Tinalak is a hand-woven cloth made from the abaca plant. Produced by the ethnic Tiboli tribe in South Cotabato, Mindanao, southern Philippines, the tinalak is a well-revered item in the Tiboli household and is not simply regarded as a decorative material. The weave also signifies the warm welcome and honour regarded to the guests of a Tiboli family, and indicates status of the owner.
The Tiboli tribe only uses vegetable dyes and natural pigments from tree barks and roots that give the characteristic color and glance of a prized tinalak. The tinalak has occupied a central role in the communal life of the Tibolis that they annually celebrate a Tinalak Festival every July coinciding with the provincial anniversary celebrations in South Cotabato.
The women weavers of the tinalak are also forbidden from sexual relations with their husband during the weaving period and are not allowed to weave during menstruation as the Tibolis believe that it affects the weaving process and quality. The weavers work without preliminary sketches or designs but draw inspiration from their dreams and patterns handed down by previous generations.
Complex patterns and the abaca’s sturdy quality requires skilled weaving techniques and good quality tinalak often takes months to finish. There are only a few tinalak weavers and Philippine cultural institutions have declared the weavers from the Tiboli tribe as national creative artists in support of their weaving tradition.
Mabuhay ang tinalak!