Sarangani has the unique distinction of being one of the country’s youngest provinces and at the same time, one of the oldest. Its Old World charm took center stage once more as it recently celebrated the 17th MunaTo Festival to mark the province’s 27th founding day.
Derived from the Blaan phrase “Muna Toh” or “first people,” the festival kicked off with the MunaTo Run, Employees Day, Flowerhorn and Betafish Show and the Municipal Village, which showcased the local produce, cuisine, souvenirs and tourist attractions of the seven municipalities.
The Craft Conference and Exhibition with Cultural Presentations displayed the intricate hand-weaving tradition of the lumad tribes such as Blaan, Tagakaolo, Tboli, as well as Moro communities such as the Maguindanaon, Maranao and Tausug.
Weaving demonstrations showcased the Blaan Mabal Tabih fabric, the crown jewel of Sarangani’s cultural resources. This is woven at the Lamlifew School of Living Traditions in Malungon.
According to Governor Steve Chiongbian Solon, the festival once more highlighted the unique blend of culture, nature and adventure attractions that Sarangani offers.
He said this year’s celebration has become special because of the series of awards the province has received this year. Sarangani was recognized by the Department of Tourism for having the biggest same-day visitor arrivals of 1,120,249 in the Soccsksargen Region for the fifth straight year.
Meanwhile, Lamlifew Village Museum won in the Outstanding Corporate Social Responsibility Project in Arts and Culture of the League of Corporate Foundations Guild Awards. One of the province’s top tourist spots located in Malungon town, it won the prestigious award with the support of ABS-CBN Foundation’s Bantay Kalikasan which helped craft the Eco-Cultural Experience.
The fest also put the spotlight on the work of Bai Estelita Bantilan, a Blaan igem (mat) weaver of Malapatan, who was accorded the Gawad Manlilikha ng Bayan (National Living Treasure) through the National Commission on Culture and the Arts.
Fringe events included the Pearl of Sarangani pageant which selected the province’s ambassadresses of goodwill and tourism, MunaTo Youth Day, Week of Peace, Indigenous Peoples Day, Jesus Reigns and Tribal Sports, which relieved the traditional sports.
Sarangani was created in 1992 from South Cotabato’s coastal towns, and dates back to the Metal Age based on the anthropomorphic burial jars unearthed in the caves in Maitum town. Now on display at the National Museum, the jars are described as “exceptional archaeological assemblage and unparalleled in Southeast Asia.”