Learning About the T’NALAK 

This is a story inspired by my recent discovery of the T’nalak weave. However, this story is not entirely about the T’nalak itself. If you type “T’nalak” on the search engine, it will probably give you many other blogs and websites that can better explain the true essence of the T’nalak. 

A better title for this piece would be: Learning about the T’nalak and the stories surrounding it. Big emphasis on the word “stories.” I’m not fluent on the how, why, what, where of the T’nalak weave or the T’boli Tribe from Lake Sebu, Cotabato. But, surely, I may be able to share my own story of how I came across this great gift of culture and history! Besides, this is something that we should also be made aware of . So I’m sharing what I am learning and what I have learned. Though this is just a piece of the big puzzle. 

Here goes:

All of us have probably heard of the T’boli Tribe from Cotabato, thanks to the (repetitive) projects we did for our Filipino subject in grade school. Or was that Hekasi? 

Sometimes we take for granted the story, the history, of these gifted people. And in taking them for granted, we disregard the gifts they are able to offer us. Admittedly, my interest in history included mostly of what was generally known to many. It was only when I “substantially” grew up that I was able to develop a keen interest on things that I honest-to-goodness really like. This, without the pressure of society hounding on me relentlessly to take a liking to because apparently it is the so-called norm. This is one of the more eccentric hobbies I have. Haha

Last year, while rummaging through the world of Facebook I found this person from Mindanao who sells native banig’s. Yes we have banig’s also in Antique. One thing lacking re the ones made in Antique (and I don’t want to delve into the lack of government support etc, because I don’t want to ruin the good I want to bring into this piece), that I find the one made in Mindanao more interesting is that it seems as if the latter are able to express themselves more artistically than our own native banig makers. We try to go to the different annual local market fairs held in our province, and one of the things that we as prospective customers-slash-local patriots are looking forward to is innovation. Sad to see that every year the banig is still either toasted brown or hilaw na brown, it’s still flat, or sometimes they make it into bags, the simple things. It’s okay… But the marketing grad in me is asking this- is this really all that we are able to do? There’s no innovation. It seems as if in our drive to catch up with neighboring provinces in terms of modernization and infrastructure, we are developing extreme backlogs in our homegrown gifts. Gifts that would probably give more to more people, not only a few to a few chosen ones. Gifts that offer a story, not only a salary. Gifts that are best appreciated by growing awareness. 

 Why am I writing this? A few months ago, I remembered the Banig seller from Mindanao and it was through her “friend list” that I discovered another (hidden) treasure from the south. As usual, when I get interested and questions start popping in my head- I sent Krizia a message asking about the Tnalak weave she was helping sell a group from Lake Sebu, Cotabato. I wanted details on the how, where, why, what of the Tnalak weave. I could copy-paste the transcript of our conversation here. But that would be weird. 😝😐 So I googled some info on it and was able to get the general idea of what she was trying to share with me. In summary, this is what the Tnalak weave is all about: 

The T’nalak, is a traditional cloth woven by the T’boli women of Lake Sebu and to them this unique fabric represents birth, life, union in marriage and death. The T’nalak is sacred and represents the Tboli’s uniqueness and identity as an indigenous group of people. The T’boli women design the t’nalak without the use of drawn patterns or guides, but instead, rely on a mental image of the designs. Often times called the “dream weavers” the T’boli women believe that the patterns are bestowed on them through either their own dreams, those from their ancestors or ones granted specially through “Fu Dalu,” the spirit of the abaca. These designs are handed down or shared but not every t’nalak weaver knows every design. Usually, a few of the original designs stay within a certain family while others are shared (one-weave.org).”

I became more interested when Krizia told me that the weavers also get their inspiration from their surroundings, from nature. Then I could not help but be further enamored when she sent me photos, giving me a glimpse of their beautiful surroundings. Hay Mother Nature, you are so lovely! 

Krisia sent me this photo of the place where the group she is helping resides.


Photo from Krizia.


Photo from Krizia.


Sometimes we buy things not really caring about the story behind them. How they came to be and why. The process through which they have to go through into being a “finished product” is in one way or another their story, their camino, their adventure to share. That is one aspect that a “thing” though “material” becomes more than its physical manifestation. Somehow it does not just become a “product” or a “thing” for us to buy. In totality, it becomes a gift. A gift made priceless because of the story it conveys, which at a certain level also teaches us.


Photo by Bryan Liao.

So this is the Tnalak. 

Someday I would like to see the same creative amor from our native banig makers and other local gift makers in conveying the stories of how their gifts came to be. 

PS. Since the Tnalak is considered sacred, it cannot be used on the floor/stepped on. This is especially true if the Tnalak weave pertains to the more traditional ones. These two are not so traditional anymore. Another story for another day, because there’s a story behind the blue Tnalak weave. This is probably just an intro into it. 

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