Of the thousands of islands that make up the Philippine Archipelago, the grouping of islands in the south, known as Mindanao, is the largest and contains one of the Philippines most important watersheds, Lake Sebu. Surrounded by rainforests, the shores and mountain slopes around this vital lake are home to many significant tribal groups. The T'boli are known for their extraordinary woven fabrics, embroidery, beadwork and brassware are one of the last remaining tribes whose customs and traditions are still preserved.
Among the many tribal groups in the Philippines, the T'boli are renowned for their personal adornment, and heir tribal ethos includes strong philosophies about the importance of beauty. They can be recognized by their distinct and colorful clothing made of t’nalak, a specially woven earth-tone cloth covered with bright embroidery, and their many body adornments consisting of jewelry, headdresses, tattoos and facial ornamentation. Because they consider white teeth unattractive, they embellish theirs with tree bark sap and occasionally gold. Women wear fancy hairdos with combs and beads and, during travel and farming, a large circular hat made of woven bamboo and vibrantly colored fabrics.
The T'boli is an animistic society with an extensive pantheon, which includes mythical animals and gods of nature with great powers. Their dance and music are expressions of their elaborate customs and belief system.
Photo by RJ Muna
Madal is a T’boli word for dance. Madal Blelah portrays a mythical bird, which according to tradition, consolidates in itself the feather coloration of all known birds.
In farming or traveling, the S’loong Knebang, wide-brimmed hat, veiled-over with an appliquéd red cloth, is worn to protect against the glare of the sun.
A polygamous male picks his next wife amongst sisters vying for his attention.
Translated as a traditional dance this is dance drama centering on a bird with a broken leg coached by the rest of the flock in an effort to try her wings and fly again, in the end the flock of Blelah birds fly again.
The eldest daughter is assisted by her sisters to pick from her suitors or a preparation for a wedding.
In T’boli means “never ending joy” and also named as their yearly festival held every November to celebrate their rich culture and traditions.