By Henrylito D. Tacio
|Bansalan is now dubbed as a green town.
Of course, you've heard about greenhouse, green grass, green fields, and green thumb. But green town? Well, that's what Bansalan is! Among environmentalists, being labeled as green means "environment-friendly."
Agriculture is the major source of income for this town. People grow rice, corn, banana, fruit trees, coconut, sugar cane in the lowlands. Coffee, vegetables and fruits are grown in the colder highlands of Mt. Apo, the country's highest peak.
So, what makes Bansalan as a green town then? For one, it is the birthplace of the internationally-known Sloping Agricultural Land Technology (SALT). "The system is simple, low-cost, and timely method of tilling the fragile uplands, which comprise about 60 percent of the country's total land area," explains Steve Musen, the director of the Mindanao Baptist Rural Life Center (MBRLC) Foundation, Inc. "It is particularly suited for small or marginal farmers with few tools, little capital, and little knowledge in agriculture."
|Sloping Agricultural Land Technology (SALT).
The MBRLC is located in barangay Kinuskusan, just 10 kilometers away from the proper town. Actually, it's a training center for various sustainable farming systems. People from all the country has traveled to this place just to learn the modern technologies it offers. 'Discover Philippines'
considered the center as "Disneyland of agricultural lovers."
At MBRLC, you can learn how to make FAITH (Food Always In The Home) garden and to sustain your farm by adopting the SALT system and its three other
modifications: Simple Agro-Livestock Technology (SALT 2), Sustainable Agroforest Land Technology (SALT 3), and Small Agro-Livelihood Technology (SALT 3). You can also learn how to milk dairy goats, harvest tilapia, and graft fruit trees, among others.
|Mt. Carmel Camp Houses.
"We believe that by actually doing all these that our trainees will really learn the technologies we are teaching them," explains Rowe Celeste, one of the center's trainers. They call this as "hands-on-experience."
For promoting these technologies, Harold Watson - its former director - received the prestigious Ramon Magsaysay Award (touted to be the Nobel Prize of Asia) for peace and international understanding in 1985. "I was totally astonished when it was announced that I was given the honor," bared Watson. "I was just doing what the Lord has told me."
Also located in the same vicinity is the Asian Rural Life Development Foundation (ARLDF). "Our main purpose is to help develop and uplift the standard of living of the poorest of the poor of Asia," explains Roy Alimoane, the foundation's training coordinator.
Although it an Asian-based foundation, people from Australia to Zimbabwe have come here for a training. So far, representatives from more than 112 countries have been trained at the center. "Aside from training, they also learned to know more about our country and our culture," says Alimoane.
Just a stone throw away is the Mount Carmel International Convention Center. If you like hiking or biking under the mango trees, then this is the place for you. Or, if you want to have a quiet wedding, or having a reunion with your family members or training for your staff and workers, what are you waiting for?
Every year, thousands of students from nearby provinces flock to this convention center for camping, learning, and getting to know each other. "The place is quiet, far from the madding crowd, and is conducive to learning," says Tito Felongco, the center's manager. There's fresh air, too.
|Lao's goat barn with durian tree in foreground.
Also nearer to these sites is the Lao Integrated Farm in barangay Eman. If you love durian, then this place owned by Benjamin Lao is the area to visit. In the beginning, he planted 700 durians in his five-hectare farm.
Later on, he added other fruits - mangosteen, rambutan, and lanzones - and also raised goats. He uses the manure as fertilizer for his fruit trees.
Six years after, Lao's farm has become a model and earned its owner the Gawa Saka Award (integrated farming system category) from the municipal agriculture office. "What I want to convey here is that government service is never a hindrance to engage in other income-generating activities like farming," said Lao, who is with the Bureau of Immigration in Davao City.
During weekends, he comes to the farm.
Another place to visit in Bansalan is the training center of Salinta Monon, the last Bagobo weaver. She has been featured in a national television advertisement, has rubbed elbows with dignitaries like former President Fidel V. Ramos, traveled to the United States (where she met ex-President Bill Clinton), and had been written about in publications abroad.
In 1998, she was named one of the two Manlilikha ng Bayan awardees by the National Commission for Culture and Arts. Her citation reads: "For weaving traditional Bagobo textiles marked by quality workmanship and intricacies of designs and colors of her particular Bagobo community whose unique identity and creativity she has kept alive for the present and succeeding generations."
At the training center, which the government helped built, she trains people who want to learn her techniques. "If someone wants to learn," she says, "then I am willing to teach."
But what concerns her most is the vanishing abaca plants. When her mother was still alive, abaca grew in abundance on the hillside of her village in barangay Bitaug. The people planted abaca because the fiber was sought and bought by businessmen from the lowlands, she said. When the demand for abaca in the world market dropped, the plants were replaced with fruit-bearing trees. Today, only a few abaca groves are left. Without abaca, what will Salinta weave?
Such is also the question of the Bansalan Bamboo Expressions, a quaint home-based shop selling wine holders, candle holders, lamps, treasure boxes and other bamboo made novelties. It is owned by former councilor Wilfredo Granada.
The demand for bamboo products in both domestic and overseas markets has been steadily increasing. Unfortunately, the supply of bamboo has been decreasing at an alarming rate. "There are about 1,200 species of bamboo in the world and we think about a third of those may be threatened by the reduction of forest habitat within their ranges," said Valerie Kapos, one of the authors of 'Bamboo Diversity,' the most comprehensive analysis to date of the impact of deforestation on bamboo species.
According to some legends, Bansalan got its name from a Bagobo chieftain
(datu) named "Dansalan" whose tribal folks were the original inhabitants of
what is now the town of Bansalan. A so-called reporting error by the
early surveyors transposed the name to Bansalan and somehow became the official name. Bansalan is also previously called "Miral" - name of the river - and some local folks still refer to this former name.
Bansalan is about 72 kilometers south of Davao City and is very accessible by land transportation mostly by buses going to Cotabato City. Bansalan is about 12 kilometers northwest of the capital city of Digos. Her neighboring towns include Makilala, North Cotabato in the north, Magsaysay (formerly called Kialeg) in the west, Matan-ao in the south, Mt. Apo and parts of Digos in the east.
*Photos courtesy of Henry Tacio. Click on the photos to enlarge view.