Amai Manabilang | Tales of the Hero, the Epic & the Town
Neither Amai Manabilang nor its former name Bumbaran probably rings a bell to most Filipinos. But this small town in Lanao del Sur is rich in culture, natural resources & beautiful landscapes hardly anyone sees.
Thanks to modern-day infrastructure developments, more places in Mindanao once just names on the map are now accessible. Over the years, those never-before seen beauties unravel itself, creating new destinations to explore.
Amai Manabilang: The Old World Charm of Bumbaran
I first came across this place when I played a part in a 1990 theatre production of the Integrated Performing Arts Guild called Ranaw: Isang Alamat. It resurfaced in 1996 for our National Theater Festival entry, Datu Matu.
But everything that I knew of Bumbaran or Amai Manabilang were only from researches & vicarious experiences. I never set foot on its land.
Finally, after so many years, I was able to see it on a special journey with the team from the Provincial Office of then Governor Bombit Adiong.
What’s in a name?
This highland municipality on the western tail of Lanao del Sur is the homeland of great names in Maranao history & literature.
Amai Manabilang was a mighty Maranao leader. Along with other datus & sultans, he initiated a movement to protect its people’s welfare & traditions during the American regime.
His valor was the inspiration for the town to change its former name into what is now called Amai Manabilang.
However, its name was Bumbaran for a very long time. Adopted from the scenic place described in Darangen as Magalinday Bembaran, Bumbaran was the home of Prince Bantugan. On the other hand, Darangen is a pre-Islamic epic hailed by UNESCO as a Masterpiece of Oral & Intangible Heritage of Humanity.
Giving life to an epic that puts the Philippines on a world record, the town rests on gentle slopes bathed in stunning panorama.
It is beautifully littered with tall pine trees & flowering shrubs. Its mountains are lush & crouched by vast tracks of pineapple, banana as well as corn fields.
But nothing prepared me for the most wonderful part of Amai Manabilang. Worth the boast is a carpet of flowering buckwheat as wide as your eyes can see! Commonly called soba, they mill the grains & turn them into what we all love — Japanese soba noodles.
Here, temperature drops early & fast. Then the mountain breeze begins to envelope you with natural perfumes from the refreshing scents of calachuchi.
Believe it or not, Amai Manabilang is a green town. And their very young mayor, James Manabilang seriously runs after illegal loggers & anyone who defaces their natural wealth.
Progressive Lanao del Sur
Unknown to many, Amai Manabilang is a progressive town. It has 28 kilometers of concrete roads connected to Bukidnon & other municipalities in Lanao del Sur & Cotabato. In addition, it is the only town in the province that has its own municipal electric supply franchise.
They have a 540-hectare banana plantation. And in partnership with international company, they export high-quality bananas to many parts of the world. How cool is that?
Uniquely, the most successful Filipino-grown soba is only in Amai Manabilang. They produce tons of excellent-grade soba & export them to Kumamoto, Japan.
While Maranaos prominently inhabits it, they also co-exist with communities of Ivatans, Ilocanos & Ilonggos. These migrants were introduced to then Bumbaran through the national resettlement program in the 1950s.
According to Sultan Mastura Manabilang, the 6thSultan sa Ranao, they are peaceful because they acknowledge & respect their cultural diversities. Sultan Mastura is a direct descendant of the grand man, Amai Manabilang.
Here, it’s common to find Muslim mosques & Christian churches standing close to each other. There are separate town centers like Francfort for the Christians & Natangcopan for the Maranaos. This allows its people to practice their traditional ways of living.
As I watched the sky burst into its fantastic sunset flames, it got me thinking why has this place been kept from the world so long?
Then my mind began to imagine a retreat house by the hill with a natural wellness spa & a restaurant that serves all-organic food. And yes, a cultural village that showcases its traditions like the chanting of the long-lost epic, Darangen.
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Betwixt and between the arthritic 40 and a horrendous body mass index of positive 30, escapism and yummyeology are my real-life double post-graduate degrees conferred with the highest honors. I lived nearly half of my life in fancy suitcases, jetsetting between reality and fantasy... read more