Before the fusion of local weaves and modern design became a trend, my uncle (my mother’s elder brother) has been bringing us t’nalak, the fabric woven by indigenous T’boli tribe of Lake Sebu. Because of the many tales of my uncle, I have always wanted to visit the majestic Lake Sebu to see for myself the beauty he always sing of.
Lake Sebu is less than an hour ride from Banga, South Cotabato. Lake Sebu is actually a town, and it is a lake town because Lake Sebu the lake is not the only lake in town. Lake Sebu is a protected area and is the ancestral home of the T’bolis. There remains lush vegetation and forests and on our way to the Seventh Falls (of seven falls, of course), we saw an eagle and monkeys freely moving around. I was expecting Lake Sebu to be untouristy but I was wrong. I don’t know if it’s a bad thing or not, but modern developments such as roads (good roads) have paved for easy access to the natural wonders of the mountainous town.
After spending most of our morning at the Seventh Falls where my cousins rode the zipline and while my grandma and I were souvenir shopping, we went to a resort at Lake Seloton to have lunch. Much of the lake is unnavigable because of the fish pens but the resort we had lunch at had a small space of water that can still be navigated by a kayak. I do not eat tilapia but the resort was a good choice because the tilapia dishes we ordered were actually really delicious. After lunch, we proceeded to the main event — Lake Sebu, a short ride away from Lake Seloton. But before hopping onto our vehicle, I managed to buy myself a T’boli coffee from the Lake Seloton resort’s counter. For P100, I would say their coffee was actually really delicious.
At the Lake Sebu resort, we had to wait for some time for our turn in the tour boat but I did not really mind the wait because of other interesting things in the resort. I browsed their souvenir shop for t’nalak bags. We also watched a group of T’boli kids dance their traditional dance and sip a cup of T’boli coffee.
The T’bolis are an ethnic mountainous tribe. Lake Sebu is often referred to as the Land of the Dreamweavers because the t’nalak is based on patterns of the weaver’s dreams. Haute Couture has a detailed article on t’nalak. Lourdes Manzano also wrote a detailed background on the T’bolis for the National Commission on Culture and Arts. When we visited, it was a peaceful time and everything seemed to be in a lull. It was January, the weather was cooler, and it was also a Sunday, a day when most Filipinos rest. But I am also aware that the T’bolis are facing problems brought about by modernization (overfishing of lakes, illegal logging, armed conflict) and while cruising around Lake Sebu I could only hope that those dreams be hopeful and that the T’bolis continue to weave those dreams.
Porras, R.E., and Buot, I., (2016), “Profiling Lake Sebu and the Indigenous Community in the Vicinity,” J. Wetlands Biodiversity, 6:85.96. http://www.muzeulbrailei.ro/images/naturale/Volum%206/08JWB201668596.pdf