Embracing Indigenous People - Bagobo-Tagabawa way of Life at the Foot of Mt. Apo

Indigenous people - Bagobo-Tagabawa Philippine ethnic group

In just an hour ride in a vehicle from the center of Sta. Cruz town in Davao del Sur province, Philippines, or about 50 kilometers south of Davao City, you can reach and relish the experience of majestic Mt. Apo while immersing yourself in the life and culture of the Bagobo-Tagabawa tribe.

Set in a two-hectare part of a claimed ancestral domain at the slopes of the Mt. Apo Natural Park lies the Tibolo Cultural Village that offers a wide range of understanding and encounters with the culture, lifestyle and livelihood activities of the Bagobo-Tagabawas.

Indigenous People - Bagobo-Tagabawa way of Life at the Foot of Mt. Apo

This culture-development center envisions to become a landmark of living indigenous cultural traditions, providing the authenticity of the tribes’ ethnicity that the 2,000 members of these indigenous people who reside in this highland barangay of Tibolo in Sta. Cruz, are striving to uphold and preserve.

The showcase of culture and tradition begins upon the arrival of local and foreign visitors who will be welcomed by villagers with a bang of the agong instrument. This also signals the start of tribal dances performed by women clad in their customary dresses and accessories, while the agong and other tribal instruments continue to play the tribe’s music.

Then, the visitors are ushered into a big nipa-hut hall or the long house where cups of hot brewed native coffee await, providing warmth as the highland village is enveloped in a cool climate since it is located 2,000 meters above sea level.

At lunch time, guests will have a taste of the tribe’s authentic food as they will be feted to a menu of “linutlot”, native chicken cooked in bamboo vessels, and the “ludang”, a stew of selected vegetables with coconut milk.

The village features an indigenous people kitchen for the tribal women belonging to the Tibolo Women Tribal Organization to educate the tourists/visitors on the native culinary using bamboo tubes.

Tourists could also indulge in another delicacy called “renopas,” also a stew of corn mixed with other vegetables. The tribe’s snack delicacy is called “dinugdog,” made up mainly of pounded cooked banana with grated coconut meat.

Tibolo Women Tribal Organization president Esther Lanzo said that the viands are being offered and sold at P180 per order to visitors of the cultural village.

The women also take pride in their handicraft products ranging from bead-jewelry to baskets, and abaca cloth which are being crafted in the village’s School of Living Traditions where Masters and craftsmen demonstrate their traditional arts and crafts while transferring their skills to their younger generation.

The products are also being sold at the Tibolo Cultural Village that the local government of Sta. Cruz and Department of Tourism promote as one of the town’s attractions and leisure havens for local and foreign tourists.

The tribal women’s business on bead works of necklaces and bracelets patronized by local and foreign visitors at the village where the women make and display their products, are beginning to gain demands from customers.

Lanzo said they were honed in bead works skills in training conducted February this year, this in addition to their ability on basketry, abaca weaving, and cooking. A bead-necklace is sold at P125 and a bead-bracelet is priced at P30, while the abaca cloth is bought at P500 per meter.

While the women take care of the livelihood aspect, the Tagabawa-Bagobo Tribal Council is the overall manager and operator of the village.

At the center of the cultural village stands a big nipa hut or the long house that hosts the yearly festival and monthly meetings of tribal leaders from various tribes, and accommodates tourists/visitors.

At the sides of the village are cottages designed for overnight stay, and other amenities such as communal restrooms and bathrooms.

Aside from tourists, the village also caters to Mt. Apo climbers and trekkers who make the village as a stop-over station.

The tribal women also keep a vegetable garden area where visitors could enjoy vegetable- picking and pay the every crop picked as a way of patronizing the produce of the women.

The LGU of Sta. Cruz has packaged all these cultural experiences and immersion in a Volun-Tourism Cultural Tour program which espouses environmental protection and preservation of the indigenous people’s culture.

Sangguniang Bayan member, Lolita Legaspi, said the Volun-Tourism Cultural Tour promotes a spirit of volunteerism among residents and both local and international visitors of Sta. Cruz, by holding their vacation or leisure time at the Tibolo Cultural Village.

The project mainly wants to “recognize indigenous people rights and reward them of their efforts towards conserving the environment, re-invigorating their cultural watersheds, promoting sustainable tourism and in building a culture of peace.”

Meanwhile, the National Commission for Indigenous People, Municipal Tribal Council and Kapiid Ka Banua are tasked to monitor the project, while the Barangay Council of Tibolo takes care for the overall provision of safety and security of guests.

This tourism project is aimed to be very environment friendly and non-pollutant, as it encourages protection of the environment and offers a non-destructive livelihood for the community, Paner shared.

He said tourists are encouraged to plant a tree as part of their activities and social responsibility in erasing carbon footrints.

For interested tourists in a group of 15 who want to experience indigenous people and the Bagobo-Tagabawa culture and ways may visit Sta. Cruz town hall, or may inquire at telephone number (63-82) 272-0361. (Carina L. Cayon)

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