T’nalak Festival: Guide to South Cotabato’s Colorful Event

(header photo via Instagram, @mikeanghelo21)

Held every July, the T’nalak Festival coincides with South Cotabato’s Foundation Day. The festival is named after t’nalak, a colorful and intricately woven abaca fabric created and worn by T’boli women. Symbolizing diversity and resilience, the fabric patterns are discerned from their dreams.

How to Go to T’nalak Festival

By Air

There are several jump off points if you’re attending the festival. Book a flight to General Santos via local airlines like Philippine Airlines and Cebu Pacific since they have daily flights from Manila, Cebu, and Iloilo to the city. From General Santos, take a bus headed to Koronadal City, the festival’s hub.

By Land

Philtranco buses travel from Manila to Davao City, passing through the Bicol region in Southern Luzon and Samar and Leyte in the Visayas. The trip takes three days.

From Davao there are buses to Koronadal; travel time is three hours and 45 minutes. There are also buses from Cagayan De Oro City to Koronadal, which takes eight hours.

By Sea

Super Ferry and Sulpicio Lines have trips to General Santos.

What to Expect

T'nalak Street Dancers

(photo via Instagram, @imagecatcher_creativestudio)

street dancers at T'nalak Festival

(photos via Instagram, @imagecatcher_creativestudio)

The week-long T’nalak Festival has activities for everyone to enjoy. Event highlights include:

  • Tri-People Grand Parade. Held every July 18, the event showcases the South Cotabato’s three communities: the T’bolis, Muslims, and Christians. Participants are dressed in a heady mix of colors.
  • Mutya ng South Cotabato. Charming ladies from all over South Cotabato vie for the province’s most coveted crown.
  • Bahay Kubo Competition. This competition highlights the local ingenuity and the region’s agricultural products.
  • Street Dancing. Not your typical street dance showdown, each group incorporates a traditional story into the presentation and interprets it through song and dance.

Tips While Attending T’nalak Festival

Tboli dancer

(photo via Instagram, @chrisgc_11)

  • T’nalak Festival’s vibrance is best captured on camera. Don’t forget to stock up on charged batteries and empty memory cards.
  • Plan your day. The festival is a flurry of activity and you might feel overwhelmed. Check event schedules and prioritize what you want to see and experience.
  • Head to event venues early to get the best seats.
  • Apart from English and Filipino, the people of South Cotabato converse in Cebuano and Hiligaynon. Locals will appreciate your effort to learn a phrase or two.

Points of Interest

Tboli Museum

(photo via Instagram, @joycvilla)

Not to be missed are the following destinations nearby to maximize your stay. Check them out prior to or after the festival:

  1. General Santos Fish Port Complex
    This fish port is the biggest in Mindanao.
  2. Surallah Cultural Landmark
    Created by acclaimed sculptor Kublai Ponce Millan in 2011, the monument pays tribute to the T’bolis, Muslims, and Christian settlers, and highlights the local produce.
  3. T’boli Museum
    Learn more about the tribe’s culture and way of life.
  4. Manlilikha ng Bayan Center
    A training center for the next generation of dream weavers.
  5. Dole Pineapple Plantation
    The 18,000-hectare plantation reaches the foothills of Mt. Matutum.

Things to Do

Lake Sebu

While you’re here, don’t forget to explore more. There are many things you can do to enjoy your vacation.

For example, the trip won’t be complete without a stopover at the dreamy Lake Sebu. You can sign up for a river cruise or ride a zipline to see the Seven Falls from a different perspective.

If you’re the adventurous type, head to Siok Falls in Koronadal for a heart-stopping river trekking adventure.

Lastly, bring home T’boli products such as bead work accessories, brass ornaments, mats, and baskets. Not only are they great as souvenirs, accessories, or home decors, but also a great reminder of the province’s rich culture.

Other Destinations Nearby

South Cotabato Mosque

Enjoyed your stay? You can still extend your holidays and visit these places on your way out of South Cotabato:

  • Cotabato City. The city’s main draw is the huge Sultan Hadji Hassanal Bolkiah Masjid, which can accommodate 1,200 worshippers.
  • Sultan Kudarat. Baras Bird Sanctuary in Tacurong is an impressive bird watching site.
  • Saranggani. Do some serious beach hopping.
  • Davao. Be charmed by its beaches and exotic fruits – durian, rambutan, and mangosteen are definite crowd-pleasers.

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