SARANGANI is one of the five municipalities of the country’s 81stand youngest province, Davao Occidental. It is home to a big group of Blaans and Sangils.These two groups of indigenous people live harmoniously together in the two main islands of the municipality namely Balut Island and Sarangani Island. The Blaans and Sangils are rich in traditional arts and crafts. To ensure that the cultural heritage of these people is preserved, it is important that the older generation must pass it on to the younger ones.
It is the mandate of the National Commission on Culture and Arts (NCCA) to conserve and promote the nation’s cultural heritage through the establishment of Schools of Living Tradition. A living culture master/specialist teaches young learners from the same community the skills and techniques of a particular craft or skill. The lessons are taught in the home of the culture master, a center constructed for the purpose or any available hall that is convenient for the learners and culture master. Their mode of teaching is non-formal and includes actual demonstrations. The main objective of the program is to teach the traditional arts in its purest form. The NCCA has chosen Non-Timber Forest Products-Exchange Program (NTFP-EP) to implement the SLT program all over the country.
NTFP is a non-profit organization based in Manila and has established country offices in Jakarta, Phnom Penh and partners in Malaysia, Vietnam and Indonesia. It is a network of over 60 Non-Government Organizations and Community-Based Organizations working with forest-based communities to strengthen their capacity in sustainable management of natural resources.
The SLT in Balut Island, Sarangani handles the indigenous peoples. Each group has their own culture masters in basketry/weaving, performing arts and culinary arts. I was fortunate enough to have joined the NTFP-EP team together with Living Asia Channel when they went to visit and document the implementation of the program. We witnessed the culture masters demonstrate the weaving, play different indigenous musical instruments, dance their traditional dances and prepare food that has been in their culture for more than a hundred years. It is heart-warming to see the older generation working together with the young ones in preserving their craft. We can now safely assume that these traditions will live on for a long time in the beautiful municipality of Sarangani.