In Mindanao, the T’bolis (or Tbolis) are usually the indigenous peoples (or tribes, as they are more popularly called) tourists are aware of, with their rich history of dream weaving and picturesque home in Lake Sebu, South Cotabato.
The Blaans, their neighbors, have similar traditional attire, weaving, but have differences too. The meanings of their names, in fact, are relative to one another (T’boli means people on the other side, while Blaan means pair or counterpart and possession).
The Blaans have the weaving of their tabih, similar to the T’bolis’ dreamwoven t’nalak. The Blaans also have their own master weavers and well-preserved dances, music, and other traditional performances.
A School of Living tradition, a school to pass on indigenous traditional knowledge and practices to the next tradition, was then set up in Lamlifew Village, Malungon, Sarangani. Along with the school is a museum, actually a traditional house of Blaan rulers.
The Blaan community in Lamlifew village is open to visitors. Through a guided tour, I was able to happily get to know some of the Blaans, even for just a few short hours.
To get to the community, we had to wade through a creek, probably because it was rainy season during our visit. Ate Belinda and Charity, both friendly Blaans, helped each person in our group cross.
Our schedule was packed that day and so we only managed a short visit, but I was happy to have even a glimpse and a warm introduction to the Blaan community. To know them more and their culture, I believe I will have to sleep over at their homestay. Next time, I hope to see the weaving of tabih, too.
Going back to town, I joined the group riding ATVs and buggies and we climbed slopes and crossed streams. For the adventurous, there is this option to reach Lamlifew Village via ATVs through Malungon’s 3DOE Ecopark.
I would suggest booking a guided cultural interaction through Go Sarangani, who also arranged our tour. Book their half-day activity (Php1,800 with traditionally prepared lunch) ideally for more time to interact with the Blaans.
General Santos City is the jump-off point to Sarangani. From Manila (Luzon), General Santos is accessible via flight or via ferry. It is accessible by bus in Mindanao, too.
Happy cultural tour!
I am grateful to the Philippines’ Tourism Promotions Board for making this experience possible for me.