Upon watching the indie film K’Na, The Dreamweaver, I knew immediately that I had to step foot in Lake Sebu and mingle with the colorful T’boli people. The opportunity presented itself when my friend Mai asked me to come with her trip. Without second thoughts, I booked my ticket even if I knew my budget will be blown way out of proportion. It is Lake Sebu! I told myself. It is where K’Na fell in love. And I knew I needed to feel that love too.
From General Santos City, it took us several bus/van transfers and about two hours before reaching this heavenly place. I was curious on how we would go about in traversing it because I was sure it is still very rural.
Lake Sebu is fast becoming a classic tourist destination. Good thing that our van driver from Surallah has a cousin who drives a habal-habal (motorbike) and booked his services for us. Kuya Rolly greeted us once we alighted at the bus stop. We wasted no time and off we went to explore the seven majestic falls of Lake Sebu.
|Hikong Alu | Passage Falls|
The falls have the coolest names I have ever heard. And they are: Hikong Alu (Passage Falls), Hikong Bente (immeasurable falls), Hikong B’Lebel (Zigzag Falls), Hikong Lowig (Booth Falls), Hikong K’Fo-I (Wild Flower Falls), Hikong Ukol (Short Falls) and Hikong Tonok (Soil Falls).
After our thrilling zipline ride, my friend and I visited the weaving center and finally met Lang Dulay. Lang Dulay is a Dreamweaver from the T’boli tribe who settled in this area in the early times.
Lake Sebu, South Cotabato
Using abaca fibers as fine as hair, Lang Dulay speaks more eloquently than words can. Images from the distant past of her people, the Tbolis, are recreated by her nimble hands – the crocodiles, butterflies and flowers, along with mountains and streams, of Lake Sebu, South Cotabato, where she and her ancestors were born – fill the fabric with their longing to be remembered. Through her weaving, Lang Dulay does what she can to keep her people’s tradition alive.
There are a few of them left, the traditional weavers of the tnalak or Tboli cloth. It is not hard to see why: weaving tnalak is a tedious process that begins with stripping the stem of the abaca plant to get the fibers, to coaxing even finer fibers for the textile, then drying the threads and tying each strand by hand. Afterwards, there is the delicate task of setting the strands on the “bed-tying” frame made of bamboo, with an eye towards deciding which strands should be tied to resist the dye. It is the bud or tying of the abaca fibers that defines the design.
A roll of tnalak must be individually set on a back strap loom, so called because of the broad band the weaver sets against her back to provide tension to the work. There is great strain on the weaver’s back and eyes, particularly since Tboli women are required to help out in the fields to augment the family income. It is only after the farm work is done that the weaver can sit down to her designs. Also, due to the peculiarity of the fiber, of its getting brittle under the noon day sun, working on it is preferred during the cool evenings or early morn.
Lang Dulay knows a hundred designs, including the bulinglangit (clouds), the bankiring (hair bangs), and the kabangi (butterfly), each one special for the stories it tells. Using red and black dyes, she spins her stories with grace. Her textiles reflect the wisdom and the visions of her people.
Before the 1960s, the Tboli bartered tnalak for horses, which played an important role in their work. Upon the establishment of the St. Cruz Mission, which encouraged the community to weave and provided them with a means to market their produce, the tnalak designs gained widespread popularity and enable weavers like Lang to earn a steady income from their art. However, the demand also resulted in the commercialization of the tnalak industry, with outsiders coming in to impose their own designs on the tboli weavers.
Ironically modern designs get a better price than the traditional ones. Despite this, and the fact that those modern designs are easier to weave, Lang persists in doing things the old, if harder, way, to give voice, in effect, to the songs that were her elders’ before her. Her textiles are judged excellent because of the “fine even quality of the yarn, the close interweaving of the warp and weft, the precision in the forms and patterns, the chromatic integrity of the dye, and the consistency of the finish.”
She was only 12 when she first learned how to weave. Through the years, she has dreamed that, someday she could pass on her talent and skills to the young in her community. Four of her grandchildren have themselves picked up the shuttle and are learning to weave.
With the art comes certain taboos that Tboli weavers are careful to observe, such as passing a single abaca thread all over the body before weaving so as not to get sick. Lang Dulay never washes the tnalak with soap, and avoids using soap when she is dyeing the threads in order to maintain the pureness of the abaca.
Upon learning that she was being considered to be one of the Gawad sa Manlilikha ng Bayan awardees, tears of joy fell from her eyes. She thought of the school that she wanted to build, a school where the women of her community could go to perfect their art. (Maricris Jan Tobias)
|T’boli women weaving t’nalak|
Seven Lakes Zipline Rates
Weekend: Php 300 per pax
Weekdays: Php 250 per pax
GenSan minimum trike fare: Php 8 per pax
GenSan to Marbel (aircon bus | 1 hr): Php 95
Marbel to Surallah (aircon bus | 30 mins ): Php 31
Surallah to Lake Sebu (aircon van | 30 mins): Php 42
Kuya Rolly motorbike services: +63935.970.2321
— P 300 half-day rate for two. Rate may change from posting date.
Negotiable. It would be nice if you would give a little more for some tip 🙂
— Kuya Rolly also served as our photographer and guide! In return we treated him for lunch.
How To Get Here
Ride any domestic airline bound for General Santos City. From GenSan, hire a trike towards Bulaong terminal then ride a bus going to Marbel. Hop on to Surallah from Marbel terminal then hail a van or jeep going to Lake Sebu.