T’nalak is a traditional cloth found in Mindanao island made by people in Lake Sebu,called T’bolis, This traditional cloth is hand-woven of Abaca fibers and traditionally has three primary colors, red, black and the original color of the Abaca leaves. The colors are naturally dyed, boiled in with bark, roots and leaves of plants. The intricate patterns of the Tinalak are believed to be seen by the “Dream Weavers” in their dreams. They can’t create a T’nalak design if it hasn’t been dreamed.
The T’nalak fabric holds a prominent place in T’boli culture, present in significant turning points, such as birth, marriage, and death. The T’bolis expressed everything in the T’nalak: their dreams, beliefs, myths and even their religion. Making use of the various geometrical patterns and the trademark red, black and white colors, the T’bolis weave the natural and the supernatural in the abaca strands of the T’nalak. After a weaver reaches a certain degree of expertise, she becomes a “master weaver” – someone who can interpret and take inspiration from dreams. By all accounts, this seems to be an intense personal experience for the weaver, and the moment she succeeds in doing this is the moment she becomes an artist.
Making the t’nalak is a skill that young T’boli women learn through their mothers and grandmothers. Most of the existing weavers today come from a generation of t’nalak weavers that go back to their ancestors. Initially, the young T’boli women are introduced to the process by assisting. As they progress, they move on to the dyeing, weaving and tying of the knots. It can take one to five years of constant practice for a T’boli woman to fully learn the full process of the t’nalak.