Full disclosure: I am a communications consultant for a major Philippine beverage player. Thanks to one of their assignments, I was able to visit parts of Mindanao over the weekend along with friends from the media. Regret not taking many photos for this, but I’m posting a few from the Camera Roll. Cheers!
We passed by a rice field en route to Lake Lahit, South Cotabato—home to a predominantly T’boli community, which a few years back, didn’t have easy access to a potable water source. The company installed a hydraulic facility in the area to pump water up the village, so people won’t have to fetch some back and forth an 80-meter elevation (roughly a 200-meter steep trek).
The climb will demand a shitload of leg power and a good sense of balance, especially if you don’t want to step on newly planted palay or soak your shoes in mud. But it’s all good. The view is the reward–something you’ll get if you don’t faint on the way up. If you do, well, sorry.
The T’boli people are very charming—kids and elderly have a way of smiling that will disarm anybody (heck, even the dogs are cute and friendly). Over merienda, they served boiled bananas and sweet potato—as organic as it can get, poeple. For ages they’ve planted root crops, native cavendish, and corn, and I’d have to say they grow those things freakin’ well.
Next stop was Arcal Elementary School at Maasim, Sarangani. The locality is populated by another tribe called B’laan. Sometime in 2005, a school was set-up here to serve kids in four sitios. It started out with only three faculty members and about 40 kids, but eventually, the staff grew along with enrolment. I was told that at grade one, teachers use the mother tongue for instruction, then they shift to Ilonggo, Tagalog, and finally, English. Jesus, it was hard enough to learn two languages, and these kids have to manage with two more dialects! But the bigger challenge is literally going to school. B’laans walk a seven-kilometers dirt road each day just to go to class.
That night we had dinner at the Tiongson Arcade, General Santos City’s version of Sutukil at Cebu. Fresh tuna, squid, and tilapia coupled with kinilaw and lato (seaweed) is the bomb! For the first time, I had tuna eggs cooked adobo-style (see those longganisa-like things? That’s it, kind of scary when raw. One of the people in our team called it aborted tuna. Pretty accurate.
The following day’s hike was more challenging. So challenging that I actually slipped on a rock and fell on a knee-deep pond, where mosquitos bred. It was a major fuck-my-life moment that will be forever etched in memory, but thankfully not in anyone’s memory card (no photo was taken, therefore it didn’t happen). And since everyone was so busy trying not to die, only two people saw my five-second struggle to get out and save face. They both laughed. Those fuckers. Hahaha!
This life-changing event, which I shared with Team Bundol Mountaineers, happened on the way up a clearing near Dacera Integrated School at Batomelong, General Santos. Meet the awesome team!
So today, my legs hurt, and having to go back to the office tomorrow is kind of weighing me down. But the weekend adventure is enough to fuel me for the dreaded work week. I hope to go back in the region for more climbs and definitely more tuna sashimi. And with that, I leave you with this photo of cattle crossing the river (also in Batomelong). Hahaha!