A traditional meal, a dance, and more: A brief cultural immersion with the Blaans in Sarangani

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The Blaans

In Mindanao, the T’bolis (or Tbolis) are usually the indigenous peoples (or tribes, as they are more popularly called) tourists are aware of, with their rich history of dream weaving and picturesque home in Lake Sebu, South Cotabato.

The Blaans, their neighbors, have similar traditional attire, weaving, but have differences too. The meanings of their names, in fact, are relative to one another (T’boli means people on the other side, while Blaan means pair or counterpart and possession).

The Blaans have the weaving of their tabih, similar to the T’bolis’ dreamwoven t’nalak. The Blaans also have their own master weavers and well-preserved dances, music, and other traditional performances.

A School of Living tradition, a school to pass on indigenous traditional knowledge and practices to the next tradition, was then set up in Lamlifew Village, Malungon, Sarangani. Along with the school is a museum, actually a traditional house of Blaan rulers.

The Blaan community in Lamlifew village is open to visitors. Through a guided tour, I was able to happily get to know some of the Blaans, even for just a few short hours.

To get to the community, we had to wade through a creek, probably because it was rainy season during our visit. Ate Belinda and Charity, both friendly Blaans, helped each person in our group cross.

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Ate Belinda and Charity helping guests with the stream crossing

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I was charmed by Ate Belinda’s cheery energy.

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The Blaan community welcomed us with their traditional dances.

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One of their oldest elders played traditional musical instruments, too!

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There was also chanting and singing.

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I was also happy to meet Ate Maribeth and Ate Rebecca, who also explained a bit of Blaan culture to me.

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Ate Maribeth gave us a short tour of the Blaan traditional house. Here, she said, is where they put up the fire to cook food.

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One of the elders named Palinde looking out from the window of the house. I loved capturing her like this…

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…and her childlike smile.

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The Blaans served us with a spread of their traditionally prepared food. There was rice and corn prepared in many ways. This is only just part of their buffet table, which was set up at their School of Living Tradition structure.

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I love the anahaw leaf bowl!

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Amazingly, it was spill-proof, easily holding the native chicken tinola with coconut milk. The kid in me was delighted.

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The Blaans also have a weaving center. Here, a young Blaan is weaving the cloth for traditional tubular skirt.

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The community sells handmade beaded necklaces and bracelets they also usually wear to visitors.

Our schedule was packed that day and so we only managed a short visit, but I was happy to have even a glimpse and a warm introduction to the Blaan community. To know them more and their culture, I believe I will have to sleep over at their homestay. Next time, I hope to see the weaving of tabih, too.

Going back to town, I joined the group riding ATVs and buggies and we climbed slopes and crossed streams. For the adventurous, there is this option to reach Lamlifew Village via ATVs through Malungon’s 3DOE Ecopark.

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I lost count of how many streams we crossed during our ride.

I would suggest booking a guided cultural interaction through Go Sarangani, who also arranged our tour. Book their half-day activity (Php1,800 with traditionally prepared lunch) ideally for more time to interact with the Blaans.

General Santos City is the jump-off point to Sarangani. From Manila (Luzon), General Santos is accessible via flight or via ferry. It is accessible by bus in Mindanao, too.

Happy cultural tour!

I am grateful to the Philippines’ Tourism Promotions Board for making this experience possible for me.

 

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