By Isagani P. Palma
MALUNGON Sarangani – Several known celebrities led by boxing icon and Sarangani Rep. Manny D. Pacquiao graced the celebration of the weeklong 4th Slang Festival and 42nd foundation anniversary of Malungon town in Sarangani last July 15.
“Slang is the annual festival of our town that is celebrated to continue the tribal practice of barter trading, socializing and conflict resolution among different indigenous tribes. This is to remind our people that even with the influx of settlers, peaceful co-existence flourished in our municipality up to these days,” said Mayor Reynaldo Constantino, a half-blooded Blaan. “The younger generations and immigrants should be aware of the cultural history so that respect to the forebears and the good examples they showed shall be always valued as a people.”
Famous movie actor-directors Christopher De Leon, Tirso Cruz III and Philip Salvador played during a basketball exhibition game staged between the All Stars and the Sarangani-PCL team,
The actors also served as judges to the Media Photo-Safari II competition that was launched to unveil the municipality’s rich cultural areas, scenic views and different tourist destinations.
Among the town’s tourist attractions include the Datal Bila Waterworld which is located within the Mt. Matutum Nature Park and habitat to some 91 endemic flora and fauna; the Nanima Watershed below Kolonbarak skyline, which is the habitat to the world’s smallest monkey, the Philippine Tarsier whose population in the area is denser compared to Bohol.
The Tarsier is considered a sacred creature by the indigenous peoples of Malungon, the Blaan and Tagakaolo tribes.
Other destinations are the JQ and La Hermosa Farms, Pacman Farms, Sitio Rancho and the Peak Restaurants, Villareal Garden Resort, Busagan Falls, the wide-stretched banana and pineapple plantations, the moneyed pile of town’s famous sweet golden mango farmlands, and the Community Museum and Home of Living Traditions, where most Blaan women, through the assistance provided by the National Commission for Culture and Arts, now manufactures “mabal” (loom weaving) and ‘tabih’ or the traditional Blaan beaded cloth with colorful design, which is a rare native craft in the local market in the country nowadays.
Fruit-wine maker Elbert Pigtain entered a joint venture with Pacquiao to put up a multimillion fermentation plant in Malungon known for its Sarangani Golden Mango and other local varieties of fruits.
Local entrepreneurs said the venture will certainly turn Malungon into the Napa Valley of the Philippines, a project which will not only help the fruit-growers of Malungon but the adjacent towns as well, if being materialized. In line, this will encourage more land owners to plant fruit trees in their areas for sustainable farming.
“Tourism expands the market for our farm produce and by-products. In this way, local savings become bigger as meager farmers gradually anchor their produce to a much better cost,” says Board Member Eleanor Constantino-Saguiguit, the mayor’s elder sister, who chairs the provincial tourism committee and served as overseer to the festivity.
One of the highlights of the festivities was the ground breaking of the P4.5 million tourism center that was part of P21 million sunken area development project funded under the Countrywide Development Fund of Pacquiao.
The ground breaking ceremony was graced by Pacquiao, Constantino, and Gov. Miguel Dominguez.
“I really admire the unity of Malungonians even during the time when I was not yet the congressman of Sarangani. The same unity which swept me to the House of the Representatives, and will push this municipality to lead in terms of development not only in Sarangani, but the entire Central Mindanao Region,” said Pacquiao.
The congressman pledged to provide funds for the development projects in Malungon town, of which 40 percent of the population belong to local indigenous tribal groups.
Dominguez, in a message, congratulated the local government and constituents of Malungon for taking the lead in terms of progress and development in the entire province based on economic indicators.
“I have seen how this town has risen to achieve its aspiration for development driven by the unity of the local leaders and people,” Dominguez said.
Vice Mayor Benjamin Guilley who is himself a Tagakaolo, said the celebration of Slang features customary ways and cultural diversity of the tribal communities who helped shape the development of their once ancestral lands. “This celebration reminds the young generation and immigrants as well, that atop this hilly portion of Sarangani dwells the promising indigenous entrepreneurs with friendly culture and a vista of different tourist destinations,” Guilley said.
Among the activities held during the event were the PCL and Leaders’ Night, Concert at Sunken Arena which featured several local bands and young female singer-celebrities from Manila, the showcasing of the local products of the 31 barangays; RFC mass feeding program, COYUGG variety show, Search for Mutya ng Malungon, Agro-Trade Fair, Band and Lyre competition, RFC Day for free clinic minor surgery and bloodletting, floral offering, and the Tourism Night. Sport activities include boxing, motocross, the launching of the first Volkswagen-Honda Civic exhibition race and fireworks display.
Other movie actors who came to the event were Joko Diaz, Gene Padilla, Bong Hawkins, Bayani Agbayani, Carlos Morales, Jason Abalos, Jong Hilario, Jordan Herrera, John Hall, Joross Gamboa, Joseph Bitangkol, Onyok Velasco, Julie Anne San Jose, Jennylyn Mercado, Paulo Contis, Ms. Alma Moreno and Max Surban. (MALUNGON INFORMATION OFFICE)