For several generations now, the peoples of southern Mindanao and the Indonesian province of North Sulawesi have been trading goods and fishing in the porous international waters of Celebes Sea.
Once part of the ancient Sri-Vijayan and Majapahit Empires, the two island groups share many cultural practices, as if rooted from one big family tree in the Southeast Asian sub-continent.
Thousands of Indonesian Sangir families have made the islands and coastal towns of Sarangani Bay and Davao Gulf their home and have become embedded into the Filipino communities due to inter-marriage.
Of late, Mindanao and the Sulawesi provinces form part of the Brunei-Indonesia-Malaysia-Philippines East Asean Growth Area (BIMP-EAGA), which aims to link the fringes of the four countries into a growth region.
So when the Province of Sarangani invited Indonesia to showcase their culture in the Munato International Music and Arts Festival, it was like a homecoming of a long-lost brother.
The contingent, led by Consul Berlian Napitupulu and 80 students in Davao City, motored to the capital town of Alabel for a cultural exchange with local musicians through music and dance performances.
“We are not different because even our dialects are almost the same and similar,” the consul said in an orientation and demonstration on how to play the angklung, a traditional Indonesian
bamboo musical instrument.
Sealing the event was the exchange of tokens between Sarangani Gov. Steve Chiongbian Solon and the visiting diplomat who was gifted with an exquisite portrait painted on a Tnalak textile made by Ronald Tamfalan, a Tboli artist from Kiamba.
The cultural exchange is part of the 14th MunaTo Festival to celebrate the province’s 24th founding anniversary. The festivity is derived from the Blaan phrase Muna Toh or “first people” which settled in the caves of Maitum town during the Metal Age based on excavated anthromorphic burial jars. Now on display at the National Museum, the jars are described as “exceptional archaeological assemblage and unparalleled in Southeast Asia”.
The event also showcased the intricate hand-weaving tradition of the lumad tribes such as Blaan, Tagakaolo, Tboli, Manobo, Ubo, and Kalagan, as well as Moro communities such as the Maguindanaon, Maranao and Taosug groups.
By BERNARD SUPETRAN