T’nalak or tinalak is a hand-woven textile made from the abaca plant. This is a traditional tapestry by the ethnic group called T’bolis in South Cotabato in Mindanao. This cloth does not only serve as a decorative material but it expresses the warm welcome and honour to guests and signifies the status of the owner.
On my visit to Lake Sebu, I really made it appoint to see the weaving of tinalak. I was informed by the locals that I should go and visit Lang Dulay. They put up a center for the tinalak weaving where guests can drop by to see it. By the time I went there I met people from the National Commission for Culture and the Arts (NCCA). They were documenting the step by step process of the weaving. I was so fortunate to have met Lang Dulay who was declared as National Living Treasure or Manlilikha ng Bayan Awardee by NCCA. She is already old and one of her duties and responsibilities as an awardee is to teach her craft. There were several women helping each other weave. Some were her grandchildren.
The weavers only use vegetable dyes and pigments from roots and barks of trees that will give that color to the tinalak. As it maybe observed that there are complex patterns designed in the tinalak and requires good skill in weaving techniques. One meter of tinalak textile takes about months to finish. They also call themselves as dreamweavers because they work without preliminary designs but create their designs from their dreams and from patterns handed down to them.
I had an encounter of another tinalak weaving in Tagum where the T’bolis participated in the Indigenous Peoples’ Month celebration. They showcased some of the tailor-made polos, chalecos and pants made from tinalak cloth. There were also items such as bags and wallets exhibited made from this textile. Its truly a prized cloth for its versatility and it is being featured in the new 1,000 peso bill.
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