When people ask me what I know of SOCCSKSARGEN, I can only think of two things: Tuna and Manny Pacquiao. One aquatic, the other erratic (as he goes from being a boxer to singer, evangelist, basketball player, absentee legislator, basketball coach, product endorser, senator and who knows what else in the future). But, going back to the topic at hand, the strange-sounding acronym is coined from the first letters of most of the provinces and cities of Region XII, in the southern part of the country – South Cotabato, Cotabato, Sultan Kudarat, Sarangani and General Santos.
Aside from this initial trivia, I really didn’t know much about the region. Then came to town the roadshow staged by Tourism industry members led by Nelly Nita Dillera, Department of Tourism regional director, and Michelle Solon, president of Go Sarangani Travel. They unveiled so many interesting things about the region that are sure to attract those of us who are constantly on the lookout for new places to visit.
First up, they shortened the region’s acronym to “SOX,” for easier recall. Then they labeled the region as “The 12th Paradise,” inviting everyone to “SOX, Your Paradise, Now Open.” So, what is there to do and see after we say “Hello, Paradise?” A lot.
If it merited a multi-page feature in National Geographic, it must be interesting. I am referring to the T’Boli tribe, which is indigenous to South Cotabato and is known for its very attractive woven attire, with accents of beaded trinkets that are just as colorful. They give a cultural face to the region. They are known for their T’nalak weave, a traditional hand-woven cloth made of abaca fibers using three primary colors: red, black and the original color of the abaca leaves.
It is believed that the weavers see the intricate and creative patterns of the T’nalak in their dreams, and they cannot create a design unless they dreamed of it, which is why they are sometimes called the dream weavers.
What makes the T’nalak a cultural gem are the many beliefs attached to it. It is a prized possession at marriage. It is also used for childbirth, to ensure safe delivery. The cloth is also used for trading and whenever they sell it, they put a brass ring around it to please the spirits. They also do not cut the cloth as it might cause them sickness.
Another attraction in the region is the placid Lake Sebu, over an area of 354 hectares, which is surrounded by rolling hills and mountains covered with thick rainforest. The lake itself is beautiful, idyllic and guaranteed to soothe frayed nerves by just being there to experience its tranquility. But for those who want more thrills, there are the seven cascading falls connected to the lake, most of which can be seen from the air through an exciting zip-line ride. The ride zips you through 740 meters from Falls #1 to Falls #5, and another 460 meters from Falls #5 back to the parking lot of Falls #2. Only these five falls are accessible to tourists as Falls #6 and Falls #7 can only be reached through long hours of trekking.
For more thrills, there is white water rafting in Sarangani, or more correctly named white water tubing because this one is done not with a raft or a rubber boat, but with the interior of a tire or tubing, or salbabida in local parlance. The tube which you ride on is attached to another tube where the guide rides. Because the flotation device is smaller, it allows more movement, thus affording more thrills and excitement for the rider.
But the adventure tourism that has brought in many foreigners to Sarangani is paragliding. Last year, the province hosted the Paragliding World Cup where approximately 70 foreign and Filipino participants registered. With the “push” given by our Department of Tourism, the region – with its perfect terrain for this sport – will soon be known as the Paragliding Capital of Asia.
There are many other interesting places to visit and things to do in SOX, the reason why Tourism industry members from the region are gung-ho on their drive to attract more visitors. I, myself, was surprised to learn of all these beautiful attractions to discover in that part of the country, especially when I learned further that, even if I spend a week in the region, I will have something new to do or see every day.
This new information, indeed, whets my appetite for discovery! I’m now firming up my travel schedule the rest of the year so I can swing by the region and will be able to say – SOX it to me!
YOUR MONDAY CHUCKLE:
DOCTOR TO PATIENT: You are very sick.
PATIENT TO DOCTOR: May I get a second opinion?
DOCTOR AGAIN: Yes, you are very ugly, too.
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