I went to the Inaul Festival with no idea what to expect. It was my first time to hear about the festival, Buluan seems so far away and the province of Maguindanao evokes images of strife, violence and warring political families. Well, at least that’s what I saw on national tv .
My initial reaction when I got the invite was to skip the event but the adventurous side of me keeps saying that I should go and see for myself this “dangerous part “ of the Philippines. Coming from Iligan that also suffers the same negative perception on its peace and order situation, I know there is more to the stories that we get from the mainstream media.
Days after the event, I realized that I just had the most amazing cultural experience in Buluan. The Inaul Festival is a seven-day extravaganza of cultural presentations, feasting on local delicacies as well as immersing on local beats and rhythms.
At the center of it all is the Inaul, primarily used as malong , this hand woven fabric is showcased in every possible way during the event. Inaul ( pronounced “inol” ) is the Maguindanaon term for woven.
On display at the Women Center are Inaul Fabrics of various designs and colors. Some are heirlooms handed from mother to daughter through the years. There was also a weaving contest going on where you can actually see women from different municipalities working on their inaul designs.
For the Maguindanaons, Inaul is not just a piece of handwoven cloth. They consider it as “bara-bangsa” which is synonymous to royalty, dignity, pride and regal stature. In the past, only the women of the Royal Houses can wear the “bara-bangsa”. There are specific designs that are attributed to a Datu and only members of that family can wear it.
Weavers get inspiration of their designs from nature, some from their dreams and imagination. There are several known original designs of the fabric, these are the “binaludto” (rainbow), “makabimban” (stripes), “panigabi” (taro), “sinodengan”, “matampuhay-seko”, “kawang” and “sinukipan” and “binaludan” (wave-like).
In the past two years, there is a resurgence of interest in the fabric. The Provincial Government of Maguindanao led by Gov. Esmael Mangudadatu and ARMM Tourism Sec. Ayesha Dilangalen have aggressively promoted it in the local and international market. They also made sure that there is a steady supply as the demand of the fabric increases by providing support to local weavers in terms of training, organizing them into associations as well as linking them to suppliers of cotton and silk threads in China . Currently it has a common facility that houses 10 looms open to interested weavers in the province .
My Thoughts on the Inaul Festival
If I were to describe the Inaul Festival in one word, I would say it’s vibrant. And it’s not just the vivid colors of the fabric that reflect the Maguindanoan culture but also the community itself. In my 7days stay in Buluan, I have seen a vibrant community thriving, full of energy and enthusiasm , working together to promote the province, which is a far cry from what we constantly see on national tv.
My experience at the festival is enlightening as well as memorable and my visit to Buluan is not just about tourist spots, cultural presentations and food tasting but more importantly it is also about embracing diversity and shedding off fears.
Getting to Buluan
If your starting point is Iligan you have two options:
a) Take a van ride to Cotabato and then Buluan Via Sultan Naga Dimaporo, Lanao del Norte. Travel time is more or less 10 hours.
b) Take a van ride going to Cotabato and then Buluan via Marawi, Lanao del Sur. This route cuts travel time by 2 hours.
Either way the rent of the van is Php6,500. Of course this will be a lot cheaper if you travel in groups or a maximum of 10 people in the van and split the bill.
If you don’t want to hire a van, there is a Rural Transit bus service from Cagayan de Oro to Tacurong City via Bukidnon for P645php. From Tacurong it’s just a less than 30 minute ride to Buluan.