The Dreamweaver

She was 85 when I visited her. I guess she’s 86 now, and she still weaves.

Lang Dulay, as she is called... The Dreamweaver

Using abaca fibers, Lang Dulay creates magnificent designs of t’nalak using her artistic imagination and images from her sleep. She has designed many t’nalak fabrics, most coming from the history of their tribe, the T’boli. She has created flowers, lakes, trees, nature, mountains and all the things that she sees with her naked eyes, and transforms them into beautiful patterns of t’nalak. These pictures are still vivid in her memory, they reflect the things she has undergone, her experiences and her more than eighty years of life in Lake Sebu. Because of her art in weaving, she has contributed so much in the lives of her tribe. The history she holds in her hands can be seen through her creations.

They are the T’boli tribe, a group of indigenous people that can be found way down in Lake Sebu, South Cotabato. They weave t’nalak. They are small in numbers, considering the fact that making t’nalak is a very tedious job, one that is a very long process of creation, tiring, boring work. From choosing the fibers they will be using, and making sure these fibers are strong enough to withstand the process, they select these fibers by merely touching them, and letting their fingers run through the fibers, drying them and tying them in a long bamboo and until the process of weaving is began, the designs begin to process too.

Lang Dulay with her students, and the guy being the interpreter,
she cannot speak other dialects other than T'boli.

One roll of t’nalak is placed in the weaving post, where the weaver comfortably sits in the center and interlaces her strands of fibers. While weaving is a tedious process, it is also a very eye-straining work, a difference in vision can contribute much to the design of the fabric, weaving t’nalak is a very delicate job. The weavers make sure that enough amount of light, heat and humidity can seep through the shop where they weave. No amount of strong wind must enter the shop where they work because it can damage the fabrics. Too much of everything is capable of making the abaca fibers turn poor in quality.

on the weaving pole

weaving abaca to be made into fine t'nalak fabric

Lang Dulay has created more than one hundred designs of t’nalak, including the clouds, mountains, hair, butterflies, all of these designs come from her dreams and imagination. T’nalak cloth has only three colors, red, black and white, these are the colors they have been using because these were, according to their legend, the only colors that the gods have approved of. The T’boli have been using their imaginations and their art in creating beautiful patterns as per their tradition and culture as an indigenous tribe. According to her, t’nalak is the product by which they barter goods in order to eat. Many years ago, they have been into the art of weaving because they can exchange their products to money.

With this, the group has started to form groups that could help them in reliving this art.

T’nalak is worn as classifying dress. One that wears the best t’nalak is called “Queen”. She dresses the t’nalak with the “mother of pearl”. It is only Lang Dulay who wears that dress in their tribe.

Lang Dulay started weaving when she was 12. It was a hobby she was destined to live with. With her craft, she was given an award “Gawad Manlilikha ng Bayan” or National Artist of the Philippines.

being awarded "Gawad Manlilikha ng Bayan" by former Pres. Fidel Ramos.

the dress she is wearing is the most precious she has ever weaved,
the one with the Mother of Pearl

According to her, there are times when weaving requires a fixed mind, restful sleeps, and sexless nights. It’s because some of the designs require enough concentration that a sexual contact may be that damaging to a certain very intricate design.

me asking t'nalak wisdom from the Dreamweaver

When I had the chance to visit her, it was because of a certain article I was to write for the magazine I am working on. She was very happy to have been visited. Her place is a steep hill in Lake Sebu, where tilapia fishes are a great catch, and the serenity in one with nature is calming. That time when I paid her a visit, she was 85, and that was a year ago, she had fifteen students she is happily teaching to weave.

her sensitive "nipa" t'nalak shop

almost overlooking her hut is this beauty of nature, a lake filled with tilapia.

"what inspiration-filled crafts can come to mind with this breathtaking view..."

Even though many people of her tribe has forgotten the culture of weaving, she is determined to teach the children of her tribe to enjoy the fruits of their hard labor. Tnalak cloth is being made into bags, dresses, sashes, shoes, placemats and other stuffs. Weaving 6 feet of t’nalak is tantamount to 6 months of weaving 8 hours a day. That’s how hard weaving t’nalak is. Sadly, these hard work only mean very less of value, because of the less demand of t’nalak, in order to sell, the hard work is but paid a measly P800.

Well, we are helping the tribe with promoting t’nalak because it will really help the tribe in their quest for upholding the Craft.

Thanks to the Dreamweaver…


Sinta said…
What an amazing craft! I'm ashamed to say I didn't know about this and knew more about Indonesian weaves. And I'm suppoused to be Filipina! I think traditional crafts like these should be supported and encouraged. I'm sure there's a market for it outside of the Philippines as well.
iceah said…
this is nice i'll feature this my parents are in the other side of the lake we have a house there c:

i'll just link it back to you so they could read the whole story c:

wonderful i love the pics too c:
witsandnuts said…
Beautiful! I know how to weave but only that basic pieces from palm trees. I regret that we didn't go to Lake Sebu when I was in Isulan. Our group didn't want to risk because it was relatively unsafe to travel from Isulan going there that time.
Sheng, this post made me tear up. I have a special affinity for fabric and love stories like this. Lang Dulay is a crafter of crafters. I wish I'd met her too! I would live to learn that craft. Thank you for sharing!
Java said…
It just makes me sad to think of how long it takes her to create a piece and how little she gets paid but I guess she is also doing it for the love of the craft. The fabric is amazing and is from a dream. Thank you, the last picture is my favorite- you two look so nice posing for the picture. Bless her heart!
Gracie said…
Amazing story and great photos, Sheng. You're so lucky to have experienced this first hand.
Thanks for sharing.

Oh by the way, wait for my email, I'll send you my version of the basics on my crafts :)
iceah said…
linked and featured this story already c:
kayni said…
amazing! it takes a lot of patience to do this craft. i remember when i visited Sagada Weaving in Sagada, and i was quite surprised at how long it takes to finish one product and the color/arrangement/design involved. great entry. thanks for sharing.
teeni said…
Wow - this is a fantastic talent and I'm so glad the Dreamweaver is teaching others what she knows so that the art does not die out. It is so intricate and beautiful. I do hope some of her students gain a passion for it. Lang Dulay reminds me of my grandmother and I wish her many years of good health!
teeni said…
Oh, I forgot - I've tagged you for a meme. I hope you can participate.
BlogusVox said…
Akala ko noon, each tribe creates a certain pattern in their weaves para ma-identify kung saan galing.

Alam mo, we should take care of these people and their craft. National treasure din ang mga yan.
myminiheart said…
amazing, it takes talent and patience..

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