by: Faye Velasco
The Tboli, also known as T'boli, Tiboli, and Tagabili, are an old indigenous people
living in South Cotabato, where the southwest coast range and the Cotabato Cordillera
merge to form the Tiruray highlands, in an area circumscribed by a triangle
formed by the town of Suralla, Polomolok, and Kiamba. Located within these
boundaries are three major lakes which are important to the Tboli: Sebu, the
largest and the most culturally significant; Siluton, the deepest; and Lahit,
Population estimates of the Tboli range from a low of 100,000 to a high of 227,000 (NCCP-PACT 1988). The 1980 census gives a figure of 7,783 Tboli-speaking households, comprising an estimated total of 38,915 Tboli. The National Museum census, as of November 1991 in South Cotabato, records 68, 282 Tboli.
The Tboli, according to their myths, are descendants of La Bebe and La Lomi, and Tamfeles and La Kagef, two couples that survived a big flood after being warned by the deity Dwata to take precautions. Taking a huge bamboo that could accommodate countless people, they filled the vessel with food. When Mt Hulon was inundated, the four got into the bamboo while the rest of the population drowned in the swollen waters. When the floods subsided and the days grew warm, the fortunate couples split the bamboo open and emerged into the sunlight.
La Kagef and Tamfeles begot 12 sons and daughters: Sudot Henok and Nayong who begot the tau sequil (lowlanders); Dodom and Eva who begot the tau mohin, the sea-dwellers from Kiamba; Bou and Umen who begot the tau sebu, the uplanders of Lake Sebu and Sinulon; La Bila and Moong who begot the Bilaan of Tupi; Dugo and Sewen who begot the Ubu (Manobo); and Kmanay and Sodi who begot the people who became Muslims. From the loins of La Bebe and La Lomi sprang the Ilongo and other Visayan groups, the Ilocano, and the Tagalog.
Anthropologists say that the Tboli could be of Austronesian stock. It is believed that they were already, to some degree, agricultural and used to range the coasts up to the mountains. With the arrival of later groups, however, these people were gradually pushed to the uplands.
There is reasonable speculation, however, that the Tboli, along with the other upland groups, used to inhabit parts of the Cotabato Valley until the advent of Islam in the region, starting in the 14th century. The Tboli and their Ubu (Manobo) and Bilaan neighbors resisted the aggressive proselytizing of a succession of Muslim warrior-priests, the greatest of whom was Sharif Muhammad Kabungsuan from Johore in present-day Malaysia, who subsequently established the sultanate of Maguindanao during the late 15th and early 19th centuries.
Muslim oral accounts called tarsila claim that those who accepted the new faith remained in the Cotabato Valley, while the others retreated to the relative safety and isolation of the mountains (Saleeby 1974:184-193).
Conflict between the Muslims and the non-Islamized tribes continued with constant slaving raids by the former upon the later. It is no wonder then that in Tboli folk literature, the Muslims figure as perennial villains. Nevertheless, a regular volume of trade emerged despite the strained relations.
The fierce resistance of the Muslims against Spanish incursions served to insulate the Tboli from contact with Christianity and Spanish colonization. Only when the Americans were able to bring the Muslims under their sway, through a combination of military prowess and civil and religious accommodation, did Christian elements penetrate Cotabato and subsequently the hinterlands. Instrumental in this development was the collaboration of Datu Piang of the Maguindanao, whose family was to exercise considerable political power over the region during the American regime.
In 1913, 13,000 ha of the Cotabato Valley were opened up for settlement and the first waves of Christians arrived. The trickle of immigrants gradually increased into major streams of Christians, especially from the Ilocano, Tagalog, and Visayan regions, when the Philippine government, in an effort to alleviate land pressures and arrest the concomitant rise of revolutionary movements in Luzon and the Visayas, opened up 50,000 ha in Koronadal Valley for homesteading in 1938. From February 1939 to October 1950, 8,300 families were resettled by the National Land Settlement Agency.
These migrations adversely affected the Tboli. In the wake of homesteaders came commercial ranching, mining, and logging interests. Armed with land grants and timber licenses, these entities increasingly encroached upon the Tboli homelands and disenfrachised those who had resided on the land since time immemorial, but who, not having access to the instruments of ownership recognized by the Philippine government, did not obtain legal protection from the latter.
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Religious Beliefs and Practices
The Tboli's supreme deities are a married couple, Kadaw La Sambad, the sun god, and Bulon La Mogoaw, the moon goddess. They reside in the seventh heaven. They beget seven sons and daughters who end up marrying each other. Cumucul, the eldest son, is given a cohort of fire, a tok (sword), and shield. Cumucul is married to Boi Kabil. Sfedat, the second son, is married to the second daughter, Bong Libun. This marriage produces no progeny, leading to Sfedat's despondency. One day, he asks his wife to kill him. His corpse becomes the land from which sprout all kinds of plants and trees. Dwata, the third son, is married to two of his sisters, Sedek We and Hyu We. His request for one of the powers granted Cumucul is refused. Thus, he leaves the sky with his wives and seven children from Hyu We: Litik, the god of thunder; Blanga, the god of stones and rocks; Teme Lus, the god of wild beasts; Tdolok, the god of death; Ginton, the god of metallurgy; Lmugot Mangay, the god of life and of all growing things; and Fun Bulol, the god of the mountains; and six from Sedek We. For a place to stay, he asks Bong Libun for the land that was once Sfedat's body. Bong Libun agrees on the condition that she marry one of his sons. Dwata spreads the land, and plants the trees and other vegetation; the result is the earth.
The first people are created after Dwata breathes life into the clay figurines made by Hyu we and Sedek We. When Dwata does not fulfill his side of the bargain with Bong Libun, because his sons will not have her as wife, Bong Libun marries her youngest brother Datu Bnoling. With him she has seven sons, who become scourges of the earth: Fun Knkel, god of fever; Fun Daskulo, god of head diseases; Fun Lkef, god of colds; Fun Kumuga, god of eye afflictions; Fun Blekes, god of skin disease; and Fun Lalang, god of baldness. To alleviate the damage done by these scourges, the divine couple Loos Klagan and La Fun assume the role of healers.
One of the most influential figures in the Tboli pantheon is the muhen, a bird considered the god of fate, whose song when heard is thought to presage misfortune. Any undertaking is immediately abandoned or postponed when one hears the muhen sing.
The Tboli also believe in busao (malevolent spirits) which wreak havoc on the lives of human beings, thus causing misfortune and illness. Desu or propitiatory offering of onuk bukay (white chicken) or sedu (pig) are made to placate or gain favors from these evil spirits. Tboli rites are normally presided over by a morally upright elder who is proficient in Tboli tradition. Often enough, the datu themselves preside.
To the Tboli, all objects house a spirit. They continually strive to gain the good graces of these spirits by offering them little gifts. Before crossing a river, for example, they may throw a ring. If spirits or gods need to be appeased, the Tboli make desu or offerings, which may consist of cooked food, the agong, and the kafilan (sword).
The Tboli afterlife has several destinations. Murder victims and warriors slain in battle go to a place called kayong, where everything is red. Entry into kayong is announced by the sound of agong, klintang, hagalong (guitar), and dwegey (violin). Thunder and lightning during a burial signify a spirit's entry into kayong. Suicides go to kumawing, where everything sways and swings. Victims of drowning become citizens of the sea. Those who die of an illness go to Mogol, where day is night and night is day.
The Tboli welcome rain after a death, the belief being that the deceased has crossed the bridge to the afterlife with no intention of returning.
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Visual Arts and Crafts
Among the many ethnic groups in the Philippines, the Tboli stand out for their marked and characteristics penchant for personal adornment. This is evident in their costumes, body ornaments, hairstyle, and cosmetic practices. According to Tboli belief, the gods created man and woman to look attractive so that they would be drawn to each other and procreate.
Tboli women learn the skills of looking beautiful from an early age. It is not uncommon to see five or six-year-old girls fully made-up, like their elder sisters and mothers. Eyebrows are plucked and painted and a mtal hifi or beauty spot is placed on one cheek. The face is powdered with a mix composed predominantly of lime, and the lips are enhanced in color from the fruit of a tree. Tboli women wear a traditional hairdo with the hair parted laterally along the axis of the ears. The hair along the from is allowed to fail in bangs over the woman's brow, with some tufts allowed to hang loosely along the cheeks, and the rest pulled backward and tied into a bun at the nape. A suwat or comb is stuck across the back of the woman's head. Tboli women are not satisfied with one earring in each ear. The more earrings, the better. Thus their ears are pierced not only on the lobes but also along the outer rim.
Tboli men and women regard white teeth as ugly, fit only for animals. Thus the Tboli practise tamblang, in which they file their teeth into nihik or regular shapes and blacken them with the sap of a wild tree bark such as silob or olit. To indicate their wealth, prominent Tboli, such as a datu or his wife, adorn their teeth with gold, a practice adopted from the Muslims.
Tboli have themselves tattooed from not just for vanity but because they believe tattoos glow after death and light the way into the next world. Men have their forearms and chests tattooed with bakong (stylized animal) and hakang (human) designs, or blata (fern) and ligo bed (zigzag) patterns. The women have their calves, forearms, and breasts tattooed in this manner.
Another form of body décor is scarification achieved by applying live coals onto the skin. The more scars a man has, the braver he is considered to be.
The Tboli woman has different attires for different occasions. While working in the fields, she wears a kgal taha soung, a plain black or navy blue long-sleeved collarless waist-length, tight-fitting blouse, with a luwek, an ankle-length tube skirt worn like a malong. For everyday wear, she has a choice of the kgal bengkas, along-sleeved blouse open at the front, with 3-cm wide red bands sewn crosswise onto the back and around the cuffs and upper sleeves; or the kgal nisif, a more elaborately decorated blouse, embroidered with cross-stitched animal or human designs, and geometric patterns rendered in red, white, and yellow, with bands of zigzag and other designs. She completes her wardrobe with a fan de, a skirt of red or black cloth, nowadays bought from the lowlanders. For formal wear, she has a kgal binsiwit, an embroidered blouse with 1-cm triangular shell spangles. This is matched by the tredyung, a black pinstripe linen skirt. The binsiwit is usually worn during weddings.
The Tboli use of body ornaments definitely follows the idea that "more is better." A pair of earrings is certainly not enough. They have to wear several sets. She has a choice of wearing the kawat, simple brass rings; the bketot, a round mirror, 1.5 cm in diameter, surrounded by small colored glass beads; the nomong, a chandelier-type earring consisting of nine to 12 10-cm lengths of brass interspersed with horsehair links having little clusters of multicolored glass bead at the end; and the bkoku, which is composed of 5-cm long triangular pearly nautilus shells which dangle over the woman's shoulders.
A characteristic ornament that stands out is the kowol or beklaw, a combination of earring and necklace. It consists of several strands of tiny, multicolored glass beads, suspended gracefully under the chin, from the left earlobe to the right. From the bottom strand of beads dangle about 7.5-cm lengths of black horsehair links with 2.5-cm of brass links at each midsection and clusters of tiny, multicolored glass beads at the ends. These individual lengths of chain are suspended vertically, next to one another so that the jaws and chin of the woman appear to be framed by some delicate and exotic veil.
There are three types of necklaces: the hekef, a 3-cm wide choker of red, white and black beads, with occasional yellows; the lmimot, ranging in thickness from an adult's thumb to a child's wrist, and consisting of attached strands of red, white, and black glass beads; and the lieg, a necklace made of double- or triple-linked brass chains fringed with pea-size multi-colored glass beads and hawkbells, often tasseled with more of the same. Most lieg are heirlooms passed from mother to daughter, and much valued.
The hilot or girdle comes in several varieties. The ordinary hilot is a chain-mail belt with a width of 5-7 cm and 10 cm lengths of chain dangling side by side along the entire lower edge of the belt. The front is adorned with two 5.7-cm square buckles entirely covered by characteristic Tboli designs. The hilot can weigh from 2-3 kg. To the ordinary hilot may be attached hawkbells or tnoyong at the end of each dangling chain length. This makes the wearer swish and tinkle as she walks.
The hilot lmimot is different from the generic hilot in that it is made of solid, unremitting beadwork in red, white, black, and yellow, rather than brass chain mail. Tnoyong finish off each of the 10-cm dangling strands of beads into a bravura of color and design.
There are two types of brass bracelets: the blonso, around 6 cm thick and 8 mm in diameter, 15 to 20 of which are loosely worn at the wrist; and the kala, thicker than the blonso and worn tightly around five to an arm.
Like the bracelets, there are anklets that are worn tightly on the calves, 5-cm flat black bands called the tugul. There are those which are worn loosely, called the singkil, of which there are three types: singkil linti, 10 cm in diameter and 6-10 mm thick with simple geometric ornamentation; singkil babat, a more ornately decorated version of the singkil linti, using cord and zigzag designs in high relief along the outer edge; and singkil slugging, 15 mm thick but hollow and filled with tiny pebbles which make it rattle softly. Their external surface is decorated all over.
Tsing or rings are worn insets of five on each finger and toe, often with the brass rings alternated by carabao-horn rings. The rings can be plain or compound bands with simple triangular ornamentation.
Crowning the Tboli woman's head are the combs which come in several varieties, four of which are the suwat blakang, made of bamboo; suwat tembuku, a short comb decorated with a piece of mirror as the central decorative motif; suwat lmimot, a short comb decorated with colored glass beads; and suwat hanafak, made of brass. Aside from combs, Tboli women's headgear include the kayab, a turban formerly made of abaca; but Tboli women have taken to wearing "Cannon" towels on their heads acquired from lowlanders' sari-sari or variety stores. In this item, no "traditional" colors are followed; they acquire the most wildly colorful towels.
For farmwork or traveling, slaong kinibang is worn, a round salakot (wide-brimmed hat) 50 cm in diameter woven with bamboo strips and entirely covered by a geometric patchwork or red, white, and black cloth, each hat always unique and original. Underneath, the slaong kinibang is lined with red cloth that hangs down along the sides and back when worn, to protect the wearer from the sun's glare. Some slaong are decorated with two long bands of fancy beadwork with horsehair tassels at the ends. Known as bangat slaong, these are worn on special occasions.
While the women retain much of their traditional costumes, Tboli men don their costumes only on special occasions. They ordinarily go about in shirts and trousers like any rural Filipino. Their traditional costume, which is made of abaca, consists of the kgal saro, a long-sleeved, tight-fitting collarless jacket; and the sawal taho, a knee or ankle-length pair of pants the waist-section of which extends up to the shoulders, secured with an abaca band along the waist and made to fall, like a small skirt, covering the hips and upper thighs.
The men's headgear range from the simple olew or turban, to the slaong naf, a conical but very flat hat decorated with simple geometric designs in black and white, done on woven bamboo strips and topped by a fundu or decorative glass or brass knob. The inside lining is woven rattan. The slaong fenundo is less flat than the slaong naf, with a cross section resembling a squat tudor arch; it is made of straw-colored, even thread-thick, nitolike material sewn down in black, minute, even stitches.
Part of the accoutrements of the Tboli male is the hilot from which his kafilan (sword) is suspended. A datu often wears the angkul, a sash of thick cloth that is a mark of authority.
Tboli missile weapon are generally made of yantok (rattan) and bamboo, and tipped with brass arrowheads or spearheads. While there are special applications for the different types of bows and spears, these are not usually decorated.
It is in their bladed weapons that the Tboli focus their decorative skills. The sudeng or swords have long blades and hilts made of hardwood called bialong. The types of sudeng are the lanti, whose brass hilt is ornamented with geometric designs and 5-cm lengths of chain with tnoyong or hawkbells attached to their ends; the tedeng, which has no decoration; the kafilan, a bolo-like sword; and the tok, which, because of certain ritual associations, is the most decorated of Tboli sudeng. The tok has a 60-70 cm single-edged blade decorated with geometric designs, and a richly ornamented hilt with 5-cm lengths of chain attached to its edge, with hawkbells at their ends. The tok's scabbard is made of wood held together by three to four metal bands. A geometric design is etched on the black surface, which is highlighted by the wood's natural light color. Tboli kabaho or knives are as richly decorated as the tok and come in a variety of shapes and sizes.
The Tboli metalcraft tradition distinguishes Tboli culture and is linked to Ginton, the god of metalwork, who occupies a stellar place in the Tboli pantheon. The Tboli, however, give no indication of having ever possessed any knowledge of mining their own metals. Whatever metal there is to work on comes from scraps that the Tboli manage to get. Thus, in the case of brass or bronze, there are no standard alloy proportions. Copper was once obtained from one centavo coins, while steel came from the springs of trucks abandoned along some highway in the lowlands.
The Tboli forge of gunu lumubon has afos lubon (bellows) made of bamboo cylinders 70 cm high and 15 cm in diameter, which have rattan pistons fitted with chicken feathers at the end of each piston head. Air comes from a 5-cm diameter bamboo section attached to the bottom of the afos lubon; held at the other end by the kotong lubon are stones which surround the furnace. The tau masool (smith) tempers the metal in this furnace and beats this with a solon (hammer) on a lendasan (anvil).
After the initial forging, the blades are honed and polished with whetstones and further tempered over the fire. Once the basic blade is complete, it is decorated with brass or copper inlays or etched with geometric designs.
For artifacts with more intricate designs such as sword hilts, betel nut boxes, girdle buckles, anklets, and hawkbells, the cire-perdue or lost-wax method is used. Beeswax is applied over a clay core until the desired thickness is achieved; this ranges from 1-3 mm. The designs of rows of uniform triangles, double-spirals (s-shaped), cord-bands, and other geometric figures are impressed in the overall design. Once completed, this snofut (model) is covered with fine clay, leaving only an outlet that flares out through the clay. This is left to dry and harden for five days, after which it is fired and the molten wax poured out through the outlet. Molten brass or bronze is then poured into this nifil or clay mold. The metal is then allowed to cool, after which the nifil is broken, revealing the finished artifact.
The third major area of Tboli metalwork consists of bracelets and solid anklets and the chainmail for the hilot worn by the women. This is made by drawing a superheated olo or raw bronze bar through a gono hagalus (metal gradator) with holes of varying diameters to produce wires of different gauges, from the thick diameters of the ornament desired.
A recent product of the metalwork tradition is the Tboli figurine. Developed through the same old cire perdue process, these 7.5-10-cm statuettes portray Tboli men and women in their characteristic attires, and engaged in typical chores.
Tboli weaving is another skill that has been raised to the level of art. Their traditional cloth, the tnalak is made of krungon (abaca fiber) extracted from, the mature, fruit-bearing, wild abaca. Each fiber is carefully dried in the sun and stretched on the gono smoi, a comblike wooden frame with teeth pointing up, to preserve the length and silkiness of each fiber.
After all of the fibers have been neatly smoothed out, they are transferred to the bed, a 50-400 cm bamboo frame, onto which they are evenly and closely spread, one just next to the other, as in a loom. These are held evenly in place by the tdalai (wooden bar) laid across, and directly over the fiber, which will be set in this exact position (in relation to one another) once the dyeing process would have been finished, this being the warp of the cloth to be woven. It is while the fiber is evenly stretched on the bed that the traditional Tboli designs are knotted into them according to the tie-dye technique.
The areas of these fibers (warp) that must remain free from dye, are covered with little individual lendek (knots), tied with separate pieces of thread treated with wax, so that when the woof is immersed in the dye, only the exposed parts are dyed. This lasts for weeks, as knot after knot is tied into place. Tboli women do not sketch or draw the design on the warp before them but merely follow a mental picture of a traditional design. Symmetry and distance are indicated and checked out in the process by the following measurements: dangaw, a hand span, from tip of thumb to tip of the little finger when extended; gulem sigu, a cubit from middle finger to elbow; gulem imak, a yard, the distance between the armpit and the tip of the same arm's middle finger; and difu, the span between the tips of the middle fingers of both extended arms.
At the end of this stage, the fibers stretched on the bed look as if it were entirely covered by a tightly knit swarm of black ants. Theses are then removed from the frame for the actual dyeing.
Traditional Tboli tnalak has three colors: deep reddish-brown, black, and white. This means that all the reddish-brown and all the white sections of the design are protected within the innumerable individual knots, when the woof is boiled for the first time in red dye. The red dye does not alter the sections that have been previously dyed in black. The last step in the dyeing process-which might well last about three weeks-is the removal of the remaining set of knots which have all along protected the sections they covered, from both the black and the red dyes. The creamy-white natural abaca color of these sections is left as is. The dyed fiber (warp) is then given a final washing in the river.
The traditional vegetable dyes the Tboli use are color fast. The material to be dyed black is simply boiled in water with leaves of the knalum tree, and the material to be dyed red is similarly boiled in water with pieces of root from the loko tree. These dyes, the only two the Tboli know of, are permanent.
The dyed and dried fiber (warp) is now set on the gono mowol (backstrap loom) in the exact position that each fiber had occupied while stretched on the bed. The design is painstakingly dyed if it is to remain unaltered. One end of the gono-mowol is hitched to a post or a wall in the house and kept taut by the weaver's own weight as she reclines against a waist strap called a dlogong; this is slung onto the small of her back, and attached to her end of the warp.
The width of the Tboli pieces of tnalak varies according to the reach of the individual weaver's arm, as she sends the lungon or shuttle from right to left and left to right, weaving in the wood. According to an unalterable tradition, the thread (woof) fed by the lungon as it shuttles back and forth can only be black. Once the woof has been completely woven into the warp, the finished piece is rubbed with smaki (cuttle-fish bone) into its final, evenly corruscating gloss.
The weaving of the tnalak piece usually takes about a couple of months or more. A longer time is necessary for putting together the kumo, the typical Tboli blankets that play an important role at the moninum or marriage festivals. These kumo consist of three pieces of finished woven material, their edges stitched together, lengthwise, with the side bands, framing the rich medley of Tboli designs at the center.
As is typical in all tie-dyed material, both sides of Tboli cloth can serve as the front. The designs are exactly the same, stitch for stitch, on either side. Tnalak, however, is best appreciated not in strong, harsh light but in the soft half-light so typical of Tboli house interiors, where the designs come to life and pulsate with esoteric messages.
The framework for tnalak designs are normally interlocking zigzag, triangles, rhombuses, hexagons, chevrons, and other geometric patterns. Within this framework are varying motifs such as the kleng (crab), the saub, the kofi, and the gmayaw (bird-in-flight); the tofi (frog); the klung (shield); the sawo (snakeskin); and the bangala (person within the home pattern).
Samples of Tboli decorative painting may be found in the lungon of dead Tboli. The paintings reveal the nature of the deceased's occupation. If the dead was a farmer, the lungon would be festooned with pictures of rice, camote, corn, and farm implements. If the dead was a hulong kulo or poet, the lungon would be painted with representations of the moon and stars. If the dead was a metalworker, one would find solon (hammer), sufit (pincers), lendasan (anvil), and fire among the designs.
Tboli folk literature reflects the typical beliefs, customs, and traditions of their society. Practically every aspect of Tboli life is govened by folk beliefs and sayings. These proverbs are often based on non-sequiturs, and the non-Tboli who tries to decipher them might be perplexed. While cooking and eating, this is spoken:
Don't throw rice away,
Otherwise there will be a famine.
If you catch a wild boar, eat its heart,
Or you will never catch another.
and while planting:
Plant during low-tide,
Otherwise you will no have a harvest.
Lessons are taught through countless folktales. In "Ana ne Tau Bawik" (Ana and the Spirit of the Dead), the husband learns never to leave his pregnant wife alone to the wiles of the busao; in "Walo Nga Libun" (Eight Maidens), "Bulol Hulon" (Mount Hulon), "Oko ne Ye'en" (Oko and His Mother), "Kwaay," "Kramel," and "Krongoy," the children are taught methods of hunting.
The Tboli folktale "Why Animals Are Afraid of People" explains the relationship of animals and human beings. There was once a time when the people did not have to hunt because a wise man, Heye We befriended the animals and convinced them to share some of their meat with people. This the animals did by allowing Heye We to slice off portions of their flesh. But one day, an evil man, Sidek We, begain killing the animals because he wanted to eat all of their meat. Despite the animals' pleas, Sidek We would not listen. Afraid for their lives, the animals ran away form the forest, and from then on, human beings had to hunt them.
Another story excoriating greed is about a prosperous but selfish male witch, Mekeen, who had a big farm planted to rice, camote, sugarcane, bananas, corn, taro, and other food crops. When a famine fell over the land, only Mekeen's farm had food. Not wanting to share his food, Mekeen surrounded his farm with deadly blatik or traps. The chieftain, named Tubra Logi, who could not bear to see the people starving, led them to Mekeen's farm, avoided the blatik, and ate the food. Angered, Mekeen cast a spell on Tubra Logi and his people, and forced them all into a sack. As Mekeen was bringing the sack to feed his family with the people inside, Tubra Logi's people felt sick and defecated what they had eaten in Mekeen's field. Later, they escaped through a hole in the sack. When Mekeen fed his family the remaining contents of the sack, they all fell sick and died. Tubra Logi and his people took over Mekeen's farms and lived happily ever after.
Although Tboli gods and goddess show all of the foibles and frailties of mortals, Tboli mythology and folktales inculcate Tboli values and deal with Tboli mores. One example is the treatment accorded Cumucul, the eldest of the sons of the supreme deities, Kadaw La Sambad and Bulon La Mogoaw. As the eldest, he is given his father's prized possessions: the cohort of fire; a sword and shield; and the magical horse, Kaunting, who can be as small as a mouse when not being ridden and who can be kept in a box. This reflects the honor given by the Tboli to eldest sons and the value they accord horses.
The epic Todbulol is the core of Tboli folk literature and the foundation on which Tboli identity rests. This epic, sung in its entirely only at important occasions, such as weddings, may last up to 16 hours, depending on the number of versions suns. Todbulol is normally sung through the night. The rapt Tboli listen to the singing of the epic in silence, with the children rapt in wonderment. Young girls shed tears of empathy as the epic unfolds and the singer continues into the night. There are spontaneous shouts of joy and admiration from the people.
The Tboli have a variety of musical instruments, including the tnonggong, a deerskin drum; the agong, 25-cm-40-cm diameter gongs exclusively played by the men; the klintang, a set of eight gongs played by men and women on festive occasions; the dwegey, a "violin" fashioned from a 50-cm long bamboo attached to a coconut shell at one end; the sloli, a bamboo flute; the kubing, a bamboo jew's harp; the few, a small horn made from a short section of rice stalk, around which a strip of palm leaf is wound in the form of a slender cone; the sludoy, a bamboo zither that consists of a section of bamboo with slivers excised lengthwise from, and at regular intervals, around its exteriors; and the hagalong, a long, slender, and spindle-shaped two-string guitar.
One of the hagalong's strings is for the melody while the other, called the drone, has a monotonous, trance-inducing sound. Strummed with a small, sharpened bamboo sliver, the hagalong's strings are made of abaca. The frets of the hagalong consist of small pieces of bamboo held upright with beeswax, and thus can be adjusted at will.
Through the hagalong, the Tboli convey ideas, emotions, and feelings. One good example of the instrument's versatility is found in "Ye Daddang," a tale of a woman hacked to death by a jealous husband, where the strings are made to imitate the argument of husband and wife. It ends with a plaintive lamentation of the wife's name, "Ye Daddang, Ye Daddang, Ye Daddang." Other examples are the otom klelet which imitates the antics of the klelet or woodpecker and the otom smakwin taksatu, which portrays a man hoeing the field.
The Tboli have a wide repertoire of songs for all occasions; joyous, sad, or momentous, like weddings; or ordinary, like fishing in the lakes. Aside from these songs, which have fixed lyrics and melodies, the Tboli also improvise their own songs by using traditional melodic patterns at the end of a phrase or a sentence.
The Tboli also have pieces meant for solo instrumental rendition. One such piece about a horse-fight is interpreted through drums, with the latter simulating the thundering of horses' hooves.
Tboli dances may act out relationships between suitor and beloved or between bride and groom. In the courtship dance, a boy pursues a girl, who taunts him with an unfurled kayab or turban, which she holds by the ends and sways side-to-side, following a musical beat. On the other hand, a woman may tell of her affections for a man through the kadal herayon. Through various "flirting gestures," the woman expresses what she otherwise cannot say.
At wedding feasts, the dance called tao soyow is traditionally performed by two males engaging in mock combat, one dressed as a warrior, representing the party of the bride, and another dressed as a woman, representing the party of the groom. The warrior struts around and rattles his shield, while the "woman" sashays back and forth. The dancers go about provoking and taunting each other, getting near, but never really touching, then retreating. With hilarious steps, the dancers wriggle in the ground provocatively, yelping and screeching at each other. Another war dance performed in a man's life cycle is the kadal temulong lobo. The dance is narrative as the performer's movements tell how he has killed his adversary, who may have been his rival for a girl's affection.
At rest or when nursing a bruised heart, a woman plays the hegelung and moves around almost aimlessly. This dance, called kadal hegelung, should be differentiated from the kadal be hegelung, which also involves the hegelung but includes the klutang as well. The latter is performed in the farm to celebrate a good harvest.
Other dances of the Tboli imitate animals. In the kadal iwas, any number of dancers, following a relentless beat, mimic a bunch of monkeys removing nits and lice form each other. A variation of this dance mimics a monkey who sits on an anthill by mistake and is attacked by angry ants all over his body (Orosa-Goquinco 1980:413). It may also feature boys or men attired in banana leaves as "monkeys," romping around and performing simian antics to the delight of the audience. The kadal blelah or bird dance, represents the blelah, a mythical bird which, according to Tboli tradition, has the colors of all other birds. Here the female dancers make continuous hopping steps to the sound of gongs and drums, leaning to the left and to the right as they insert their hands into the ends of the malong hanging around their necks, and make undulating movements, simulating the wings of a bird in flight. Another bird dance is kadal tabaw, performed during planting and harvesting, and which simulates the flight and hops of the bird tabaw.
Two ritual dances are the kadal slung be tonok, done to exorcise evil spirits that harbor illness and bad luck; and the kadal tahu, described as the "true dance of the Tboli." The second dance is accompanied by a drum, which is believed to hold a spirit. To release the spirit, the female dancer touches the drum with her ankle or right foot as she sways to its rhythm. The dance continues until the performer signals her fatigue b throwing the lewek (a piece of cloth) to the drum. This ends the dance.
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Casal, Gabriel S. T'boli Art In Its Socio-Cultural Context. Makati: Filipinas Foundation, 1978.
______________ and D. Javier. CCP Encyclopedia of Philippine Art, Vol II. Manila: Cultural Center of the Philippines, 1994.
NCCP-PACT. Sandugo. Manila: National Council of Churches in the Philippines, 1998/
Orosa-Goquingco, Leonor. Dances of the Emerald Isles. Quezon City: Ben-Lor Publishers, 1980.
Regional Map of the Philippines - XI. Manila: Edmundo R. Abigan Jr, 1988/
RR's Philippine Almanac Book of Facts, 1986 edition. Quezon City: Aurora Publications, 1986.
Saleeby, Najeeb M. "The History of Maguindanao." The Muslim Filipinos. Peter B. Gowing and Robert D. McAmis (eds). Manila: Solidaridad Publishing House, 1974.
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