Culture Trip: Zamboanga del Sur

Subanen dancers

Team Out of Town Blog Hub (www.outoftownblog.com) – Zamboanga Peninsula, or ZamPen, isn’t just for the sea-and-sun vacationer. There’s more to experience in this region, located at the Southernmost portion of the Philippine archipelago.

The recent Philippine Travel Influencers Program (PTIP) of the Tourism Promotions Board (TPB) and the Department of Tourism (DOT) spotlighted two indigenous communities living near Pagadian City, another gateway to ZamPen.

We visited the Kumala Weavers and received a feast that satisfied both our eyes and tummies. Then we proceeded to the home of Zamboanga del Sur’s first settlers, the Subanens, for memorable cultural presentations.

The Kumala Weavers

Our first stop in Zamboanga del Sur was Kumalarang where we met the Kumala Weavers.

The Kumala Weavers have preserved a century-old tradition of mat weaving with the Dakula family at its helm. Each mat they produce is a work of art that reflects their rich culture and history.

One mat, Maguiranon sa Sulog, for example, has five columns, each of which is dedicated to a part of their heritage – the river, Maguindanao, Maranao, Tausug, and mountain.

Weaves from Kumalarang
Weaves from Kumalarang

Their price ranges from hundreds to thousands of pesos, depending on the size and intricacy of the design. It is quite reasonable considering the effort and artistry that goes into each one. It takes months just to prepare materials or the pandan leaves, from gathering, drying to dyeing and drying again. That still does not include the weaving process.

The center is actually a School of Living Tradition that passes the tradition to kids to make sure this artistic endeavor continues.

The Kumala Weavers of Kumalarang, Zamboanga del Sur
The Kumala Weavers of Kumalarang, Zamboanga del Sur

After watching the weavers in action, we were treated to a pagana, a moro-style traditional banquet usually served to welcome special guests during special occasions and welcome back those who have gone to the “Hajj,” or Islamic pilgrimage.

Our banquet prepared by the Kumala Weavers
Our banquet prepared by the Kumala Weavers

Food is served in dining sets called dulang, and guests sit on the floor. Food is halal or permissible by Islamic law.

We had crabs, chicken piaparan, beef, shrimp, rice cooked with turmeric, and several traditional snacks.

The Subanen Tribe

After our festive lunch, we proceeded to Lapuyan, less than an hour away from Kumalarang, to become acquainted with the Subanen culture.

Lapuyan weaver
Lapuyan weaver

The word Subanen means “people from the river” from the word suba, which means river.

Cooking demo by the Subanens
Cooking demo by the Subanens

The tribe welcomed us with traditional dances performed by their cultural masters and their students. Some of these were performed on a deck overlooking Lapuyan Waterfalls.

The highlight was a dance ritual performed on a swinging platform called the sinalimba, representing a mythical watercraft used on a journey. The performer leaps into the sinalimba steady themselves, then moves, which takes lots of practice.

Subanen dancers
Subanen dancers

After those breathtaking performances, we had dinner, which included lechon maalat, another type of roasted pig that is gaining popularity in the country. Subanen is a non-muslim or lumad community, so eating lechons is permitted.

Before we left, we were also invited to harvest boiled eggs wrapped in colored cellophane hanging from their prosperity tree for good luck.

The next part of our immersion was held at their Heritage House. There, we had a sampling of Subanen’s ancient art of healing or hilot. I had mine while lying on their traditional bed suspended by ropes from the ceiling of the house.

Subanen Hilot. Photo by Marky Ramone Go of Nomadic Experiences
Subanen Hilot. Photo by Marky Ramone Go of Nomadic Experiences

We also had a demonstration of a rice cake wrapped in a wild leaf called thimo. This is usually served during special occasions. It is made of glutinous rice, coconut milk, ginger juice, brown sugar, and rock salt.

The name Lapuyan is actually derived from the Subanen word gepuyan, meaning a place of cooking.

We ended our tour at the Kabuhayan Weaving Center, which sells traditional Subanen costumes and weaving made by differently-abled persons.

Tourism Recovery

The inclusion of both Kumalarang and Lapuyan in the PTIP itinerary is part of their effort to make sure indigenous communities are part of the recovery.

Alberto Gadia, TPB Market Specialist, explained, “COVID-19 pandemic has caused severe economic distress by shutting down all tourism activities which affects the income-earning opportunities of the developing Community-Based Tourism sites and attractions. As an approach to recovery, TPB includes indigenous communities, so we not only help preserve their intangible and tangible cultural heritage, we also help in their economic activity or livelihood.”

Aside from Kumalarang and Lapuyan in Zamboanga del Sur, the group also went to Isabela City and Lamitan City in Basilan, and Zamboanga City.

Follow #TeamOutofTown, on FacebookTwitterInstagramBloglovin, and Pinterest for more travel stories.

Also read: Things To Do And See In Zamboanga City

Booking.com

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.