T’nalak Festival: Celebrating 45 Years of Great Cultures and Dreams

It was serendipity that brought me back to South Cotabato this July, as the province celebrates its 45th year as a province through street dance, merry making and other activities in the T’nalak Festival. Good thing that Enrico Dee of Byahilo gave me that idea of attending T’nalak, since it’ll be my first Mindanaoan festival to attend with. Of course, the main event was held on the 18th of July, the province’s founding anniversary and I was expecting the street dance competition which showcases the best of the great three cultures of Mindanao: the Kristyanos (Christian migrant settlers), the Moros (the Muslims), and the Lumads (the animist indigenous peoples). The festival was named after T’nalak, the famed cloth of the T’boli women made from abaca. Strong yet durable and light, its designs were believed to have come from the dreams of the weavers, seemingly a communication between the living world and their ancestors. It became one of South Cotabato’s immortal icons.

The Christian pioneers from Luzon and Visayas dreamed of a better life, hence General Paulino Santos led them to the "Land of Promise"

The Vibrant Colors of Mindanao

Waking up very early at Davao City, I went to Ecoland and started my four-hour journey to Marbel, that’s Koronadal City in its local name, passing by Gensan. Reaching the bus terminal in Marbel, I immediately rushed towards the Roundball, where the street dance parade is. Good thing manong tricycle driver was fast and honest! It was crowded yet it was loosely secure and somehow manageable unlike the bigger crowds in Sinulog, Dinagyang or MassKara. I was able to catch up!

Flowers and swirls of the Kristyano settlers. This tribe (the champion for this year) is reminiscent of Sinulog

The parade of the T'boli People and the famed bling-blings

Waaah! The fierce B'laan warrior spirit!

The street dancing competition was divided into three categories, each representing the three great cultures that are present in South Cotabato: Kasadyahan sa Kapatagan (Merrymaking in the plains) – which is composed of contingents performing cultural street dance of the Kristyano settlers; Second is the Kasagayan a Lalan (Maguindanaoan) – which depicts the vibrant culture of the Moro people; and lastly, Madal Be’Lan which depicts the Lumad (particularly of the T’boli and B’laan peoples) indigenous culture.

The B'laan Male warriors

The B'laan women

With All T'boli Glory

Since my time was short, I head on to Alunan Avenue, near the capitol, where the street dancing competition gives a brief preview of the showdown that would be happening later in the afternoon—which unfortunately I wasn’t able to attend due to time constraints (I would be flying from Davao that day, so it’s another 4 hour ride back).

B'laan rituals

Carrying the weight of the world

B'laan Couple

Being a first timer in a Mindanaoan festival, I was looking forward for T’nalak’s Madal Be’Lan which depicts the folklore, the story and the culture of South Cotabato’s indigenous peoples, most especially the T’bolis with their T’nalak cloth and bling blings, and the B’laan’s cool blue dress and shirts. The contingents danced in the tune of tradition amidst spectacle. Although simple yet it gives the most authentic cultural performance that truly depicts South Cotabato’s trademark.


Scarlet Wings of B'laan

Fighter spirit!

Kasagayan a Lalan would be the most colorful among all of the categories, given the vibrant colours that the Moro (particularly Maguindanaoans) have in their culture. Like Madal Be’Lan, it depicts the life, culture and traditions through dance and drum (and kulintang) beats of the Moros, particularly the Maguindanaoan group (which was the dominant Moro group in Cotabato provinces). It is a grand sight to behold indeed.

The T'boli Utopia

I am Fierce!

The Kristyano's turn for devotion

The askal (street dog) enters...hey, he might have been their lucky charm. After all, this group won for the Kristyano category!

Finally, Kasadyahan sa Kapatagan depicts the life, culture and tradition of the Kristyanos, particulary the predominant Ilonggo, Ilocano, Bisaya and other Kristyano peoples. The mix of rhythm influenced by their origins north of Mindanao completes the tapestry that gives the full character of unity amidst diversity that the province of South Cotabato has.

The devotion of the Moros to Allah

And the hands...

The orange, the purple and the yellow malongs

Awww, they're sweet!

T’nalak Festival was born twelve years ago as part of the celebration of the founding anniversary of South Cotabato Province. The need for an effective management in a growing area led the establishment of the said province in 18th July 1966, separating from its mother province of Cotabato (old timers’ use the term “Empire Province of Cotabato” since bulk of Soccsksargen and Maguindanao came from it). Never neglecting the importance of harmony in creating a livable and progressive province, South Cotabato managed to thread its way towards prosperity amidst the conflict that torn its neighboring provinces during the 1960s to 1980s.

Kanami! Koronadal! Smiles bring joy!

Go girl!

The flying colours bade farewell (and so was their championship, they're now 1st runner up)

In my opinion, T’nalak Festival is the epitome of the people, the culture and the history of South Cotabato. Struggling to keep the balance, harmonizing the seemingly impossible, and the people of this land stood and fought. Understanding the whole history itself is as complicated as the cloth that is T’nalak. One has to wear it, or one has to appreciate its beauty of its abstractness and one has to understand how this perfect cloth from the dreams of the people became a perfect symbol of a unity amidst diversity of cultures, faith and ideas. South Cotabato has a history and culture of people whose dreams of prosperity and strength geared them towards peace and progress, in which they are benefiting now.

While waiting...uhm, sir hot gas? :D

Ang init teh!

If you like to have an introduction of Mindanao’s great history and culture, and understanding the whole tapestry, the controversy, the life, and the culture of its people, T’nalak Festival gives you a window of its vibrancy.

Looking forward! Ever forward South Cotabato!

That is why, Kenbong Nawahu South Cotabato! (I love South Cotabato in T’boli)

By the way, here are the winners of the street dancing competition, courtesy of the South Cotabato Provincial Government Information Centre:

Kadsagayan A Lalan

  • 2nd  Runner-up-  Purok Sison Elementary School of Surallah
  • 1st Runner-up – Norala National High School
  • Champion -  Notre Dame of Sto. Niño

Madal Be’Lan competition

  • 2nd Runner-up - Sta. Cruz Mission School of Lake Sebu
  • 1st Runner-up- Lugan Elementary School of T’boli
  • Champion - Liberty National High School of Tampakan

Kasadyahan sa kapatagan

  • 2nd Runner-up - San Jose High School of Banga
  • 1st runner-up -Saravia National High School of Koronadal City
  • Champion -Tupi National High School
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5 comments to T’nalak Festival: Celebrating 45 Years of Great Cultures and Dreams

  • enrico

    ahay wala ko nadayun sa tnalak :( i hope to be there next year

  • Bernie

    Thanks Habagat! Maayo pa ka kay naka witness ug T’nalak. I also saw your pictures in the skyscrapercity. Nice pics bro!

  • Thanks! Actually it was more of serendipty and unexpected man ang pagpunta ko sa T’nalak. :D

  • nanardz

    ganda ng mga pictures po, do you agree ganda talaga ng province namin? hehe hope you can come again next year.. more power!

  • I always go there whenever I have an opportunity. I was enamoured by South Cotabato when I was in college, to the point that my thesis was all about knowing Soccsksargen’s past, even if I was Iloilo based. Now, the province still allures me which I couldn’t explain why my frequent travels there.

    And my relatives on my father side, both grandpa and grandma are all over the place! Hehe! So no problem wherever I can sleep…may it be Marbel or Polomolok. Hehe! :D

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July 2011
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