July is the most festive month of the year for South Cotabato as it celebrates its foundation anniversary and the T’nalak Festival. But for the Tboli indigenous women who create the revered T’nalak cloth where the festival name is attributed, it is just like any other month where one has to weave for art and for a living.
For Barbara K. Ofong, one of the few living Tboli master weavers of T’nalak, an abaca-based cloth with unique and intricate geometric designs in prominently red and black colors, in the scenic Lake Sebu town, July is no different from the usual days. Tnalak na gina himo ko sir halin dose anyos ko, amu na ni kabuhi ko bisan ano nga bulan (I’ve been weaving T’nalak since I was 12, this has been my life no matter the month), she said in broken Hiligaynon dialect in a shy voice. Tbolis have their own dialect but Hiligaynon is widely used as a medium in the province.