Just a few years ago, wings of circumstances inadvertently brought me along with a small band of dedicated field educators to the inauguration of the unprecedentedly culturally sensitive T’boli Senior High School program in Lake Sebu, South Cotabato. Thereafter, we proceeded to the nearby Sitio Tukolefa, Barangay Lamdalag.
In particular, we went to the Manlilikha ng Bayan Center to pay respects to the late Lang S. Dulay, the T’nalak Master Weaver and National Living Treasure Awardee, who passed away exactly a month ago then.
Starting with the pounding and stripping of the abaca stems to produce fibers and make them even thinner by coaxing, to the manual dying of the strands and meticulously arranging them on a bamboo frame, and to the month-long backbreaking weaving process, T’nalak fabric is indeed a product of love and passion.
T’nalak is undoubtedly woven by the passionate hands of a fervent lover who is captivated by the charming countenance of beauty, enamored by the enticing glances of arts, and enthralled by the warm embrace of craftsmanship. It is a lasting canvas of Beauty, the Beautiful and the Beautiful-lover.
Lang Dulay is the Dreamer of not only the more than a hundred T’nalak designs, but also of the more important design to preserve her people’s ethnic identity and to pass on the cultural heritage to the generations to come.
She is an eloquent interlocutor with her people about the simultaneous processes of globalization and localization, of homogenization and heterogenization, of fusion and fragmentation. As she weaves, she is most expressively dialoguing; engaging in the perennial dialogue between the logos of tradition and that of post-modernity; between the logos of preservation and that of adaptation; between the logos of isolation and that of integration.
Like a translator who serves as a cultural bridge between the original (text) language and the target (translation) language, the late Master Weaver is a cultural bridge between historical past and the fast-changing future of the T’boli tribe.
As a cultural bridge, her litany is weaving; her voice is her nimble hands; her slogan is silence and concentration; her banner is the roll of T’nalak; and her hymn is the praise for immortality and transcendence.
After bidding farewell to the Center’s attendants before noontime as I had to catch my flight for Metro Manila via Davao City, an adjacent old mosque caught my attention. I asked permission from a young man sitting in front of a small store for me to take a picture of the aging house of worship. And I learned from Faisal Dulay, a Muslim great grandchild of the late Dreamweaver and T’boli icon, that their clan members, numbering around two hundred, who peacefully live side by side in Sitio Tukolefa are followers of different faiths – Catholicism, Protestantism and Islam.
As I was on board the aircraft, I had one more realization: Lang Dulay’s bamboo-built Center is also a school of a parallel living tradition – the ideal tradition of religious tolerance, peaceful coexistence and mutual understanding.