By Mark L. Garcia
Salvador Benedicto, Negros Occidental — Tourism has become a newfound bounty for group of indigenous people in Barangay Kumaliskis in this upland town.
Kumaliskis is already blessed with a natural attraction – the scenic Malatan-og Falls. All it needed was a couple of government agencies to teach the Bukidnon tribe how to make good use of it.
Today, the men of the Bukidnon tribe are certified tourist guides, while the women sell local delicacies to visitors.
The Malatan-og Tour Guide Farmers Association, a group of tour guides who belong to the Bukidnon tribe, have been leading visitors to Malatan-og Falls in Kumaliskis since March this year, its president Mario Tolentino told the Manila Bulletin.
Bukidnon women, meanwhile, were taught by Technology and Livelihood Development Center of Negros Occidental and the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) how to produce banana and taro chips and sell them to visitors.
“Selling our own products helped us earn more income aside from our regular activities on farming, especially now that our kids will go back to school on Monday,” said Fortunata Bacus, one of the Bukidnon women who sell the delicacies on the viewing deck of Malatan-og Falls.
Kumaliskis is one of seven barangays of Salvador Benedicto. Tolentino said 80 percent of the town’s 1,500 population are from the Bukidnon tribe.
The association was formed in 2016, Tolentino said, but it went into the tour guide business just last March, at the peak of eco-tourism season.
The falls is located at the North Negros Natural Park, one of the protected areas in the province, and the association is also assigned to protect the park, Tolentino said.
Most of the tour guides are men, but there are a number of women as well.
The women were trained by TLDC in 2010 and DTI in 2013 in making banana and taro chips, Bacus said, one of the first to graduate from the program.Salvador Benedicto, root crops, chicharon, and refreshments.