PALIMBANG, Sultan Kudarat (MindaNews / April 27) – This Moro-dominated city is beginning to emerge from notoriety and obscurity, attracting visitors with the slogan “Manisan ka Palimbang”.
The phrase Maguindanawon is visibly engraved on the new 259-meter promenade next to the highway at Barangay Baranayan, directly opposite the future municipal government complex.
It means “Palimbang is beautiful”.
But for decades the beauty of Palimbang, which is about a three-hour drive from General Santos City by car, has been denied to outsiders, not thanks to the gruesome past that has haunted this coastal town and its people.
Bastion of the Moro National Liberation Front in the 1970s, Palimbang, founded on August 14, 1959, was the scene of one of the most horrific moments in Bangsamoro’s history after 1,500 Muslim men were reportedly killed by the government troops in what was infamously known. like the Malisbong massacre, according to studies and testimonies from survivors.
Some were killed inside the village mosque while the others were shot in the graves they were ordered to dig along the coast. The women of the village, as well as the children, were rounded up in a boat, where government forces reportedly raped many of them.
For decades, the second-class town, with a population of 94,000, was also known for its murderous rido or clan wars where rival families shot at each other even in broad daylight, causing constant evacuations.
However, things have changed for the better over the past two years, with signs of progress appearing even at the entrance to the municipality, which borders the town of Maitum in Sarangani province.
Upon entering Barangay Malisbong where the 1974 massacre occurred, a historic 2 million P2 archway inspired by Moro heritage was recently completed to accommodate tourists.
Heading into the town proper, the open blue waters of the Gulf of Moro into the expansive Celebes Sea are a sight to behold, with the promenade just ahead not to be missed for a scenic travel photo opportunity.
Opposite the promenade is the P 10 million Palimbang Green Palace, a building reflecting the peace, progress and prosperity the municipality is now enjoying after decades of underdevelopment due to alleged government neglect and neglect. the volatile situation of peace and order.
Businesses, such as hardware and merchandise stores, are mushrooming now that locals no longer need to travel to the nearby town of Maitum to purchase essentials.
Mayor Joenime Kapina attributed the city’s gradual momentum to the relatively stable state of peace and order over the past two years due to the shifting mindset of its constituents: from rebellion to development .
âBefore, when 5 pm strikes, you will rarely see people in the streets due to the fear sown by lawless elements,â he told MindaNews.
But now the well-lit baywalk that was opened to the public recently has become a magnet that draws locals outside their homes, even at night, just to lounge around and enjoy the sea breeze.
Video of Zaki Sarmiento
To add to the lively atmosphere, the local government has permitted carnival rides and food stalls just across the baywalk.
Local tourists have come to the city mainly through word of mouth, family or friends who have come here.
âOur place is generally safe and peaceful now. It’s a big leap from before when our place is feared due to anarchy and chaos, âsaid the mayor.
In response to the growing influx of local tourists, the municipal government constructed the two-story Palimbang Green Palace, the only ‘high-rise’ concrete public building ever built in the locality, to accommodate overnight visitors. . The town’s guesthouse could conveniently accommodate at least 40 people at a time.
Essentially, tourists visit this town to frolic on its still relatively unspoiled beaches and natural islands that are very close to the shores, an attraction that is so far only known in this town throughout the Soccsksargen or region. 12.
About 30 minutes north of downtown is Medol Islet Beach in Barangay Medol.
With the islet looming from the shore, tourists can enjoy the sand, sea and sun at very low rates.
Entrance fees are only P10. The open cottage costs only P200 while the floating one costs only P500 per day. For an overnight stay there are a few closed A-shaped cottages made of lightweight materials which can be rented for P500 each. It can accommodate a family of four.
Once at Medol Beach, be sure to head to the islet, with motorized bancas ready to bring tourists for just 20 P / head round trip. It takes less than five minutes to cross the water. On the islet with white sand shores, visitors can swim in its turquoise waters, snorkel or fish.
A few miles down the road from Medol Islet Beach is the Maganao Beach Resort, which boasts of its twin islands just steps from the shores.
Trekking is permitted on the Twin Islands. At the top, the vast Celebes Sea offers a fascinating view.
Maganao beach is still basically pristine except for the few open cabins which can be hired at P200 per day for visitors. There are spartan toilets and bathrooms with fresh water supply.
Abdul Kadil Masil, the manager of the resort, said they were developing the resort to be affordable for the masses.
For now, pitching a tent overnight is highly recommended to protect visitors from the elements.
âOur place is peaceful and safer than decades ago because families in conflict have reconciled,â Masil told MindaNews.
About an hour from the shore by pump boat, the Balasan Sandbar beckons. Corals and fish of different varieties and sizes thrive in the surrounding area.
The sandbank is accessible from the fishing village of Milbuk, located south of the city center and mainly populated by Christians. An outrigger that can carry 20 people can be hired from P1,500 to P2,000, depending on its negotiating skills, to go to the sandbank.
Besides the beaches, the city has another natural treasure – the Sampaw B’leg waterfalls in Barangay Namat. It takes 45 minutes on a habal-habal (motorbike) to reach the village and another hour of climb to reach the falls.
While visiting the city’s swimming attractions, it is best for tourists to bring their own food, as even small restaurants are still scarce in these places. However, the Coastline Food Hub along the shores of the Barangay Malisbong stands out with its delicious and affordable meals and snacks, drawing locals and visitors alike.
For those without private vehicles, passenger vans run to and from GenSan daily, the journey costing P 500 per person. The fare was previously 250 P / head, but operators have doubled it due to the COVID-19 pandemic which has forced them to halve their passenger load.
For business travelers, EJ Transient House offers a warm Filipino atmosphere with its carefully landscaped Bahay-Kubo quarters in a garden.
Joanne Zoe Egonia, acting tourism manager at Palimbang, said they anticipate more tourist arrivals with the peace and progress the city is experiencing.
“We are still in the process of mapping our other natural tourist sites,” she told MindaNews. âWe regularly prepare the ground for our tourism industry to avoid being overwhelmed by the influx of tourists expected in the years to come. “
For locally made Pasalubong items, stop by the women-run souvenir shop Palimbang Entrepreneurs and Agrarian Reform Beneficiaries Cooperative along Barangay Barongis Road. They sell hand and shoulder bags and handicrafts made from indigenous local materials, banana chips, rice coffee, vinegar, and fermented fish sauce (bagoong), among others. (Bong S. Sarmiento / MindaNews)