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The T'boli, also known as the Tiboli or Tagabili, are among the indigenous peoples of SOCCSKSARGEN. Their traditional lands are located in the highlands between and including the municipalities of Surallah, Kiamba and Polomolok, including the municipality of T’Boli. This area includes the three lakes important to the T'boli: Lake Siluton, Lake Lahit, and Lake Sebu, located in the municipality of Lake Sebu.diamond buyer

Some sources state that the term "T'boli" comes from "Tau-bili"; "tau" meaning "small human creature" and "bili" meaning "fruit of the wild vine". Others state that Christian settlers called the tribe "taga-bili" (buyers) in the course of their barter trade.

As of November 1991, the National Museum census records 68,282 T’boli in SOCCKSKSARGEN.


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According to their folklore and traditions, the T’boli are descendants of the survivors of a great flood, who were saved by their deity Dwata. Two couples, warned by Dwata to take precautions, took refuge in a huge bamboo and rode pacquiao vs marquez out the flood. From the first couple descended the T’boli and the other highland ethnic groups, or Lumads, of Mindanao, as well as the Muslim tribes. The second couple were the ancestors of the other Filipino ethnic groups who became Christianized.

Muslim oral accounts, or tarsila, state that the T’boli and other highland groups originally occupied part of the lowlands of SOCCKSKSARGEN and the Cotabato Valley area. However, with the advent of Islam in the 14th century, the T’boli resisted the attempts of the Muslims to convert them and retreated to the safety of the mountains. Subsequently, the Muslim tribes raided the upland tribes and enslaved those they conquered, resulting in conflict between the two groups. As a result, T’boli folk literature often portrayed the Muslims as villains. Muslim resistance to Spanish invaders prevented the Spaniards from penetrating the T’boli lands, so that Spanish influence did not reach the highland tribes. It was only in the American era that Christian elements entered the area.

In 1913, the Cotabato Valley was opened up for settlement and members of the Christian ethnic groups arrived. After World War II, in 1948, the Philippine government also opened up the Alah Valley and Koronadal Valley to settlers, in the hope of alleviating agrarian conflicts in Luzon and the Visayas. These migrations also subsequently introduced call center systemcommercial ranching, mining, and logging interests in the area. Persons and entities holding land grants and licenses began to encroach on the T’boli ancestral lands. Having no knowledge or access to the instruments of ownership recognized by the government, the T’boli began to be disenfranchised from the lands their ancestors had held link building services since time immemorial.



The T'boli practice "slash and burn" agriculture to grow rice, cassava and yams. They clear a part of the forest by cutting the big trees and burning the lower and smaller trees and bushes, after which they use the cleared plots as arable land for some years without any fertilization. They may also go hunting or fishing for additional food.

Religion and Beliefs

The T’boli believe in a pantheon of deities, supreme among which are Kadaw La Sambad, the sun god, and Bulon La Mogoaw, the moon goddess, who reside in the seventh heaven. They have seven sons and seven daughters who end up marrying each other and who become the lesser deities. They consider a bird called muhen the god of fate, whose song is believed to cause misfortune. Aside from these deities, the T’boli believe that everything has a spirit which must be propitiated for favorable fortune. Busao, or malevolent spirits, can wreak havoc on humans, causing misfortune or illness.

Performance Arts

The T’boli have a rich musical culture with a variety of musical instruments ranging from percussion (tnonggong (a deerskin drum); agong (large gongs) and klintang (set of gongs)) to woodwind (sloli (bamboo flute); kubing (bamboo jew’s harp) and few (small horn)) to string (sludoy (bamboo zither) and hagalong (two-string guitar)). They have a wide repertoire of songs and dances for all occasions.

Among the T'boli dances are:

These dances involve shuffling steps and swooping movements of the arms and hands, usually incorporating a malong or kerchief.

Literature and Language

The epic “Tud Bulol” is the core of T’boli folk literature. It is sung in its entirety only on important occasions. Singing of the epic may take up to 16 hours depending on the version sung, and is usually done through the night. The T’boli also have folk beliefs and sayings, as well as folk tales and legends about their deities and heroes.

Unlike many other Filipino ethnic groups, diphthongs and the use of the letter "f" predominate in the T'boli language. This is unusual considering that the letter "f" is not included in the original Tagalog alphabet, the basis for the Filipino language, and is considered an import from Spanish colonizers.

T'boli Phrases

  • Hyu Hlafus - Good morning
  • Tey Bong Nawa hu Kuy - Thank you

Arts and Crafts

T’boli are known for their penchant for personal adornment and colorful crafts. According to them, the gods made men and women to look attractive so that they will be drawn to each other and procreate.

Personal Adornment

T'boli men and women view white teeth as ugly and fit only for animals. As a result, they practise tamblang, which is the filing of teeth into nihik or regular shapes and blackening them with the sap of a wild tree bark such as silob or olit. Adopting a practice from the Muslims, prominent T'boli, such as a datu or his wife, adorn their teeth with gold to indicate their wealth.

Tboli have themselves tattooed, not just for vanity but because they believe tattoos glow after death and light the way into the next world. Men have their forearms and chests tattooed with bakong (stylized animal) and hakang (human) designs, or blata (fern) and ligo bed (zigzag) patterns. Women also have their calves, forearms, and breasts tattooed in this manner.

Another form of body décor is scarification achieved by applying live coals onto the skin. The more scars a man has, the braver he is considered to be.


T’boli women learn to adorn themselves from early childhood. They apply cosmetics and arrange their hair, adorning it with traditional combs which have dangling strings of colored beads. For them, “more is better” when it comes to accessories; they do not wear just one of each type of accessory, but put on all that they can accomodate.

Some of the T’boli women’s accessories are:

Decorative Combs


  • Kawat – simple brass rings.
  • Bketot – round mirror surrounded by colored beads.
  • Nomong – chandelier type earrings made of brass links and beads.
  • Bkoku – made of triangular shells.
  • Kowol or Beklaw – combination of earring and necklace.


  • Hekef – choker of red, white, yellow and black beads.
  • Lmimot – multi-stranded necklace with red, white and black beads in graduated sizes.
  • Lieg – brass with beads and hawkbells.


  • Hilot – chain-mail brass belt with square buckles. It has a width of 5 to 7 centimeters with an additional 10 centimeters length of brass chains suspended side by side around its entire lower edge, each chain ending in a brass hawkbell. One belt can weigh about 2 to 3 kilograms.
  • Hilot Lmimot – Different from the ordinary hilot in that the dangling strands are not brass chains but strings of beads.


  • Blonso - around 6 centimeters thick and 8 millimeters in diameter, usually worn loosely, 15 to 20 to a wrist.
  • Kala - thicker than the blonso, worn tightly, five to an arm.


  • Tugul - 5 cm flat black bands worn tightly on the calves.
  • Singkil linti - 10 cm in diameter and 6-10 mm thick with simple geometric ornamentation, worn loosely.
  • Singkil babat - a more ornately decorated version of the singkil linti, using cord and zigzag designs in high relief along the outer edge, worn loosely.
  • Singkil slugging - 15 mm thick but hollow and filled with tiny pebbles which make it rattle softly, also worn loosely.


  • Tsing - worn insets of five on each finger and toe, often with the brass rings alternated by carabao-horn rings. The rings can be plain or compound bands with simple triangular ornamentation.


The T'boli have different attire for different occasions. They wear simpler versions of their traditional costumes on ordinary days, and sumptuously decorated ones for special occasions.

Female Clothing

  • For working in the fields
    • Kgal taha soung – plain black or navy blue blouse with long sleeves and no collar. It is tight fitting and waist length.
    • Luwek – ankle length tube skirt, like the malong worn by the Muslim tribes.
    • Slaong kinibang - round salakot (wide-brimmed hat) 50 cm in diameter woven with bamboo strips and entirely covered by a geometric patchwork or red, white, and black cloth, each hat always unique and original. Underneath, it is lined with red cloth that hangs down along the sides and back when worn, to protect the wearer from the sun's glare.
  • For everyday wear
    • Kgal bengkas - long-sleeved blouse open at the front, with 3-cm wide red bands sewn crosswise onto the back and around the cuffs and upper sleeves.
    • Kgal nisif - a more elaborately decorated blouse, embroidered with cross-stitched animal or human designs, and geometric patterns rendered in red, white, and yellow, with bands of zigzag and other designs.
    • Fan de - a skirt of red or black cloth, nowadays bought from the lowlanders.
  • Formal occasions
    • Kgal binsiwit, an embroidered blouse with 1-cm triangular shell spangles, usually worn during weddings.
    • Tredyung - a black pinstripe linen skirt worn with the kgal binsiwit.
    • Bangat slaong – version of slaong kinibang decorated with two long bands of fancy beadwork with horsehair tassels at the ends, worn on special occasions.

Male Clothing

T’boli men ordinarily wear shirts and trousers like many rural Filipinos. They wear their traditional costumes only on special occasions.

  • Kgal saro- a long-sleeved, tight-fitting collarless jacket made of abaca.
  • Sawal taho - a knee or ankle-length pair of pants the waist-section of which extends up to the shoulders, secured with an abaca band along the waist and made to fall, like a small skirt, covering the hips and upper thighs.
  • Olew – simple turban.
  • Slaong naf - conical but very flat hat decorated with simple geometric designs in black and white, done on woven bamboo strips and topped by a fundu or decorative glass or brass knob. The inside lining is woven rattan.
  • Slaong fenundo - less flat than the slaong naf, with a cross section resembling a squat tudor arch; it is made of straw-colored, even thread-thick, nito-like material sewn down in black, minute, even stitches.
  • Hilot - belt from which the T’boli male’s kafilan (sword) is suspended.
  • Angkul - sash of thick cloth worn by a datu as a mark of authority.



  • Sudeng – swords.
    • Lanti – sword whose brass hilt is ornamented with geometric designs and 5-cm lengths of chain with tnoyong or hawkbells attached to their ends.
    • Tedeng – plain sword with no decoration.
    • Kafilan - bolo-like sword.
    • Tok – richly decorated ritual sword; it has a 60 to 70 centimeter single-edged blade decorated with geometric designs, and a richly ornamented hilt with 5 cm lengths of chain attached to its edge, with hawkbells at their ends. Its wooden scabbard, held together by three to four metal bands, has a geometric design etched on the black surface, which is highlighted by the wood's natural light color.
  • Kabaho - knives, as richly decorated as the tok, coming in a variety of shapes and sizes.
  • Tboli figurines – made using the cire perdue or lost wax method, these 7.5 to 10 centimeter statuettes portray Tboli men and women in their characteristic attires, and engaged in typical chores.
  • Brass bracelets and chains used by the T'boli women.
  • Tnoyong or hawkbells which are attached to almost all other T'boli craftworks.


  • T’nalak or tinalak – the best known T’boli craft, the T’boli sacred cloth made from abaca. T’boli tradition and legend states that t’nalak weaving was taught to their ancestors by their goddess Fu Dalu in a dream, and that women learn their cloth patterns through their dreams. As a result,t'nalak is often referred to by non-T'boli as "dreamweave" and the T'boli women have been dubbed "dreamweavers". T’nalak products have also become the signature product of the province of South Cotabato. Lang Dulay, a T’boli weaver, has received the Gawad sa Manlilikha ng Bayan Award by the National Commission for Culture and the Arts in recognition of her role as a traditional artist in preserving and developing the indigenous artistic heritage.

See Also




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