Lake Sebu, South Cotabato

T'nalak, the traditional cloth of the T'boli people in South Cotabato, is made of abaca fibers and hand woven with the use of a backstrap loom. I was eager to see it and find out more about the communities that create them.

At the tail end of our July trip to the Philippines, we went to Lake Sebu, South Cotabato in the Mindanao region for the annual T'nalak Festival to search for fabric. It was the farthest south we've ever been and our first time in Mindanao, which has a reputation of being the country's wild west. What we found was a peaceful and beautiful setting rich with culture.

Lake Sebu

photo credit: Ricci Sylla

photo credit: Ricci Sylla

photo credit: Ricci Sylla

photo credit: Ricci Sylla

photo credit: Ricci Sylla

photo credit: Ricci Sylla

We took a boat tour around Lake Sebu one cool, overcast morning. It was a beautiful tour, and what struck me most is how unspoiled everything is. Life around here is pretty much the same as it was 50 years ago.

photo credit: Ricci Sylla

photo credit: Ricci Sylla

photo credit: Sugarcane

photo credit: Ricci Sylla

photo credit: Ricci Sylla

photo credit: Ricci Sylla

photo credit: Ricci Sylla

photo credit: Ricci Sylla

photo credit: Ricci Sylla

photo credit: Ricci Sylla

photo credit: Ricci Sylla

The famed giant fish floating restaurant.

photo credit: Ricci Sylla

photo credit: Ricci Sylla

The 7 Falls

We were able to walk right up to the first waterfall. The second and third were viewed from cliff edge gardens. The rest we saw from a bird's eye view.

photo credit: Ricci Sylla

photo credit: Ricci Sylla

photo credit: Ricci Sylla

photo credit: Ricci Sylla

photo credit: Ricci Sylla

photo credit: Ricci Sylla

We saw these two girls collecting shells by the waterfalls. We'll come back to them later.

photo credit: Ricci Sylla

photo credit: Ricci Sylla

photo credit: Ricci Sylla

photo credit: Ricci Sylla

We ziplined to see waterfalls 4 to 7.

photo credit: Ricci Sylla

photo credit: Ricci Sylla

photo: Sugarcane

photo: Sugarcane

photo: Sugarcane

photo: Sugarcane

Lang Dulay

After our boating and zip-lining adventures, we went to see Lang Dulay, the famous T'boli dreamweaver and national living treasure. She dreams the geometrical patterns for the T'nalak cloth and is one of the few surviving T'boli dreamweavers.

photo credit: Ricci Sylla

photo credit: Ricci Sylla

photo credit: Ricci Sylla

photo credit: Ricci Sylla

photo credit: Ricci Sylla

photo credit: Ricci Sylla

Abaca fibers are smoothed and softened with a seashell.

photo credit: Ricci Sylla

photo credit: Ricci Sylla

photo credit: Ricci Sylla

photo credit: Ricci Sylla

What an honor to meet artist and dreamweaver Lang Dulay.

photo credit: Ricci Sylla

photo credit: Ricci Sylla

photo: Sugarcane

photo: Sugarcane

photo: Sugarcane

photo: Sugarcane

C.O.W.H.E.D.

After Lang Dulay's we visited COWHED (Cooperative of Women in Health and Development), which sells traditional crafts made by local T'boli women at the Gono Kem Bo-i (Princess House). In addition to the T'nalak cloth, the T'boli people are also skilled embroiderers and brass artisans.  

photo: Sugarcane

photo: Sugarcane

photo: Sugarcane

photo: Sugarcane

photo: Sugarcane

photo: Sugarcane

photo: Sugarcane

photo: Sugarcane

Cross-stitched table runners.

photo: Sugarcane

photo: Sugarcane

photo: Sugarcane

photo: Sugarcane

A view of Lake Sebu.

photo: Sugarcane

photo: Sugarcane

photo credit: Ricci Sylla

photo credit: Ricci Sylla

photo credit: Ricci Sylla

photo credit: Ricci Sylla

Remember the two girls picking something in the water by the waterfalls? They were hand-picking shells to be individually hand-carved into mother-of-pearl beads and hand-stiched into a kegal bintilas,  the traditional top for T'boli women. The handmade nature of this intricate garment is mind-blowing. Each artisan makes different patterns with the beads and red trim so no two are alike, but it always has a black base, red trim and white beads. There are variations of this garment made with sequins instead of mother-of-pearl for a more affordable option. 

I often get asked by friends where I got my dress/bag/etc. A lot of times I get them from my travels, so I've started buying doubles of the most unique items I've gotten for myself.  This is one of them :) I have an extra kegal bintilas with mother-of-pearl beads in size small. Check it out in the Sugarcane Shop under globetrotting souvenir.

photo: Sugarcane

photo: Sugarcane

You can find plenty of jewelry, decorative items, trinket boxes, and even hair brushes made of brass.

photo credit: Ricci Sylla

photo credit: Ricci Sylla

photo credit: Ricci Sylla

photo credit: Ricci Sylla

photo credit: Ricci Sylla

photo credit: Ricci Sylla

Handwoven baskets.

photo: Sugarcane

photo: Sugarcane

Brass bells and hand-loomed fabrics.

photo: Sugarcane

photo: Sugarcane

photo: Sugarcane

photo: Sugarcane

T'boli Museum

photo credit: Ricci Sylla

photo credit: Ricci Sylla

photo credit: Ricci Sylla

photo credit: Ricci Sylla

photo credit: Ricci Sylla

photo credit: Ricci Sylla


Photos in today's globetrotting story were taken by Dr. Ricci Sylla.

Ricci is an ObGyn by profession, and an avid, snap-happy photographer at all other times. She likes taking pictures mostly of food, but since the recent population explosion in her family, cute nieces and nephews show up much more frequently in her Picasa files. She hearts cake, ice cream, macarons, cotton candy and fancy desserts! 

You can follow Ricci on Instagram.

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Punta Isla Lake Resort
Sitio Tuko-fol, Surallah-Lake Sebu Rd.
Lake Sebu, South Cotabato
Philippines
+63 83 236 1053
www.puntaislalakeresort.com

7 Falls 
Lake Sebu, South Cotabato
Philippines
www.tripadvisor.com/Lake_Sebu_Seven_Falls

Lang Dulay Weaving Center
Lake Sebu, South Cotabato
Philippines

www.ncca.gov.ph

Cooperative of Women in Health Development (COWHED)
c/o Santa Cruzz Mission #18 Alunan Ave.
Koronadal City, South Cotabato
Philippines
+63 228 2313; +63 919 497 8137
cowhedlakesebu@yahoo.com
http://pgx.ph/cowhed.html

T'Boli Museum
Lake Sebu, South Cotabato
Philippines
https://sites.google.com/site/museumsofthephilippines