The School of Living Tradition and Homestay (SLT) is a school dedicated to teaching the culture of t’nalak weaving to young T’boli (Indigenous Peoples of Mindanao) women. At SLT, at least five (5) young women are being taught the cultural weaving of t’nalak during summer. The aim is to transfer the skill to as many members of the T’boli tribe to keep the t’nalak culture alive for the future generations.
T’nalak is the fabric made from native abaca, woven with the use of natural dyes with intricate designs originated from t’nalak women’s dreams—thus, T’boli women who have woven t’nalak earned the title “dreamweavers.”
It is said that T’boli culture is associated with t’nalak. A weaver should be working with full concentration, with complete rest prior to working—even abstaining from human pleasures–to avoid damage to intricate t’nalak designs. Spiritual beliefs also manifest in the making of t’nalak where its culture is also ingrained on the fabric. Therefore, cutting of the fabric is a no-no and using t’nalak as doormat is deemed sacrilegious.
It was the late National Artist Boi Lang Dulay who was considered as the most renowned t’nalak weaver. She wove a hundred intricate t’nalak designs depicting Lake Sebu’s surroundings and its flora and fauna. Her dedication and expertise to the craft earned her the Gawad sa Manlilikha ng Bayan in 1998 during the time of President Fidel V. Ramos.
With the dwindling attention to t’nalak weaving and the T’bolis’ “no to mass produce” stance, the tribe is facing competition from counterfeit t’nalak, which is cheaper in price. But you can help our Indigenous Peoples’ struggle to conserve their culture by patronizing their authentic products.* Buying authentic t’nalak from them assured the continuity of the culture and the microenterprise side of the IP. Let us help them weave their dreams for their self-preservation.
*If you want to help our IP flourish their business, you may check Lang Dulay Weaving Center and Souvenir Shop and purchase genuine t’nalak fabric souvenir. The Center is also known as Gawad Manlilikha ng Bayan Center, and is located at Sitio Tukolefa, Lamdalag, Lake Sebu in South Cotabato.
With added info from Michael Ramos, who together with Valenzuela friends, roams the Lake Sebu in South Cotabato.
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