tradition.

Kafbagal Klawil Dad Libun Association president Naida Labiton, a Blaan woman, pointed out the importance of instilling in children one's cultural heritage as a legacy for generations to come. She said that it is important to consistently promote cultural preservation and respect for culture and tradition. Blaan merchandise, such as apparel made of woven 'tabih' and other arts and crafts, is displayed at the tribal village and can be bought until Feb. 27. (Photo: PIA SarGen) 

Naida Labiton, a proud Blaan and president of the Kafbagal Klawil Dad Libun Association, emphasized the importance of preserving indigenous traditions for future generations.

"I-promote natin ito para for the next generation, malaman nila kung ano talaga ang kultura ng tribung Blaan," she noted.

[Let's promote our culture so future generations will know the true essence of being a Blaan.]

Through a consistent demonstration of Blaan instruments and traditional culinary and embroidery, Labiton aims to instill a sense of pride and appreciation for her community's cultural legacy among generations to come.

Recognizing the importance of cultural preservation, Mayor Lorelie Geronimo Pacquiao has provided her full support for the tribal village initiative.

"Ang tribal village ay hindi lamang isang programa, kundi isang simbolo ng ating pagkakaisa at paggalang sa ating iba’t ibang kultura at tradisyon," said Pacquiao.

[The tribal village is not just a mere project but a symbol of our unity and respect for our different cultures and traditions.]

The city government plans to make the tribal village a permanent structure by 2025, since it is determined to solidify its stature as a cultural hub in the Soccsksargen region. (HJPF - PIA SarGen)

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