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How Much for a T'nalak? | The Treasured Fabric of the T'bolis from South Cotabato

The Philippine’s rich culture can literally be reflected on each fabric woven by hand of each local tribe. The string of each fiber used serves like the genetic  marking of their unique identity.

In the southern part of the Philippines, the Tinalak is one of the T’boli’s master crafts that is unique and incomparable amongst the fabric crafted across the country.

Even before the discovery of the paradise rich province of South Cotabato, the indigenous people, T’boli, are fond of creating beautiful clothes out of the native hemp growing in the mountains. 

In the earlier days, the T'nalak is one of the most expensive possession and even value as high as gold that even the tribe families use this as a form of dowry for the union of clans through marriage.  

Marked with the creativeness of the T’boli women and hailed as dream weavers  such as Be Lang Dulay, the Tinalak wowed the world with its unique color, patterns and durability that even some international fashion designers use this hand woven fabric  as their base material for their designs.

Let's Meet the Dream Weaver

With the National Living Treasure, Be Lang Dulay of Lake Sebu
A dream weaver is a chosen woman to where the spirit of the abaca (hemp) speaks  into their dreams and give them an image of animals, plants or events to be woven using the abaca fibers. 

Now in her 90’s, Be Lang Dulay is one of the Philippine’s finest artists in the category of weaving and was awarded in 1998 as Manlilikha ng Lahi ng Bayan by the National Commission for Culture and Arts. (She passed away last April 30, 2015 at the age of 91.)

The lady artist spent her days teaching her grandchildren and other young women of the tribe the beautiful art she wished to flourish and handed proudly to the next generations despite the intrusion of modern ways of living. 

On weekdays, you can personally meet her and listen to her stories (interpreted) at the Manlilikha ng Bayan Center located at Sitio Tukolefa, Lamdalag, Lake Sebu , South Cotabato. 

Be Lang Dulay was the living  artist responsible for more than a hundred  of authentic Tinalak pattern templates currently produced by the locals. Your appreciation of the T’nalak will deepen upon meeting her in person, and it would be a bonus to hear the stories behind each pattern she has produced. She started weaving at the age of 12 and her passion dwelled strongly with the blessing of the spirit of abaca giving her a range of inspirations from the living creatures found in their ancestral domain such as the mighty Philippine eagle, pineapples, spears and the likes. 

T'nalak Making Forbids SEX!!!?

Seeing the Tinalak on its finished form isn’t as simple as it looks. According to Lang Dulay’s students, the painstaking art takes more than two months to finish a standard six-meter dark-colored abaca fabric. 

Creating the iconic fabric involves almost all members of the family, both men and women that starts from the planting and collection of the abaca , then it will be sun-dried, soften, sorted, then the  fiber will be colored using the natural tanning materials. 

Pressing the hand woven T'nalak with cowry shell.
Then the dream weaver will carefully lay each fine coloured- fibers on the handloom with a pattern that was inspired by the spirit of the abaca.

From the handloom, the fibers will be weaved tediously with lots of patience and sincerity for more than a month, even giving up temporarily the weaver’s romantic duty to her husband. Wow , was RH Bill got inspired from this old tribal practice. Sorry men, no sex for a month!

After the weaver finished her part, it’s time for the men’s contribution investing on his human strength pressing the woven fabric straight and shiny using a cowry shell attached to a bended bamboo pole . 

The Valuation?

So, how much for a piece of Tinalak after all those procedures? The center sells the fabric to a range of 500-1000 pesos per meter but  you cannot cut the 5-6 meter Tinalak into pieces,  ending up buying the whole 6 meter fabric for 3000-6000 pesos depending on the design and pattern available.

Honestly speaking, I find the hand woven art undervalued as compared to the rich culture involved and the process alone requires effort of love and hardship just to be sold at that low price. So I hope when you buy authentic crafts from these natives, haggling for a cheaper price should be out of the question. So what are you waiting for? Visit Lake Sebu, visit Mindanao, travel the Philippines.

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