WANDERLUST| Life by Buluan Lake

LAKE Buluan, with an estimated area of 62 square kilometres, is the third largest lake in Mindanao, after Lake Lanao and Lake Mainit, and the sixth largest in the country. Known to be a shallow lake, with an average depth of 4.5 metres, Lake Buluan has become the main source of livelihood of many fishermen residing along the banks of surrounding municipalities of Pandag, Buluan and Mangudadatu in Maguindanao and President Quirino and Lutayan in Sultan Kudarat.

Lake Buluan got its name from the municipality where it officially belongs. According to locals, it originated from “Buluanen”, which means “maker or supplier of bolo”. The bolo, or more popularly known as the Mindanao Kris, is widely used both as a weapon and a farm implement of the Maguindanaos. The bolo or kris is considered a symbol of the Maguindanao’s industry, courage and culture.

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The lake is fed by numerous rivers that arise from the hills in the east and south of the lake including the adjoining marshy basins of the Pulangi, Maanoy, Buluan, Alah rivers, which are all tributaries of the Mindanao River.

Our recent visit to the lake gave us a glimpse of the verve of the lake communities especially during morning when local fishermen dock their small boats, haul and sort their catch at an open dock where buyers await and take them to the markets.

The dock, I later learned, was constructed in 2012 by Growth with Equity in Mindanao, a non-government, pro-development organization funded by the United States Agency for International Development.

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 “Our tilapia goes to the local public markets while the rest, we transport to General Santos City. Unknown to many, a significant volume of tilapia in GenSan come from Lake Buluan,” shared fisherman Khalid, a 34 year old father of two and a member of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front. Khalid has been fishing in the rich waters of the lake since he was 12.

Aside from tilapia, Khalid informed me that about a dozen inland native fish species, such as murrel (dalag), tank goby (bunog), and milkfish (bangus), also abound in the lake. Gouramis, snakehead murrel, walking catfish and carps, which were later introduced, now also thrive in Lake Buluan.

According to an online report of the aquaculture department of the Southeast Asian Fisheries Development Center, Lae Buluan has a high annual yield of 10,000 metron tons of fish, which when divided by its area of 6,000 hectares, gives an average production of 1.64 metric ton per herctare per year, considered the highest open water catch in the Philippines and in Southeast Asia.

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HUCKLEBERRY’S Kim Pamintuan with Isabel Lozano of Antonio’s Tagaytay during the Tatler PH BRG awarding in Solaire

From the dock, we could see “islands” of floating vegetation, such as water lily, water lettuce and swamp cabbage, floating and drifting above the lake’s murky waters. Its lakeshores, meanwhile, are bordered by rice, corn, coconuts, mangoes, bananas and fruit-bearing trees farms owned by local farmers and cooperatives.

As I explored the community near the dock, I learned more about Lake Buluan. Sari-sari store owner Fe Abdelnor, who lives in a house-on-stilts by the lake with her family since the early 1990s, described to me their hand-to-mouth existence by the lake.

 “We don’t get rich here but we don’t go hungry either. The lake has given us enough resources to feed our families. And we are more optimistic now, especially that Maguindanao and Mindanao is now given more attention by the national government,” she said in Filipino.

From Davao City, Lake Buluan is around 210 kilometers away. The fastest way to get there is via Makilala in North Cotabato via the Sultan Kudarat Road/Kidapawan – Allah Junction Road. From poblacion Buluan, the lake is just 15-20 minutes away.

HOMEGROWN DAVAO RESTO IN PHILIPPINE TATLER’S BEST.  For the second time in a row, Davao’s Huckleberry Southern Kitchen & Bar makes it to the exclusive Philippine Tatler’s Best Restaurants Guide. Huckleberry was the only restaurant from Davao in last year’s list and the only one from Mindanao. It is one of the only four restaurants from Davao listed for this year along with The Lotus Court, The White House, and Misto.

The BRP Guide 2017 winners were announced last January 17 at the Bonifacio Hall of Shangri-La Residences at the Fort, Manila. Tatler’s BRG lists 172 of the best restaurants from all over the Philippines across every cuisine imaginable.

 “We are glad and very proud to be recognized having opened for just two years and making it to the list both years,” said co-owner Chris Pamintuan, who is also the Chairman and CEO of Apo View Hotel, who runs and owns Huckleberry with his cousin Kim.

The Pamintuans work closely with partners Executive Chef Kenneth Villaluz and restaurateurs Vince and Tricie Arcenas in running the restaurant the way it was intended when it opened last January 2015: to serve good food and drinks with no fuss.

The humble restaurant offers simple, filling dining experiences with fares that excite foodies and regular diners alike. Classic, all-time Huckleberry favorites are the Southern Fried Chicken with Waffles, Louisiana Stew with Rice, and Fresh Oysters from Aklan. The restaurant’s extensive range of whiskey and tequila—flown from the US—make every drinking glass a feast. Their housemade infused rum also give staple cocktails a local punch; each rum infusion uses real mangosteen, santol, pineapple, mango, ginger, sili, and cacao.

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