T’nalak Festival: A Celebration of Culture and Heritage in South Cotabato
Every year, in the second week of July, the province of South Cotabato in the Philippines celebrates its founding anniversary with a colorful and vibrant festival called T’nalak Festival. The festival is named after the iconic fabric handwoven by the Tboli indigenous people using abaca fibers dyed with natural colors. The T’nalak cloth is considered a symbol of the rich cultural heritage and diversity of South Cotabato, which is home to various ethnic groups and tribes.
The T’nalak Festival showcases the artistic and creative talents of the people of South Cotabato, as well as their traditions, customs, and values. The festival features various events and activities that highlight the culture, history, and tourism of the province. Some of the main attractions of the festival are:
• The Dayana Civic Parade, which is a grand procession of floats, bands, and cheerleaders representing different sectors and organizations in the province. The parade also includes a competition for the best float and cheer dance performance.
• The T’nalak Parade or Madal Bel’, which is a cultural parade that showcases the different ethnic groups and tribes in South Cotabato, such as the Tboli, Blaan, Maguindanaon, Maranao, Ilonggo, Bicolano, and others. The parade also features the T’nalak cloth in various forms and designs, such as costumes, accessories, decorations, and artworks.
• The Kasadyahan sa Kapatagan or Street Dancing Showdown, which is a lively and colorful dance competition among different municipalities and cities in the province. The dancers wear costumes inspired by the T’nalak cloth and perform choreographies based on their local culture and stories.
• The Agten Tufi or Trade Fair and Exhibit, which is a showcase of the local products and services of South Cotabato, such as handicrafts, food, agriculture, tourism, and others. The trade fair also provides opportunities for business networking and promotion.
• The Cultural Village or Kadsagayan a Lalan, which is a replica of a traditional Tboli village where visitors can experience the Tboli way of life. The village features Tboli houses, crafts, music, dances, rituals, games, and cuisine.
• The Helobung Festival or Lake Sebu Festival, which is a separate festival held in the town of Lake Sebu that coincides with the T’nalak Festival. The Helobung Festival celebrates the culture and heritage of the Tboli people, especially their T’nalak weaving. The festival also showcases the natural beauty and attractions of Lake Sebu, such as its seven waterfalls, three lakes, zipline, and lotus flowers.
The T’nalak Festival is more than just a celebration of the founding of South Cotabato. It is also a celebration of the unity and harmony among its people despite their differences. It is also a celebration of the resilience and creativity of its people in preserving their culture and heritage amid modernization and globalization. It is also a celebration of the beauty and bounty of its land and resources that sustain its development and progress.
The T’nalak Festival is indeed a festival worth experiencing for anyone who wants to witness and appreciate the culture and heritage of South Cotabato.