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SOCCSKSARGEN to launch ‘Festival of First Peoples’

KORONADAL CITY — SOCCSKSARGEN’s regional tourism office has invited local and foreign tourists to take part in the “Tau SOX: Festival of First Peoples” that begins Wednesday.

The festival will feature the cultures of the SOCCSKSARGEN region, which consists of the provinces of South Cotabato, Sultan Kudarat, North Cotabato and Sarangani, and the cities of Cotabato, Kidapawan, Koronadal, Tacurong and Gen. Santos.

TAU SOX: Festival of the First Peoples (Facebook / MANILA BULLETIN)

TAU SOX: Festival of the First Peoples

Explaining the festival’s name, director of the regional tourism office, Nelly Dillera, said “Tau SOX” simply means people of “SOX” or the SOCCSKSARGEN region.

“Tau”, Dillera said, was lifted from the Nusantau (Tau) Hypothesis that states that there have been TAU or people traveling to the NUS or south even in pre-historic times.

The Nusantau Hypothesis says that “Nus” is an Austronesian root word which means “south” and “tao” or “tau” refers to people, hence people of the south, she explained.

“The six-day event is in recognition of the Indigenous Peoples’ cultural heritage,” Dillera said, adding that it also celebrates IP Month.

The festival will feature SOX’s rich cultures, she said, noting that deeply rooted in the indigenous tribes’ way of living are unique practices that include dances patterned after animal movements, wearing accessories that echo the sounds of nature, and weaving the sacred cloth guided by dreams and figures from nature.

“See and learn more about our rich culture,” Dillera told a news conference over the weekend, referring to the cultures of the Tbolis, Maguindanaons, Blaans, Tidurays and Manobos.

Carlo Ebeo, former official of the National Commission for Culture and the Arts, said tracing the history of SOX would lead one to confirm that the first peoples of the Philippines could have settled in the region, as indicated by the discovery of the “Maitum Jars” and “Kulaman Jars” alongside the discovery of human remains and burial jars at the Tabon Cave in Palawan.

“The term ‘first people’ refers to people whose practices, whether artistic or ritualistic, confirm the presence of a cultural identifier, which in anthropology connotes certain function and purpose,” Ebeo said.

Over time, he said, the first peoples produced an admixture of Filipinos who are now referred to as Tboli, Blaan, Maguindanaon (Tabunaway and Mamalu), Manobo, and Tagakailo, just to name a few.

Dillera said the celebration, the first in the region, will have various components that will attempt to rediscover and understand the aesthetic and anthropologic practices of the first people of SOX.

The festival, she said, primarily aims to generate awareness and deeper understanding and appreciation of the cultural heritage of the first people’s lineage, promote and generate income through tour packages to establish cultural villages of IP groups, launch new cultural sites, and underscore cultural tourism’s role in the region’s tourism industry.

It will feature an exhibit of traditional houses, ancient traditions and performances, an exhibit of traditional food and cook fest, traditional sports and games, and selling of cultural village tour packages, among others.

Dillera said the traditional houses exhibit will formally open on Oct. 27 and will run until Oct. 31 in Veranza, Gen. Santos City.

It will include Blaan’s Gumne where a Tabih weaver is residing, the Tboli “Gono” with an embroidery designer, Maguidanao’s “Togan/Laminan” with a brass caster, a Teduray house with a mat weaver, and a Manobo house with a musician.

Dillera said these traditional houses will also feature “heritage identifiers”, such as the Maitum jars, Kulaman (now Sen. Ninoy Aquino town in Sultan Kudarat) secondary burial jars, “Mabal Tabih”, Lang Dulay collections, antiquated brassware, and the century-old Maguindanaon cloth, the “inaul”.