The cool breeze of the night tickled me to sleep like a baby making me feel at home at the tribal house of the T’bolis of Lake Sebu, South Cotabato. The moon then bade farewell. The sun’s rays woke me up hugging me with its warmth. I peeked through the window and I saw serenity.
The Cultureight adventurers got up and fixed the pillows and blankets that were lent to us during the night.
Oyog “Maria” Todi, our host, greeted us with a warm smile. Maria is a mom, a teacher, and a leader in her community. She passes the traditions that she inherited from their ancestors through the School of Living Traditions.
I was overjoyed when the kids performed their unique dances to the beat of the t’nonggong and the rhythm of the hegelung. Thank God that their rich culture is still alive even in this age of digitization. Here’s a video which I took and reported as a feature on Inquirer.net back in 2009:
The Living Treasure
Aside from Maria, we met another T’boli whose life was dedicated in weaving dreams resulting to exotic designs of the T’nalak (T’boli cloth). Lang Dulay earned the National Commission for Culture and the Arts’ Gawad sa Manlilikha ng Bayan (National Living Treasure Award) in 1998 due to her unwavering service to her community.
We felt privileged to meet her in her hut where her students were weaving. Biologically, she’s old but her dedication makes her young. I asked her a few questions which her grandson translated. She spoke firmly and clearly in her native tongue. It may be foreign to me but I saw her sincerity. Here’s a transcript of my chat with her:
Trip@dora: Gaano kahalaga ang T’nalak sa buhay po ninyo? (How significant is T’nalak weaving in your life?)
Lang Dulay (as translated by her grandson): Walang saysay ang buhay ng isang babaeng T’boli kung hindi sila gumawa ng T’nalak mula noon hanggang ngayon. (Life has no meaning for a T’boli woman if she’s not weaving T’nalak. T’nalak weaving gives meaning to her life since then until now).
Her answer was short yet powerful. Indeed, their lives were weaved in preserving their culture and arts.
The Last Princess
What goes around, comes around. The good you do comes back to you. And this was what happened to Boi (Princess) Diwa Ofong, the T’boli princess who lives in Brgy. Lamdalag, Lake Sebu.
Despite being bedridden, the princess was still in her regal form adorned with gold trinkets. Her bed with canopy showed her royalty. She’s under the care of the 67 year-old Dway Lumen.
“She and the other people around me take care of me because of what I’ve done when I was still strong,” said the 76 year-old Boi Diwa as translated by Myrna Pula, the T’boli cluster head of the NCCA who assisted us.
We were surprised when Pula disclosed that Dway Lumen was the second wife of the Datu. It’s not telenovela but real life: The second wife takes care of the first wife. Wow! How selfless. Boundaries were broken. Boi Diwa didn’t say, “Ako legal wife!”
Pula related to us that Boi Diwa is a heroine of women and a champion of peace.
“She used to be a peacemaker and a community advisor when she was still strong. She settled disputes in the community,” shared Pula.
Lake Sebu was so rich not only with its natural resources but also with its culture. The stories of these women were inspiring. My immersion with the T’bolis totally changed my perspective about Mindanao as a war-torn area as mistakenly mentioned by some journalists in the media. Generalizing the whole island was so wrong.
Serenity lives in Lake Sebu, South Cotabato, the home of the peace-loving T’bolis.
This is my entry to the 13th Pinoy Travel Bloggers’ Blog Carnival this November, entitled, “Mindanao Bliss” and hosted by Olan Emboscado of TheTravelTeller.
Special thanks to Ms. Charisse Aquino Tugade of Cultureight.com for inviting us to experience a different side of Mindanao.