THE muddy trail leads one up to a mountain-top village of T’nuos in Takunel, Lake Sebu, South Cotabato. The mountains seem to touch the clouds in T’nuos, the high ground overlooking Lake Sebu and which is home to indigenous families belonging to the T’boli tribe.

Subsisting on rootcrops, vegetables,bananas, corn and other crops that abound in their mountain abode, T’boli women augment their meager family income by weaving the well-known T’nalak. A fine clothing made from abaca fiber, T’nalak exemplifies one of the trademarks of the T’boli tribal art and culture in a way that blends with nature.

Maryjane Lumba leads the T’boli women’s group in T’nuos, and together they weave T’nalak to support family needs. “Weaving T’nalak needs patience and focus. The fine cloth produced is worth the sacrifice,” she said in local dialect.

“Finished products from T’nlak would be sold in Marbel, General Santos and Davao. A minimal volume of T’nalak-based products also find their way to some souvenir shops locally and even abroad,” Maryjane disclosed.

A weaver can finish a 4 feet by 8 feet T’nalak in eight days, with a selling price of about PhP500 to PhP1,500 pesos per meter.”The income from T’nalak will already augment what an average T’boli family needs,” Maryjean said. “Bags and souvenir items made from T’nalak commands a good price even in the local market,” she added. Aside from T’nalak cloth, T’boli women also produce mats, baskets, handicrafts and some brass products.

However, the distance between the village and the nearest local market poses a challenge to the Tboli women. “Accessing competitive local markets for T’nalak has been a challenge to us, but this did not prevent us from finding ways to establish our presence,” Anita Castillon, one of the officers, disclosed.

A win in the recent BiD (Business in Development) Challenge competition boosted T’boli women’s positive chances in the market. The project being led by the Philippine Business for Social Progress (PBSP) has put the T’nalak and T’boli women’s enterprise in the global perspective of business and development. The cash prize of PhP100,000 pesos provided by Citi Foundation has been a great help to the T’boli women as they try to find new ways of improving their products.

Positive change is within their reach as T’boli women in T’nuos pursue weaving the T’’nalak to augment family income and meet basic necessities. Their legendary perseverance and patience never fails to bear results, and winning the Challenge is but another step towards a better life together. (Danny Escabarte/PBSP)

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