How can a province be the youngest and the oldest at the same time?
In Sarangani’s case, it was where the Maitum Anthropomorphic Pottery or Maitum jars were unearthed. The jars have been dated back to approximately 5 BC to 370 AD, one of the oldest in the entire Southeast Asian region and the Philippines. Now on display at the National Museum, the jars are described as “exceptional archaeological assemblage and unparalleled in Southeast Asia.”
Then in 1543, Spanish explorer Ruy Lopez Vilalobos named it Antonia, in honor of his boss Antonio Mendoza y Pacheco.
But it was only on March 16, 1992 when the province, then part of South Cotabato, was created by Republic Act No. 7228.
Sarangani’s old world charm was evident during its recent celebration of MunaTo Festival, which marked its 27th founding day anniversary.
MunaTo is a Blaan term that means “first people,” as in the early inhabitants who first lived in the province.
Festivities for the 17th MunaTo 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 Sarangani’s seven municipalities.
The Craft Conference and Exhibition with Cultural Presentations displayed the intricate hand-weaving tradition of the lumad tribes Blaan, Tagakaolo, Tboli, as well as Moro communities Maguindanaon, Maranao, and Tausug.
Weaving demonstrations showcased the Blaan mabal tabih fabric, the crown jewel of Sarangani’s cultural resources, woven at the Lamlifew School of Living Traditions in Malungon.
According to provincial governor Steve Chiongbian Solon, the festival highlighted the unique blend of culture, nature, and adventure attractions that Sarangani offers.
He said the recent celebration was special because of the series of awards the province received in 2019. For instance, 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 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 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 relived the province’s traditional sports.
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