Mission Statement

This blog journals my quest of art, whether it is a piece of work that is inherent in nature or one created by artists known or unknown or that I created myself. During this search, I have come to appreciate the magnificence and generosity of God who in his infinite wisdom surrounded us with exquisiteness everyday...everywhere and inspired our human spirit to create beauty that feeds our bodies and souls. Come join me on my journey to find art through my travels and my own creative endeavors. Maraming salamat.

All rights to all posts and contents on this blog, including photos and artwork are reserved by jojo sabalvaro tan.






Wednesday, August 26, 2015

T'boli Woman Painting






T'boli Woman 2015
Watercolor on 140# Arches cold pressed watercolor paper
10" x 14"
by jojo sabalvaro tan






When I started posting about my paintings of indigenous women from the Cordillera Region of Northern Luzon in the Philippines, my cousin's wife mentioned that one of her favorite textile are those hand woven by the T'bolis, one of the more than 40 ethnic groups in the Philippines. They are also one of the 18 tribes from Mindanao, a large island in the Southern Philippines. I must confess that I did not know much about the T'bolis or Mindanao, for that matter. My family came from the island of Luzon in Northern Philippines and I lived there through part of my grade school and then high school and college so I was more affiliated with the northern part of the Philippines. My limited knowledge of Mindanao is from what I learned in school. Back then, we would refer to the people of Mindanao in general terms as Moros, a term used to refer to Muslims in Spanish-conquered lands. Now, the indigenous people of  Mindanao are collectively known as Lumads and the T'bolis are one of the tribes of the Lumad indigenous group.

Map of Southern Philippines showing Cotabato where the T'bolis live
For this painting, I needed to learn more about the T'bolis  and their culture. Legend has it that the T'bolis are descendants of survivors of a great flood. According to Ronald de Jong, a freelance photographer and writer based in Mindanao, the story goes like this:
A man named Dwata warned the people of an impending great flood. But the tribe refused to listen, except for two couples, La Bebe and La Lomi, and Tamfeles and La Kagef. Dwata told them to take shelter in a bamboo so huge they could fit inside and in this way survive the flood. The story tells that the first couple are the ancestors of the T'boli and other highland ethnic groups The second couple descended the other Filipino indigenous groups."


The T'bolis settled in Southern Cotabato in the fertile valleys around Lake Sebu but as more and more settlers from different regions arrived in the area, they were gradually pushed up to the mountains slopes and highlands where they continued to employ slash and burn farming techniques to plant corn, rice, vegetables and root crops. They have managed to stick to their traditional ways with a culture that is richly tied with and inspired by nature. This can be witnessed in their metal craft (mostly brass ornaments and jewelry)  lively dance and music, complicated beadwork adorning their outfits and worn as jewelry, their elaborate and colorful attire featuring intricately and uniquely patterned woven fabrics especially the sacred T'nalak made from abaca fibers and their core belief that everything has a spirit that must be respected and revered.
My painting is of a T'boli woman wearing the  traditional T'nalak's red, white and black colors which are regarded as a symbol  of their cultural heritage. The woven sarong or malong adds even more color to the outfit, so does the salakot (hat) covered with more woven fabric decorated with beading. According to legend, the T'bolis were taught to weave by the goddess Fu Dalu through dreams and  weaving is considered a manifestation of the tribes collective consciousness since the designs and patterns come to them in dreams. A note about the lady in my painting who I rendered as a little heavy set. In all the pictures I found on the internet of T'boli women, I did not come across one that is even a bit overweight. Right diet and exercise or plain genetics?

T'nalak Fabric
On my next visit to the Philippines, it is my goal to see the T'boli women in action as they weave the T'nalaks and hopefully, purchase one or two for my collection of textiles woven by the indigenous people of the world. I do hope that in some way this blog serves as a plea for the conservation of the fragile indigenous culture of the native tribes of the Philippines. There is no need or advantage to destroying these ancient culture and forcing our own upon them.


Let me end this post with following quote from C.S. Lewis:
"Human life has always lived on the edge of a precipice. Human culture has always had to exist under the shadow of something infinitely more important than itself."







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