They wore the shyest of smiles. Their welcome, so warm and affable that it felt like coming home to long lost relatives. But they’re total strangers to us. The residents of Baranggay Badtasan in Kiamba, Sarangani Province had been waiting all early morning for our entourage — composed of SOCCSKSARGEN and Luzon-based bloggers.
The air was dense with jovial anticipation.
The Lemuhen Cultural Dance Troupe Inc. about to perform T’boli dances. The T’boli are one of the indigenous peoples of South Cotabato.
Under a hut modeled afer a traditional T’boli house, a long table was prettily ornamented with bright red, plaid tablecloth. The sleepless and famished (and hungover) I was drawn towards the elements on the table: Boiled plantain, boiled sweet potato and kamoteng ube (purple yam), sumang (rice cake cooked in palm or banana leaves) kamoteng kahoy (cassava), steamed rice wrapped in leaves, and nelut onuk which is native chicken stewed in a bamboo stalk over a fire pit for two hours. Pancit bihon guisado (Filipino noodle dish) was the odd one out only cause it’s the most familiar to the Manila-raised traveler, me.
Top: Nelut Onuk, native chicken stewed in bamboo for two hours. Bottom Left: Bamboo where the chicken was cooked. Bottom right: Rice wrapped in leaves.
A short prayer led by Lyn Lambago, founder of Lemuhen Cultural Dance Troupe Inc., commenced the simple feast. Lyn also gave us a brief introduction to traditional T’boli food before we all dug in. The T’boli fare is simple yet tasty, and made with ingredients that can be harvested off their land.
I had a bite of almost everything. The native chicken, no doubt, was the celebrity of the spread. The crowd favorite. We loved it so much that some of us fenced using our forks for the last few pieces.
A bashful performance. Reflects how gentle the T’boli people are.
Breakfast wasn’t the main event though. It was simply a prelude to a T’boli dance performed by the Lemuhen Cultural Dance Troupe. The dancers, all young — no more than mid-teen, were taught by the founder Lyn herself. She who established the dance troupe whose main objective is to preserve traditional dance. A side quest of Lyn’s is to help the youngsters with their education. In fact, sponsors are welcome to donate cash to fund their school supplies.
We were shown snippets of various T’boli dances by the young ones such as: Madal semgewet (courtship dance), madal soyow (warrior dance) and madal betaku (witch dance). The real treat was the dance that Lyn learned from a dream which she performed herself. She calls it madal tahu. A years-in-the-making choreography that requires one to dance mostly on tiptoes. Lyn, who’s on the heavy side, pointed out how difficult it is for her to perform it these days. But according to her, because of spiritual guidance, she manages to do it.
The kids of Baranggay Badtasan cheekily peek from downstairs of the T’boli house.
After the performances, we were ushered upstairs the T’Boli house. Its interior walls are adorned with traditional T’boli clothes. In one corner, hung a blown-up photo of the troupe printed on a tarpaulin. Lyn beamed with pride as she related the story of how this project came into realization. And she thanked Sarangani Governor Steve Solon’s better half Michelle Lopez-Solon for her tireless assistance.
It was actually Ma’m Michelle who invited us bloggers to come over and experience the adventures that Sarangani offers.
Lemuhen Cultural Dance Troupe Inc. with SOCCSKSARGEN and Luzon-based bloggers and Ma’m Michelle Lopez-Solon.
And Baranggay Badtasan was a great place to start. The morning event was a preamble to the Sarangani familiarization trip that tapped all five senses. We couldn’t wait to see, hear, smell, taste, and touch more (especially the, uhm, touch part — wait for the future posts!).
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