Sarangani unveils 16th MunaTo Festival today

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GENERAL SANTOS CITY — Sarangani province’s rich indigenous culture and heritage will take center stage anew as it formally unveils today,  Nov. 28, the famed MunaTo Festival 2018.

Michelle Solon, chair of the Sarangani Provincial Tourism Council, said Tuesday they have lined up bigger and grander activities to spice up the annual celebration, which is slated until Saturday.

She said the festivity will mainly give tribute to the province’s dominant indigenous tribes, the B’laans, Tagakaolos, T’bolis and Maguindanawons.

“It’s a celebration of the living indigenous cultures of Sarangani and the ongoing efforts to protect and preserve them for our future generations,” she said in a radio interview.

Solon, the wife of Gov. Steve Chiongbian-Solon, said they are all set for the opening of the festival, which will start with a fun run dubbed “Run to Celebrate.”

She said it will be followed by a grand parade and the opening program of the four-day festivity and the province’s 26th foundation anniversary celebration, with Senator Nancy Binay as guest of honor.

Solon said they will also open the 2018 Fabli Gu Ni Trade Fair, Municipal Village, Wildlife Museum and the Craft Conference and Exhibition at the provincial capitol grounds in Alabel town.

She said the Craft Conference will feature the living crafts of the province’s indigenous tribes.

It will be highlighted by a weaving presentation of Gawad sa Manlilikha ng Bayan national artist on mat weaving Bae Estelita Tumandan Bantilan, who hails from Malapatan town, Solon said.

The other major activities are the Transport Summit, Sarangani Week of Peace celebration, open boxing tournament, The Platform forum, Indigenous People’s Day celebration, Pearl of Sarangani pageant, Jesus Reigns celebration, MunaTo Youth Day, Drum and Lyre competition and the folk dance competition and cultural show.

In line with the festival, the Sarangani Police Provincial Office has placed the entire province under full alert status.

Supt. Edgar Yago, deputy police provincial director for operations and plans, said all their personnel are on full deployment and special teams have been assigned to secure the main festival venue in Alabel town.

He said their security teams are being augmented by personnel from the Army’s 73rd Infantry Battalion, barangay peacekeeping units and volunteer groups.

Aside from Binay, the festival will be graced by Senator Emmanuel Pacquiao, Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process Jesus Dureza, actor and “peace ambassador” Robin Padilla, former Environment Secretary Gina Lopez and former Special Assistant to the President Christopher “Bong” Go.

MunaTo is a combination of two Blaan words that mean “first people.”

The celebration, now on its 16th year, is a tribute to the “first people” who lived around the Pinol Cave in Maitum town where hundreds of anthropomorphic jars had been discovered.

Known as the “Maitum Jars”, the artifacts were found by Dr. Eusebio Dizon of the National Museum with the help of Moro National Liberation Front commander Ayub Mindog in 1991.

Now displayed at the National Museum, the anthropomorphic secondary burial jars that were believed to exist as early as 5 B.C. feature human figures depicting various facial expressions associated to the Metal Age.

The Pinol Cave had been described by experts as “the most significant cave in Mindanao” and its finds as “unparalleled in Southeast Asia.” -PNA

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