School for Indigenous Knowledge & Traditions

Southern Mindanao

The School for Indigenous Knowledge & Traditions' mission is to educate, advocate, lobby and promote cultural tourism. Maria Todi, an accomplished chanter, dancer and musician (hegalong, the two-string lute of the T'boli), founded and runs SIKAT. You're introduced to artists and elders and have the chance to learn about T'boli customs, history and stories. Music and dance classes for area children are on Saturdays. You can sleep on a mattress (P250) in the gono bong (longhouse) on the main road through town.

SIKAT also offers homestays, and Maria can arrange visits to villages deeper into the surrounding countryside (one of the local datus – tribal chieftains – is said to have 20 wives). If you go, consider bringing something simple like noodles to share. Or closer by is T'bong village where you can visit a bamboo hut in which weavers produce textiles in the traditional colours of white, red and black in T'nalak patterns, which are said to come in a dream inspired by Fu Dalu, the spirit of weavers. In general, weavers apprentice for six years, and the average piece made from abaka material takes four months to complete. If you can, check out Dreamweavers (2000), a documentary about several T'boli artists and their practices and challenges in a rapidly modernising culture. Because there's no official titling in T'boli culture, one of the unresolved issues involves land rights. Besides T'boli, other tribes in the area are Ubo, Tasaday and Manobos.