John Ludwig B. Pormento MTH 9-10 Prof. Russtum Pelima English 5
In the southernmost tip of Mindanao lies the province that teems with dynamism, progress, and cultural diversity. It is no other than the Province of Sarangani. This highly competitive province of the south offers a wide array of destinations where one can unwind. With its pristine waters that hug its white sand shores, one can really enjoy nature’s bounty at its best. Sarangani is also home to various outdoor activities like the water tubing and paragliding that are perfect for those who love adventures.
However, there is more to Sarangani than just experiencing the white sand beaches and the numerous outdoor activities that it offers. With great pride and honor, I would like to share to you my firsthand encounter with some of Sarangani’s most promising women.
It was almost 10:00 am when we reached the Balungis Women’s Association. Upon reaching the place, I immediately got curious about this organization. Because of this, I didn’t hesitate to enter their miniscule display center of multi-colored malongs and shawls.
There, we were warmly welcomed by the president of the association, Mrs. Janaria Magancong, who has 6 kids. Three of her kids are boys and the other three are girls.
Then, she explained the very inspiring humble beginnings of the association. “Balungis”, according to her, means “pandan” in Filipino. “Daghan man gud ug pandan diri sa una”(There were a lot of “pandans” here before), she explained the history behind the name of their organization. She said that the organization started back in 2009. They were hired by the municipal government to weave for the Pakaradjan Festival, with an initial capital of Php 4,000.00. They branded their products as “Fabli Gu Ni”, a B’laan term which means “for sale”. The prices of their products range from Php 450.00-Php 700.00.
She further explained that these malongs and shawls have become an important part of the tradition of the Muslims(which includes Maguindanaons, Maranaos etc.) that is why they value these things very much.
Now, the Balungis Women’s Association already has 18 members. It has grown into a successful organization and now, they are exporting their finished products abroad like in London and Alaska. But more than all of these, the said organization has been effective in improving the lives of its members. “(Ang tumong sa among organisasyon kay) para makatabang sa mga babaye nga way trabaho”(The organization aims to help those jobless women), she explained further.
When we asked her on what is her inspiration in weaving malongs and shawls, or in deciding for the designs of their products, however, she answered “Wala baya”(Nothing). I was puzzled and shocked by her reply. I just can’t imagine them, weaving for nothing. Instead of entertaining my thoughts, I just got inside their factory.
There, I witnessed how hardworking the members are. Their perseverance and determination in weaving their products greatly touched my heart. Their job is definitely tiring and difficult yet one cannot see even a pinch of sadness and tiredness on their faces. Instead, happiness and calmness reign over that place.
In their factory, I met Lay Magancong, a Maguindanaon lady. She is 21 years old and an active member of the organization. She started weaving since she was in her 6th grade.
While we were having our conversation, she was simultaneously weaving a colorfully designed sash. She explained to me that the process of weaving using the machine they call the “Tanunan” takes about 4 hours and that she can actually make 2 pieces of sash a day. I asked her on how much she is earning monthly. She said that she earns Php 3,500 a month. A sudden burst of happiness came into me after hearing this, which made me say, “Aw, maayu eh”(Well, that’s good).
But when I asked her the same question that we threw to Mrs. Janaria, her answer was, “Wala man”(Nothing). “Ang akong lola man gud naga-ingon ani pud sya mao nga kinahanglan pud nako magtuon”(My grandmother weaves that’s why I also need to learn how to weave), she said, not directly answering my question. “Ah, para kung wala na siya, ikaw na pud magpadayon ug preserba sa inyong tradisyon”(Ah, so that when passes away, you will be the one who will continue preserving your tradition), I replied.
As I left the place, the same question popped up in my mind. “What was their inspiration in weaving or in deciding for the designs of their products?” Then suddenly, I heard a voice in my mind saying “Ah, so that when she passes away, you will be the one who will continue preserving your tradition.” This made me realize that they answered us that way because there is so much contentment in them doing the job of weaving their products and preserving the tradition of the Muslims as a whole.
Photo: This woman is just one of the many hardworking weavers of the Balungis Women’s Association. She is being watched by a little girl who would possibly follow her footsteps in the future. Credits to the owner of this photo.