By Maya M. Padillo

GLAN, SARANGANI — This coastal town, home of the annual Sarangani Bay Festival every May, is popular in the tourism circuit for its long, pristine white sand beach.
But the municipal government now wants to tap the heritage and historical treasures of Glan, the oldest town established in the province, as another major attraction.
“Everyone can walk around our poblacion (town center) and [go down] a memory lane with our ancestral houses that are more Spanish- and American-inspired,” said Municipal Tourism Officer Lodar Dagoy Escobillo in an interview during a recent tour of the province.
Ms. Escobillo said they have already initiated discussions with families to encourage them to undertake restoration work.
These families are locally referred to as “colonos,” short for colonizers, who are among the first Filipinos from Cebu City who migrated here about a century ago, making Glan among the first Christian towns in Mindanao.
Only four homes are considered in “good condition,” and “the rest of the houses need to be restored, (as these are) around 90% to 100% dilapidated,” she said.
The tourism officer said the local government unit (LGU) is ready to provide assistance by tapping researchers, architecture students, and other locals to take part in the restorations.
“We make them (private sector) feel that the public and LGU are supporting them,” she said.
The National Commission for Culture and the Arts (NCCA) has also committed to give technical assistance, she added.
“We are praying and hoping that more would be enticed to come and visit our place,” Ms. Escobillo said, noting that they have an ambitious target of attracting a million visitors this year from about 370,000 last year.
To complement the ancestral houses, the building of the municipal dispensary of Glan, constructed in the 1940s, will be converted into a museum in partnership with the United Architects of the Philippines (UAP)-Soccsksargen Chapter.
“This will be the first museum in Glan and this will be a good ground for us,” Ms. Escobillo said.
The town’s indigenous peoples’ cultural heritage is celebrated every mid-April with the Mahin Festival, which also serves as the kick-off event for the summer beach activities.
“We deem it necessary to depict our town, despite its sleepiness, (as) an experience of simple living, provincial living, for our tourists to rest and relax not only with our white sand beaches, but we have black sand beaches, ecotourism resources, and waterfalls,” she said.
Glan also has elevated areas that serve as viewing sites for the migratory birds who come every September and October.
The Lubi-Lubi Festival, a street dancing festival and parade, is held every year on Oct. 8 in celebration of the town’s main agricultural product, the coconut.