The first class municipality of Lake Sebu in South Cotabato is known for its lush mountains, lakes filled with tilapia, and indigenous tribes that call this serene and laidback town home. Apart from its magnificent attractions teeming with life, here one will also find the T’boli tribe that transforms their dreams into artistic t’nalak weave. They are called the dreamweavers, and you don’t have to be asleep to meet them.
Dreamweavers are rare, as a female T’boli member can only become one if, at a very young age, she is visited by the goddess of kendungon (abaca) Fu Dalu. In these dreams, Fu Dalu is said to speak and guide them on how to create patterns and designs on the abaca such as ankiring (hair bangs), bulinglangit (clouds) and kabangi (butterfly). Hence, dreamweavers don’t use patterns when they weave, they use the images they remember from their dreams.
Dreamweavers are highly dexterous, quickly weaving and tying the abaca fiber into their desired design. You can find the dreamweavers on the second floor of a gono bong, a large T’boli house, weaving t’nalak or mentoring other weavers on the design of the cloth.
Residing together with the dreamweavers are the dreamsmiths – metal benders and brass-casters also inspired by spirits who visit them in their sleep. They are the ones who designed and created the brass musical instruments used in T’boli performances – instruments that are believed to be a means to communicate with the spirits. Today, dreamsmiths create the accessories that adorn every member of the T’boli tribe.
The products of the dreamsmiths are said to be one of a kind, for each one requires the creation of its own unique clay mold – which gets destroyed during the metal’s hardening and cooling down process. You can find the dreamsmiths in their backyard, unmindful of the warm temperature as they work on melting and molding the metal into a variety of designs.
The dreamcarvers on the other hand work on wood instead of metal. A dreamcarver’s dexterity lies in the way he whittles and trims the wood until it forms a smooth surface shaped after a desired design. His skill lies not only by the nimbleness of his hands, but also in an inspired wisdom that fashions the designs and uses the gifts of nature to provide wonderful colors to accompany a dreamcarver’s works.
You can hope to find the dreamcarvers in their homes surrounded by fertile soil that supplies the trees they use for their wood and their colors.
Instead of abaca fiber, the dreamcrafters weave glass beads. Their works exhibit a rich blend of colors and designs that are inspired by the spirits of those that inhabit the land around them. These dreamcrafters create masterpieces that exemplify the relationship between the people, the sprits, and their history.
The hands of dreamcrafters move quickly across, creating beads of wondrous designs and colors. Their dexterity can also be seen in the way they form the beads with a knife, a thin metal rod and fire. An experienced dreamcrafter needs less than one week to complete an entire necklace.
Dreamcrafters could be found in their homes forming beads of diverse colors and weaving them together to create a masterpiece proudly worn by members of the T’boli tribe.