The T’nalak Festival
Also called the Tinalak Fiesta, the T’nalak Festival celebrates South Cotabato’s annual Foundation Day anniversary held in mid-July. Koronadal City is the hub of activities for the festival, and the local T’boli tribe of this region gave it the name T’nalak. This is derived from a colorful piece of abaca fabric cloth that their women weave known as a T’nalak, which is the festivals motif.
The black, red, and abaca leaf verdant green colored T’nalak cloth has many uses including being the choice of wear for women on many occasions. A symbol of the resilience and unified diversity of the T’boli people, the T’nalak cloth is woven over a long time. This serves as a reminder to the wearer that real strength comes with effort, patience, and time.
The patterns depicted on the fabric are purported to have been discerned in a dream that the weaver’s had, acquiring them the name ‘dream weavers.’ The T’nalak cloth design serves as an emblem for the life and unity of the Cotabato region.
History of the T’nalak Festival:
Since 1989, the people of South Cotabato started to celebrate the T’nalak Festival by incorporating it with the awarding of a local of Lake Sebu named Lang Dulay. President Ramos gave her the Gawad sa Manlilikha ng Bayan or the National Living Treasure Award due to her work as the best T’nalak cloth weaver. This award ceremony and its commemoration have evolved into the extravagant T’nalak Festival of today, celebrating both the founding of the South Cotabato province and the heritage of T’nalak cultural dress.
The T’nalak Festival welcomes local and international visitors with a showcase of vibrant fun and rich culture. Ethnic regalia is available to wear and traditional artifacts are on display to give the tourist a taste of the intricate meaningful cultural bond that unites the Filipino Cotabato people. There are sporting activities, street parades and dancing competitions from the very onset of the festivities.
The cheer dance and float procession are some of the T’nalak Festival’s highlights. There is also a Trade Fair for the business-minded tourist or entrepreneurial spirit on a Philippines holiday.
Getting to the T’nalak Festival:
If traveling by air, there are several places from which you can embark to attend the T’nalak Festival. Cebu Pacific and Philippine Air are the local airlines of choice from, Cebu, Manila or Iloilo to General Santos. There is a direct bus link from the General Santos airport to the festivities at Koronadal City.
From Manila by land, take a bus to Davao City and Leyte or Samar in the Visayas via Southern Luzon’s Bicol region. The trip from Manila to Davao City takes almost three days with Philtranco buses, and then it’s a three and a half-hour bus ride to Koronadal for the T’nalak Festival. You can also approach Koronada City from the direction of Cagayan De Oro City by an eight-hour-long bus trip.
Coming to the T’nalak Festival by sea requires a ferry to General Santos provided by Sulpicio Lines and Super Ferry services.
The T’nalak Festival is a weeklong fiesta with activities for all ages, with the street dancers a sight to behold. These dances are presentations incorporated with traditional folklore and interpreted through song and movement. The Tri-People Grand Parade is held on July 18 and showcases the Christian, Muslim and T’boli communities of South Cotabato.
While the Grand Parade is characterized by participants adorned in various colors, the most coveted beauty crown of South Cotabato is vied for during the Mutya ng South Cotabato. The Bahay Kubo Competition is a showcase of products from the local agricultural prowess of the region.
The T’nalak Festival has a vibrancy to it that you won’t want to forget. Capturing the events on camera is the best way to preserve the experience so stock up on memory cards and batteries. It’s also advisable to plan each day using the event schedule since there are so many activities happening concurrently. Give priority to the events you want to see or participate in and start early for the best vantage points.
During or after the T’nalak Festival, other points of interest around South Cotabato are worth visiting. These include;
- The Tboli Museum
- General Santos Fish Port Complex
- Surallah Cultural Landmark
- Manlilikha ng Bayan Center
- Dole Pineapple Plantation
Visit The T’nalak Festival This Year:
The hospitable people of South Cotabato speak in Filipino and English, coupled with the local Hiligaynon and Cebuano. Learning a word or two of these dialects is very appreciated by the local festival-goers and participants. Don’t forget to collect as many T’boli artifacts such as brass ornaments, beadwork, baskets, and mats. These souvenirs act like accessories for home décor and serve as a reminder of South Cotabato’s rich cultural heritage.