T'nalak Festival is a week-long, annual celebration in South Cotabato that showcases the region's vibrant spirit, unique culture, and multi-ethnicity through street dancing, traditional huts, beauty pageants, and other activities. T'nalak is a word that refers to the intricate fabric of T'boli, a group of indigenous people in the area. The celebration, however, doesn't only concentrate on the said tapestry. It encompasses the way of life of South Cotabatenos, a group that roughly consists of 5% Muslims, 15% indigenous people, and 70% Christians.
Street DancingOur Byaheng Mindanaw group participated in the 15th T'nalak Festival last July 18. We started our morning witnessing the thematic street dancing competition. The event was divided into three categories: Madal Be' Lan for pure T'boli contingents demonstrating tribal dances, Kadsagayan A' Lalan for the colorful dances of the Maguindanaoan tribe, and Kasadyahan sa Kapatagan for the Christians exhibiting bountiful harvest.
As I watched the parade, I observed different main dancers in each category. The T'boli group flaunted a couple using a malong (sometimes a bolo knife for the male) as a dance prop. The Maguidnaoan (or Muslim) group showcased their high regard for their prince and princess, who were sitting in a small open hut carried by other participants in a couple of contingents. The Christian group's star dancers were ladies carrying a statue of the Virgin Mary.
The difference has proven one thing - the culture in the province (or the entire Mindanao) is rich in colors and traditions. I'm pretty sure there are stories or practices beyond what we have seen, and I genuinely hope that one day, all Filipinos will understand and appreciate them all.
Luncheon at the Gym
Our group was fortunate to be invited to the luncheon at the city gym. The food was superb, but what caught our attention was the huge fresh tuna cut in slices for sashimi. Dan ate plenty!
The visitors enjoyed their meal while being serenaded by local performers. One of those who sang was Kobe Viray, a contender for The Voice Kids under Lea Salonga's team. What a cute, talented, and humble kid.
We also had a chance to see the pageant finalists in their T'nalak dresses. We should have requested them to stand and remove their sashes so the picture would say the designers did a splendid job. Their dresses uniquely represent the city. The details include rice grains and beads.
12th Paradise LaunchingOur group also joined the launching of tour packages to the 12th Paradise. 12 stands for Region 12 (also known as SOCCSKSARGEN), which comprises the provinces of Sultan Kudarat, South Cotabato, North Cotabato, Sarangani, and the cities of General Santos, Tacurong, Koronadal, Cotabato, and Kidapawan. 12th Paradise is the region's new tourism brand.
The organizers combined dances, narration, and presentations to feature each tour package, making the program interesting for the audience. The region seems to be doubling its effort to promote tourist spots and training local guides in the area. This, I believe, is an excellent strategy because Region 12 has a lot to offer. Whether you are into bird watching, wildlife discovery, mountain trekking, beach bumming, or cultural immersion, SOCCSKSARGEN has definitely something for you.
Bahay Kubo Competition
We also checked the thatched huts distinctly representing a city or community in South Cotabato. The huts are decorated with fresh produce, local products, and other locally-sourced materials by local artisans and craftsmen. Tupi, for instance, accessorized their hut's entrance with a big tarsier, a primate discovered in the municipality a few years back. The huts also sell South Cotabato products such as brass bracelets, bead accessories, T'boli costumes, etc.
Videoke - What a Way to End the Day!We capped the day singing our hearts out at a videoke bar. I don't know how to describe that night. The word "epic" seems to be an understatement every time I'm with my Byaheng Mindanaw family.
Daylight come and me wan' go home
How to go to Koronadal City
Planning to go to Koronadal City for the T'nalak Festival next year? From Davao City, take the bus to Koronadal City at the Ecoland bus terminal. The other option is to take the bus bound for General Santos City and take a van or another bus to Koronadal. Make sure you visit T'nalak Festival's website or follow T'nalak Festival's Facebook page for updates.