SARANGANI is one province of a growth region to watch. It is an area launched in the 1990s to form the showcase of regional growth, taking the name Soccsksargen, an acronym for the Cotabato provinces of the rich plains of south-central Mindanao: South Cotabato, North Cotabato or simply named Cotabato, Sultan Kudarat, Sarangani and General Santos City.
A couple of decades later, the expected growth appears to have eluded the region despite its innate potential as the country’s rice bowl, the smaller version to Central Luzon’s rice granary tag in the textbooks.
A contestant pulls off a wave turn in a Bankarera contest during the Sarangani Bay Festival.
Efforts are still on to win the national government’s faith in the growth potential of Sarangani province. Local government officials have even pushed boundaries to reassert it.
In General Santos City, one fine airport and a seaport built of global in construction standard came one after another.
SARANGANI has its share of the efforts, building a big clean and brisk-looking capitol building at a sprawling ground in Alabel town on a modest shoestring budget.
It also upgraded the district hospital in Maitum to a provincial hospital on June 30, to bring improved hospital care to patients from neighboring towns.
Several years later, in the second decade of the 2000s, Sarangani branded itself ecologically as one of the nesting sites of the endangered Philippine Eagle, as one of the stopovers of seasonal migration of birds from the cold and temperate regions to warmer countries, to the discovery of anthropomorphic pots and earthen wares in a cave and the allure of its protected seascape along the Sarangani Bay.
“A tribe which does not know its culture and its environment is like a tree without roots.“—Bae Limpayen Jennifer Sibug-Las, commissioner for Central Mindanao of the National Commission on Indigenous Peoples
Needless to say, Sarangani has easily attracted visitors to one of the country’s most participated coastal summer fun, the SarBay, or days of fun concerts and beach frolic and environmental conservation and education rolled into one to ensure a sustainable festival.
This is what Sarangani would tell the world: that ecotourism is an educational and fun way of contributing to the coffers of the provincial government.
For a place that for years also drew attention for famous son Manny Pacquiao, it seemed only right that people also associate Sarangani with other positive things besides the world-class sports icon turned senator, who is adored worldwide, even beyond the boxing field, for being the only one to dominate eight divisions in a tough field.
Other small ways
FROM June 20 to July 6, the Provincial Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Office honed the disaster response skills of 31 civilian volunteers from the seven towns of the province on 16 days of Search and Rescue Auxiliary Training course.
The trainees would help improve the readiness and capability of the seven Municipal Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Offices (MDRRMO) of the province to efficiently and effectively respond in times of disaster.
Ten members from the Provincial Security Group also attended the training course.
1Lt. Audifax Abcede of the 505th Search and Rescue Group of the Air Force said the participants underwent water search and rescue, rope rescue techniques, collapsed structure search and rescue, and vehicle road accident rescue.
While South Cotabato and Sultan Kudarat have put up their school of living tradition to preserve the tradition of tribal communities, Sarangani would be seeing soon the Sarangani Eco-Villages: A Model for Resilient, Dynamic, and Progressive Indigenous Peoples’ Communities.
A certain Fulung Fredo P. Basino presented on July 4 the concept to Governor Rogelio D. Pacquiao “to create a sustainable, equitable and livable community for the indigenous peoples (IP) in Sarangani” and emphasized citizenship accountability, safety and resiliency.
“This will also establish an identified and well-designed community for the IP communities in the province which will include the provision of spaces for watershed, food production, and recreation, including tribal governance centers, school of living traditions museum, worship sites/parks, markets and related facilities,” Basino said.
Sarangani towns, like Maasim, have been commemorating the IP day for the valuable contribution of the tribes in appreciating the conservation and protection of the environment to perpetuate the existence of human kind.
Maasim hosts the T’boli and B’laan tribes and holds the annual Kestebeng Festival, the 15th year this year, and to commemorate the founding anniversary also of the town, its 53rd.
Mayor Zyrex Pacquiao has lauded the tribes during the June 19 event.
Bae Limpayen Jennifer Sibug-Las, commissioner for Central Mindanao of the National Commission on Indigenous Peoples (NCIP), encouraged the T’bolis and B’laans of Maasim to always look back to their roots and to never forget their identity.
“Ang tribu nga walay kaalam sa iyang kultura ug kinaiya, sama ra sa usa ka kahoy nga walay ugat [A tribe which does not know its culture and its environment is like a tree without roots],” Sibug-Las said.
This is the message that the province has been instilling in stewarding its development by embracing environmental conservation.
This was emphasized when an injured eagle was released to Maitum town, where its nest was believed to be when it was found trapped in the thicket last year.
“What we have done is a platform for public awareness, and the injuries caused by the improvised marble guns to the Sarangani Eagle is a manifestation that this type of hunting is still popular in this area,” Jayson Ibañez, director for research and conservation of the Philippine Eagle Foundation, said as he urged the locals to be part of the advocacy in preserving and protecting the wild.
Salagbanog/Sarangani Eagle was released back to its original home at Mount Busa in Barangay Ticulab on June 13. The eagle was rescued on January 2021 after it was seen trapped in the thorny rattan vines in the vast forest of Salagbanog Falls in Ticulab.
The Philippine Eagle was found with a jolen or marble lodged between its muscles and skin in its right shoulder. It also had an air-gun pellet visible on the same shoulder closer to the neck.
But as the tribes would show the rest of the world, it conducted a traditional T’boli ritual called damsu at the release site to offer the release of the rejuvenated eagle to their deities “for abundant harvest, blessings, guidance and protection.” The ritual is always done at the start of any important event and the environmental emphasis would reverberate immediately.
The Alsons Power Group’s Sarangani Energy Corp. (SEC) and Siguil Hydro Power Corp. have committed to preserve and protect the key biodiversity area of Mount Busa in Sarangani Province, which serves as home to a significant Philippine Eagle sub-population together with other 430 rare animals and birds.
SEC has provided the funding and logistical support for the tracking and protection of Salagbanog/Sarangani Eagle for the next three years.
This involved the provision of an electronic tracker that will map the whereabouts of the eagle.
The release of Salagbanog/Sarangani Eagle is the second in Sarangani Province after the release of Sarangani Pride in 2017.
Indeed, there’s so much to inspire pride in Sarangani these days, and so much for the country—and the world—to watch out for.
Image credits: Saranggani Information Office, NCIP.GOV.PH