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    Posted September 14, 2015 by
    Tacurong, Philippines
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    Sultan Kudarat, Mindanao’s Treasure Trove.

    The province is named after a great Muslim ruler, the late Sultan Mohammad Dipatuan Kudarat of the Sultanate of Maguindanao. During his rule, from 1625 to 1671, he successfully opposed the Spanish occupation of his homeland and bravely resisted the Christianization of the island of Mindanao. He defended the Islamic faith and united the Moro clans of Mindanao. This virtuous leader believed in the principles of freedom and unity among the various people that were scattered throughout his Sultanate. The unity and peace that this courageous sovereign has strived and fought for is still present in the region, people of all faiths and social backgrounds work and live side by side in harmony.

    The region is probably not the most obvious tourist destinations in the Philippines and sees few tourists yet. But those who do visit this wonderful place are rewarded with a mind-blowing array of cultural and natural destinations. Nature fans are treated to an exciting bird watching experience and will be amazed by the diversity of avian life at the Baras Bird Sanctuary in Tacurong City. This former riverside peppercorn farm is covering nearly two. hectares and is home to more than 20,000 birds, that are coming from seven different species; including Herons and Egrets, which have their hunting grounds in Lake Sebu, Lake Buluan and the Liguasan Marsh. The Squacco Heron is locally known as “Tulabong* and commonly seen in rice fields. The bird has a short light brown neck and grey coloured feathers, but it will transform in flight, because the colour of the wings makes the animal appearance very white. The short, thick-necked Cattle Egret earns its name because it spends most of its time in fields, often close to livestock and catches insects and worms that the hooves of the cattle trample out of the soil.


    The City of Tacurong is the gateway to General Santos, Cotabato, Davao and Cagayan de Oro. The name of the city is taken from the word “Talakudong”, a multi-ornamented kind of hat that is made out of indigenous plant materials. Talakudong is a Maguindanao word for the native “Salakot”, a cone-shaped hat that is worn by the early settlers and woven out of “Pandan” (rice plant) leaves. It is said that Talakudong used to be the town’s old name when it was still a village of Buluan of the former Empire Province of Cotabato. In time the Talakudong was worn by the Lumad tribal peoples, the Maguindanaoan and the Ilonggo settlers, it became a symbol of unity among the people who lived and worked together.

    The Talakudong Festival every September is a week-long festivity that starts with a parade showing many colourful painted and decorated Talakudong. The city’s culture is seen in inspiring street dances and field demonstration that are led by the native sounds of bamboo drums. Every August 3rd the people of Tacurong city celebrate “Tacurong Day” this is truly a celebration for young and old, with traditional kid's games like sack races, Pabitin”, hitting a clay pot with candy inside with a bamboo stick and “Kadang Kadang”, a race with coconut shells, that are cut in half, under the feet, various kinds of entertainment, a singing contest, a head gear (Salakot) parade and a piglet chase. When a starting signal is given, the contestants will run after a greased piglet, the first person who gets the slippery porker is the winner.

    The province of Sultan Kudarat is a melting pot of various cultures and this diversity is also mirrored in the rich culinary traditions. “Sinugbang Hito” is grilled Catfish that is marinated and grilled over hot charcoal. The Hito is a freshwater fish that is native to the Philippines especially in the Bicol region, Palawan, and a few areas in Mindanao. It can be found in lakes, rivers, tributaries, and other freshwater bodies. The VE-JR “Ihaw-Ihaw” is a well-known dining place among locals and tourists because of their delicious catfish dishes. The place has its own pond where they cultivate catfish.

    The Monte Vicenteau Resort

    The Monte Vicenteau Resort is an addition to the many tourist destinations in Tacurong. This family-friendly getaway is located within a short driving range of the Baras Bird Sanctuary and the centre of city. The tropical inland retreat is a splendid place to experience the best of Tacurong’s warmth and hospitality; it has a unique local charm and features extensive facilities such as a splash pool, a kiddie pool with slides, an elevated swimming pool with 4 and 5 feet deep areas and a mini waterfall. There are also open pool cottages, a restaurant pavilion and a sprawling fruit farm where guests can pick their own durian and lanzones. The place is an unexpected hideaway that is built to international standards, the facilities are clean and well-maintained and the grounds are carefully tended to make every aspect of the stay enjoyable.

    The peaceful, hill-side resort does not have any rooms or cottages for an overnight stay, but guests can pitch their tent on the camping area. The barbecue facilities on the grounds are separated to facilitate both the Muslim and the Christian communities to consume and enjoy their Halal food and Pork dishes at their own convenience.

    The City of Isulan

    When entering the city of Isulan, just around a 20 minutes’ drive away from Tacurong City the roundabout with the statue of the great Sultan of Maguindanao, Sultan Kudarat serves as an attraction by itself. Located right in the middle of the intersection that is a jump off point to Tacurong, Esperanza, Bagumbayan and back to Surallah. The words “Pamahalaang Bayan Ng Isulan” that is painted on the structure stands for the “Municipality of Isulan” and can be seen from four sides, welcoming visitors from all directions. The name "Isulan" is derived from the battle cry that were once yelled іin the early 19th century by the Sultan Mopac.; "Isu-Silan" which means "They are there, advance!", or nowadays freely translated as “progress”. During rush hours these crossroads can get congested with all kinds of vehicles. Trucks, jeepneys, cars, motorcycles, tricycles and even pedestrians are trying to squeeze through the slow moving, but chronically chaotic traffic flow, often leaving no space in front, in the back and on the sides of their vehicle for others to merge. Some drivers will zip around and will recklessly overtake at every opportunity, often cutting other vehicles without any consideration and will go to any length and put themselves and others in danger. But it seems if nobody cares, nobody is complaining and everybody is going their own way, it is the “what come what may” (Bahala Na) attitude and mentality that prevails. Probably giving them enough courage to cope with any kind of situation and even take uncalculated risks.

    Isulan is the provincial capital of Sultan Kudarat is a quaint but modern city with Christian and Muslim influences and recognized for its Arabic and Islamic heritage. One of the city’s most visited tourist attractions is the Provincial Capitol, often named as the “Taj Mahal of the South”. This imposing edifice is one of the most impressive state buildings in the country and a masterpiece of Philippine-Islamic architecture. The design is a combination of Muslim and Christian symbols and the building is adorned with a monumental, gold painted dome at the centre. Even the Malay- Arabic-inspired structure itself is reflection of the rich and vibrant culture of the region and a true manifest of consensus. A majestic, bronze statue of the legendary chieftain Sultan Kudarat stands noble and tall in front of the capitol building and inside the wide open capitol grounds there is a magnificent fountain that displays an amazing medley of water, music and light in the evenings.

    The Public Market in Isulan is just another iconic attraction, it is near the Provincial Capital and always a bustling hive of activities where visitors and locals alike come to get lost in endless rows of stalls that are filled with tasty treats like fresh produce, delicious baked goods, seafood, dry goods and one of Sultan Kudarat’s major products; coffee. The province of Sultan Kudarat is frequently dubbed as the coffee capital of the Philippines; local farmers are dedicated to grow quality varieties of coffee like the Arabica and Robusta. The market is also a shopper’s haven for cheap Pasalubong products; numerous vendors offer a unique selection of locally made crafts and various textiles such as the famous native “Malong”, a traditional, hand-woven, multi-colored, cotton cloth that is used as a garment by several tribes in the Southern Philippines.

    The many fascinating festivals that are organized in Mindanao are a dynamic, integral part of daily life; these festivities are rooted deeply within the people and their culture. With high spirits, enormous vitality and great enthusiasm, different kinds of creative activities, big or little ceremonies are held all year round in several regions of this exotic peninsula. And just like any other city or village in the Philippines the province of Sultan Kudarat has its own festivals. A real exhibit of unity among the different people from many cultural backgrounds is the Kalimudan Festival, held in Isulan every November. Kalimudan is a Maguindanaoan phrase meaning "informal gathering". This festival brings together about every major ethnic group on the island; the tribespeople from the Manobo, Teruday and T'boli are commemorating the foundation anniversary of Sultan Kudarat. The festivity memorialize the richness of Mindanao arts and the tribes social, ancestral and historical heritage with various activities such as street dance, sports competitions and the exchange of gifts

    Sultan Kudarat still remains one of the most unexplored areas in the Philippines; it offers many natural wonders and is an ideal destination for tourists, nature lovers, fun seekers and adventurers. The region abounds with rolling hills, mountains, caves, waterfalls and springs, which provide good recreational opportunities, visiting the Marguez Hot and Cold Springs in Esperanza, less than 30 minutes away from Tacurong City, is a wonderful and exciting experience. The idyllic area is enclosed in lush vegetation and secluded from the town’s hustle and bustle. Soaking in the hot spring, which has a temperature of 38 degrees Celsius and no smell of sulphur, is a wonderful experience, the temperature of the water, the subsequent sweating and the minerals in the water have a positive therapeutic effect on the skin. Though the hot and cold springs are partially man-made they still have a very natural feel.

    The mountain ranges in Esperanza are home to the people of the Teduray, despite the influence from other cultures, the highland tribe is able to maintain their own distinct culture. The friendly tribe’s people are very skilled in basket weaving and create beautiful rattan baskets with characteristic, two-toned geometric designs and unique patterns that are considered as the most complicated woven motifs in the Philippines.

    Sultan Kudarat is endowed with expansive sugarcane fields in the lowlands, when blooming with big fluffy plumes, the fields are a lust for the eyes. The Province is often dubbed as the “Muscovado” Capital of the Philippines, Muscovado is dark brown unrefined sugar that is extracted from sugar cane and used for many baking purposes. A great number of people depend on the sugar cane for their livelihood but many residents in the area also make a living out of weaving locally harvested bamboo slats into “Kalakat” that is used in many ways like walling and ceiling in native houses and “Bahay Kubo’s” or Nipa Hut. Depending upon the use, Kalakat is made in various sizes but usually has the size of a ply board.

    The island of Mindanao is often portrayed as a war zone and one of the wildest and lawless parts of the Philippines, this is a far cry from what the media has believed and generalized it to be, for sure, there is a lot of going on in Mindanao, but not in the whole of the island. In general it is a peaceful place and there are many safe areas to travel. The mainstream media are very much detached from the real conditions in Mindanao; they think that news coming from Mindanao must be related to violence and tragedy.

    Sultan Kudarat is a province with southern mystique and unparalleled beauty, when traversing the region, visitors will discover a surprising treasure trove of natural and man-made wonders, they will be captivated by its rich history and fascinating culture. But the real treasures of the province are, beyond any doubt, its friendly, peace loving and warm-hearted people. They will help you where they can and will really make their guests feel at home, a place where one always can and want to return to.
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