TNALAK FESTIVAL 2012: 15 Reasons Why It’s More Fun in South Cotabato, Amo na ya!

I shielded my eyes from the glaring heat of the sun. From afar I could hear the distant sound of the forest, the chirping of the birds, and the rustling of the leaves as they danced with the wind. I’ve been a traveler long as I could remember.  I’ve been to a lot of places, seen various faces, and indulge myself in worlds all foreign to me.

But today is different; I don’t know where I am yet my heart feels at home.

In front of me is a majestic, cone-shaped mountain with luscious rainforest that literally beckons every climber to climb it.

1. The Towering Mt Matutum

The Pride of South Cotabato: The Picturesque Mt Matutum. Photo Courtesy of Atty Nonoy Rojas

I know I’ve seen this before. If only I survived that bungee jump long ago in one of my outdoor adventures, I wouldn’t have to undergo that brain surgery that damaged my memory. Nevertheless I still thank my God for keeping me alive. And now here I am with my travel buddies alike whose names I can no longer recall, on a tour they say could help me remember.

2. Nature-ly Beautiful

“That’s Mt Matutum,” they told me, “Pride of this province. Did you know that aside from this, our province is also endowed with other gifts of nature? There’s the seven falls in Lake Sebu where you could literally FLY above three of the seven falls in just a ride of a zipline at a height of 180 meters high, the highest in Southeast Asia!

Fly High to one of Asia’s Highest Zipline!

We also have the 12,000 ha pineapple plantation, the largest in the country, dazzling falls, scenic landscapes, picturesque lakes, hot and cold springs, and more!”

The Seven Falls in Lake Sebu, South Cotabato. Photo Courtesy of Atty Nonoy Rojas

“Wow!” what they told me made me say South Cotabato is indeed ‘nature-ly’ beautiful.

3. Amazing Tarsiers

We then went deeper into the woods and there they showed me one of the smallest primates with thin & rough fur, big & round eyes, and its elongated “tarsus,” or ankle bone.

“They are called tarsiers” my friends told me. “People often acquaint these tiny creatures with Bohol (one of the provinces of the Philippines) for they are often found there but recently environmentalists discovered that they also flourish here in Mt Matutum. (ESI tarsier research in Tupi)

Tarsier Spotted in Mt Matutum!

“Isn’t it’s amazing how these tarsiers are able to survive here? This just means that our forests here are still alive and can sustain growth of species like these!” I said.

Our conversation was halted as one of our buddies called to us to hurry up for we need to leave the mountain. “Let’s go! It’s almost time,” he said as we boarded the habal-habal (a motorcycle with extended seating) that waits. I started to wonder where we are going next. The journey probably took around 30minutes.

“I like travelling here”, I told them. “For one, the streets aren’t as crowded as those I’m seeing in the TV in other parts of the Philippines, vehicles are moving smoothly. And my favorite part? It’s the freshness of the surrounding air.“

Aahhh! I opened my mouth to take a gulp of the cool breeze! I wondered how many places in this country are still able to maintain the cleanliness of their air as clean as this province do.

Upon arrival at the “South Cot Sports & Cultural Center” (as the name in front of the building says) we immediately headed in. From where we are I could hear the beat of the drums and the yelling of the crowd as they applaud for their favorite performers.

4. Let’s Get Loud: Cheerdancing Competition

“Did we forget to mention that this week is South Cotabato’s biggest and brightest festival – the 13th T’NALAK FESTIVAL? And in front of you is one of the highlights of the said event, the Cheerdancing Competition!”

My eyes were greeted by teams in colorful costumes, dancing in harmony to the pound of the drums, performing astounding calisthenics – with some being thrown in the air, in beautiful formations.

A-w-e-s-o-m-e! These cheerleading teams can be made to compete even in the national level!

After the cheer dance competition, we proceeded to Gaisano Grand Mall Koronadal.

5. Agri-Industrial, Technology and Trade Expo

The Agri Expo started with a cultural dance from the natives, in a performance that portrayed their rich heritage.

Expo 2012 Cultural Dance Performers

The expo also became a venue for South Cotabateňos to showcase their various products like the sturdy engineered bamboo crafts, colorful outfits, native necklaces and bracelets, and the intricately hand woven T’nalak Cloth.

Engineered Bamboo Arts and Craft Showcase

Shapes and Colors of Some of South Cotabato’s Textiles

South Cotabato’s Agricultural Industry

6. Kultura

“By the way, isn’t this cloth the name of this festival? T’nalak,” I asked.

Hand Woven Dreams. T’nalak Weaving Exhibit at the Agri Expo

“Yes,” one of them answered me. The history of T’nalak can be traced down from the T’nalak cloth. It is a deep brown abaca-based cloth tie-dyed with intricate designs produced by women of Mindanao’s T’boli Tribe.  It is actually one of the best known cultural products of the Philippines.

 “And don’t take that cloth for granted, T’nalak production is a tedious and intensive process,” quipped another buddy of mine.  “First, abaca fiber is stripped from the abaca tree, cleaned, dried and separated into strands.  These are then carefully selected, hand tied and rolled into balls.  Natural vegetable dyes produced by the T’boli weavers themselves are used to stain these hand spun abaca fibers, usually in tones of red, brown and black, with the end product requiring months of work to produce a single, unique weaving.”

“What?! Months? Wow!” I gasped.

“T’nalak has great significance for the T’Boli.  According to T’boli tradition, T’nalak weavings are one of the traditional properties exchanged at the time of marriage and is used as a covering during birth to ensure a safe delivery.”

“It is also believed that one should not step over a weaving in progress, and doing so is to risk illness.  Cutting the cloth will cause sickness or death, unless done according to traditions. And while weaving a T’nalak, T’boli women practice abstinence in order to maintain the purity of their art,” he continued.

What he said made me speechless. I just couldn’t have enough words to admire the culture that this province have. Looking at my commercially made clothes, I realized how the world today wants everything to be quick, including the production of clothes, without even giving value to where it came from or how it’s made.

7. Feast of Fruits & Food

“Have we already filled your appetite enough?” asked one of them. “Well not yet.”

They then ushered me to one of the stalls in the exhibit portraying various fruits and South Cotabato made food products. Among them are bananas, pineapples, papayas (not your ordinary ones for these are exported!), and food products such as “taro” (camote) chips (one of my favorites, taste like Piattos, even better!), banana chips, fruit candies, and jams in myriad of flavors.

Feast of Fruits in Sout Cotabato!

Fruit Jams for Export. Made in South Cotabato (Kablon Farms)


“South Cotabato is indeed rich” they said. “Products like these are hard to find in other places, but here they grew abundantly.

An Abundant Harvest

I thought I’ve had enough of the day. But there’s more as we proceeded to the streets of Koronadal. “Now you’ll be witnessing one of the grandest highlight of T’nalak Festival – the street dancing competition,” they told me.

8. Experience of the Kiay-kiay sa dalan!

“Welcome to the Kiay-kiay sa dalan!” mused one of my friends. “Kiay-kiay?”  I asked.

Kiay-kiay is an Ilonggo word (one of the major dialects in South Cotabato) which means “to dance, to sway, or to move your body”. And this is what these dancers do. Take a look at them”, he answered.

The vibrant colors, heart pounding drum beats and awe inspiring dances of the different tribes of South Cotabato dominated the main streets of Koronadal City. The melody of every song, the rhythm of the smashing drums and the groovy vibes of the surroundings joyfully set the whole city in a jovial mood.

It was a great showcase of different cultures reflected on the well rehearsed dances of the 12 contingents vying for the grand prize in three categories – MADAL BE’LAN, KASADYAHAN SA KAPATAGAN & KADSAGAYAN ALALAN.




Indeed, performers in vibrant colors and synchronized movements delighted me as they present various ethnical dances well choreographed to depict tribal stories of this emerging province. I can’t help but to dance with them in a tune that sounded so familiar. Upon seeing the entry from Tupi National High School, something at the back of my mind tells me that once in my life, I’ve already joined this and had been a performer like them. Perhaps a returning memory. I smiled.

9. Search for the Mutya ng South Cotabato

At nightfall, we’ve headed back at the Cultural Center to watch the parade of beauties of South Cotabato – no other than the Search for the Mutya ng South Cotabato.

The Princesses in their attires

Gorgeous candidates from each of the 11 municipalities of the province mesmerized the people as they showed off their splendor in dazzling attires.

Sizzling Swimwear Attire

Tnalak Haute Cotour

Candidates in their Dazzling Gown Attire

The Top 5 Finalists

The Beauties of South Cotabato 2012

For a spectator like me, witnessing this will surely make one realize that people here in South Cotabato aren’t just warm hearted, they are also beautiful inside and out.

10. Talented People

They also got the talent that one could be proud of. Just recall the exquisite dance movements from their cheerdancers, the street dancing performers, of course let us not forget that behind it are the creative minds of choreographers.

Their talent can also be found from their products, the aforementioned T’nalak weaving, and the pot making. Not to mention distinct achievements in the field of sports, arts, and academics in the national level.

Pot Making in the Agri-Industrial Expo

Musicians Playing Outside One of the Bahay Kubo Displays (Photo taken by Tourism Office of Tupi)

T’nalak Festival 2012 Fun Run

11. Innovativeness

As we lead ourselves outside the Cultural Center, we’ve decided to talk a walk along Alunan Avenue. Here one will find the Bahay Kubo and Product Display from respective municipalities.

Bahay Kubo Showcase

Bahay Kubo Showcase

Observing how each bahay kubo differs in architecture, feature and style, made me admire the innovativeness of these people.

12. Vice Ganda Unkabogable Concert

“Another thing that we could be proud of here in our province is the peace and order situation,” one of my fellows said. “This is one of the realities that oftentimes people from the northern part of the Philippines do not know. For they think when one mentions “South Cotabato” it means a place where there is war, rebels, etc. But actually they are wrong.”

He continued, “As a matter of fact, various popular performers can go freely visiting our province and perform without threats to their security. Just last night Vice Ganda with his fellow comedians entertained the people and left their stomachs aching in laughter.

Vice Ganda in South Cotabato

Vice Ganda Concert

13. Amo na ya!

“Basta South Cotabato, amo na ya!” quipped another one of my buddies.

This, to my surprised sounded familiar. It was supposed to be a foreign phrase to me but I understood it. “Amo na ya” is an Ilonggo term implying bragging rights, something that makes one shout to the whole world how proud he or she is.

 And with the events that I’ve witnessed in this week long celebration of the T’nalak Festival, I could say that truly South Cotabato made a difference, and is making a difference today and in the days to come.

The tourist spots, the environment, the arts, the nightly concerts,  the cheers, the yells the dances, the culture, the delicacies, the crafts, and most of all the people, these and many others set the difference that makes one proudly say, “sa South Cotabato, amo na ya!”

14. Love of the People of South Cotabato

If there’s one more thing that could make one keeps going back in South Cotabato, it is the love of the people. The welcoming smiles, the friendly gestures, and the hospitable attitude will surely make one feel at home in this gifted province.

One by one all the memories I’ve lost started to return. My childhood memories in a suburb, rural town in Brgy. Cebuano, Tupi, South Cotabato. My high school memories of climbing the Mt Matutum in a Girl Scout encampment, the joys of dancing the streets during the T’nalak 2010 street dancing competition, the proud of representing South Cotabato in a national academic competition, and even the repetitive insistence of some for me to join the Mutya ng South Cotabato.

Thank you T’nalak 2012, because of you I now remember who I am, what I do, and where I came from.

15. Improved Signal of Sun Cellular in South Cotabato

I was stopped in my thoughts when I heard my cellphone rang. It was my mother calling. Thanks to Sun Cellular’s improved signal in South Cotabato, now my mother can enjoy affordable rates of texting and calling in our municipality in Tupi (dati kasi walang signal doon).

I answered the phone and heard a familiar voice, my mom.

“It’s time for you to go home,” she said.

I just smiled and said, “Ma, I’m already home.”

Photo Edited by Mr Jerome Entredicho

PS. All the images above are all taken by the author during the T’nalak Festival 2012 except for those whose credits by another person is mentioned. You may only copy, use, or publish the images with proper permission and authorization.

“This is my submission for the T’nalak Festival 2012 Blog Writing Contest, which is made possible with the support of sponsors such as Hon. Governor Arthur Y. Pingoy, Jr and the province of South CotabatoSun Cellularget two days of unlimited text to all networks for only ₱15 with SUN TEXTALL15Dole Philippines, Representative Teddy Casiño & Bayan Muna Party-List KCC MallsSouthCotabato.Org and South Cotabato News.”

128 thoughts on “TNALAK FESTIVAL 2012: 15 Reasons Why It’s More Fun in South Cotabato, Amo na ya!

  1. as i look at the pictures and read about the blog you wrote. you showed me how beautiful and wonderful tinalak festival was.. too bad i missed the festival. i hope i was there.. thanks for sharing those pictures..

    • Thanks for droppin by Wander Shugah. Just one correction, ‘Cotabato’ is a different province from ‘South Cotabato’ a common misconception many people have. Just so you won’t get lost. Hehe. See you soon here @So Cot!

  2. woooow i want fruit jams! i’ve always loved fruit jams. i really love them on my bread. :/ pero it’s been a while since i bought a fruit jam. the photo of the falls is wow, looks so powerful.

    • Take time to visit South Cotabato and I’m sure you’ll have a spoonful of fruit jams here! Haha. Anyway, fruit jam products of South Cotabato can also be found in major supermarkets (Kablon Farms is the name) I think SM has them. Check them out!

  3. all of these in south cotabato?… indeed it has a lot to offer… love the tour you had given me… hope you can visit us also in our kadayawan festival celebration… i know, it’ll just be as colorful and fun as that of tnalak festival. thanks. Yahweh bless.

  4. One day, when I am able to visit cotabato, I will make sure it is during Tnalak Festival. I would also love to try the adventures that cotabato can show me. And I surely love to see and photograph the falls..

  5. I haven’t heard about this festival in South Cotabato. This is actually the 1st time. Is this like the Sinulog Festival in Cebu or the Penagbenga Festival in Baguio? I’d love to witness this types of events, specially in Mindanao part of the Philippines. Maybe someday, if I have the enough courage to visit Mindanao… Love your pics, btw. 🙂

    • Hi Ness! The festival’s somewhat similar to Sinulog in terms of the stories portrayed by some performers, and Penagbenga in flowery colors! Hope to have you here in our province soon! I’d love to give you a tour to Mindanao. It’s not actually as scary as you think 😉

  6. such a colorful feast indeed! i would love to try that zipline. it would have been nice riding in one of the highest in Southeast Asia!

  7. Ikaw na, Roj! Haha, di ko kinaya ang “amnesia” na angle sa imong blog post, haha! Great pictures! Hope to join you in one of your adventures. ;D

  8. Wow! I would love to visit the beart of Mindanao someday. Mt. Matutum looks so beautiful, first time to here about that place. Awesome post. 🙂

  9. This post seems to be carefully thought of. I was also thinking of making the same post but I got caught up with life. haha!

    Oh, how I wish Marbel, Tupi, Polomolok…. I was assigned there for a while and I just love the place. I’d like to add Mc Gregor in your list, I miss having coffee there.

  10. If I will get myself to South Cotabato, il definitely get a Tnalak cloth the same way I purchased my Yakan-woven scarf where I bring with me to trips and travels.

    You have a rather comprehensive post about the festival and it gives us something to expect in the coming years too.

    Nice to have met a fellow Mindanaoan travel blogger. 🙂

  11. Several people here in Luzon might tremble in fear when they hear the word “Mindanao”, I think it’s kinda discriminating, but honestly, the stigma of being inhabited with the Abu Sayyaf and several notorious groups brings fear to people.

    However, this post enlightened me that there are still things to enjoy about Mindanao, particularly South Cotabato. This proves that there are still times to smile and enjoy being a Filipino.

    Thanks for bringing the beauty of Mindanao here. 🙂

    • Hi Ven! Indeed, a sad reality coz even though the Abu Sayyaf attacks happened long ago and in just a few areas, until now Mindanao still had a stigma of being a chaotic place. Hopefully this mentality will change over time (but I guess it will take quite a long one).

      My hope is through blog posts like this, at least I could make a difference to my readers – and somewhat change their perspective when they hear the word Mindanao.

  12. never been to So. Cotabato yet but it’s definitely on my bucket list. I have friends there. Sometimes we are so focused on going abroad we forget that our country has as much beauty, culture and history to offer.

  13. Roj. Haha. All for South Cotabato gid ini ya! Nice meeting you too, though quite informal yet there are always next time. Diba no? Amo na’ya! :)) See you around and Happy “Vlogging” to all of us. hehe

  14. It truly is more fun in South Cotabato! Your blog post is so vibrant, so informative and so captured our province’s rich culture and unique, diverse people. It is so refreshing to relearn our roots and culture despite modernization. I hope we continue promoting South Cotabato as a tourist destination and uncover to the world how beautiful and amazing it is. Amo na ya, AdventuRoj!

  15. Wow! Such a beautiful place. So much exciting and fun activities and rich culture. I am definitely interested to visit this place some day. Amazing to find tarsiers too, I thought they were only found in Cebu. That is awesome.

  16. Indeed a long list of what South Cotabato can offer! I’m sure it would be nice to be one of the spectators in all what has been listed here.

  17. Thanks for posting our products. We strive to give our people products South Cotabato could be proud of. More power to your Blog!

  18. Pingback: Yay! Another Feat for Adventuroj! | The Adventures of AdventuRoj!

  19. Wow, wonderful blog layout! How long have you been blogging for? you made blogging look easy. The overall look of your website is excellent, as well as the content!. Thanks For Your article about TNALAK FESTIVAL 2012: 15 Reasons Why It’s More Fun in South Cotabato, Amo na ya! | The Adventures of AdventuRoj! .

  20. Could you give me contact details for the manufacturers of the engineered bamboo please. Looking all over the Internet, I can’t find a local supplier! Thanks!

  21. Thank you for your site post. Brown and I have already been saving to get a new guide on this matter and your writing has made us all to save the money. Your ideas really solved all our questions. In fact, in excess of what we had recognized ahead of the time we discovered your superb blog. I no longer have doubts plus a troubled mind because you really attended to each of our needs above. Thanks

  22. Pingback: 2012: AdventuRoj Year of Firsts! | The Adventures of AdventuRoj!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s