FOR a place that seldom attracts tourists, Polomolok seems rather unexceptional. At a glance: pineapple fields for days, brown muddy soil that accommodates both “habal-habal” motorcycles and privately-owned vehicles and, amidst it all - the sinewy and irregular curvature of Mount Matutum, towering 2,286 meters above sea level.
Located north of Polomolok proper, the mountain is home to various flora and fauna, including 110 plant species and 57 animal species. Various plantations near the foot of the mountain boast of the global favorite civet coffee.
Derived from the Blaan term “amyak maleh,” which means climb and plant, Mount Matutum is a green stretch from General Santos to Koronadal City.
Matutum is nominated as a Unesco World Heritage site and is protected by the government and locals alike. In fact, it is known that every time a group attempts to climb the summit, they are required to buy seedlings to plant trees in the mountain. This is an ecotourism initiative by the locals, bearing the motto “Amyak Maleh Matutum!” To climb and plant Matutum - a double entendre feat for those sincere enough to go through the whole ordeal.
The influx of pineapple fields and plantation in the region might have influenced the economy of Polomolok in big leaps, but it might have also endangered Matutum little by little because of constant deforestation to make way for more pineapple fields. Thankfully, with the various initiatives and proactive approach of Blaans and locals, the health of Matutum is slowly being upheld. Imagine a clear day when the lush greenery of Mount Matutum towers above South Cotabato, knowing full well the mountain is restored to the green haven it once was.
To speak of what once was, the foot of Mount Matutum was a dense and thick forest that provided sustenance for the Blaan hunter gatherers decades ago. One can imagine a time of lush greenery where people lived simply, but that is far from today’s reality. The magic is not lost, though—a fact that’s hard to dislodge from the mountain itself.
As told to us by Dr. Jaime Galvez Tan, practitioner at AMGUO Blaan Tribal Wellness Village located near the foot of Matutum, the summit of Matutum holds a sacred space—a stone that points to the four cardinal directions.
The summit could be an attainable feat to set oneself for; I can imagine what a view it must be. To gaze upon the green pineapple plantations, cool breeze in your hair, wind howling in your ears, a view of South Cotabato irreplaceable by any other pedestal. And there, Matutum sits, nourishing the soil of Polomolok for now and for future generations to come. (Kiana Kimberly Flores, contributor)