The T’Boli (Tagabili, Tiboli) together with the B’laan to the east and Tiruray to the north are in a single language group distinct from the remaining languages of Mindanao. The group is found distributed in the province of South Cotabato with relatively denser concentrations in the towns of Kiamba (4899), Maitum (4805) and Surallah (3750, NSO 1980). The total census estimate is 69547 (NM 1994).The T’Boli traditionally live in scattered settlements in the highlands in southwestern region of Mindanao in the province of south Cotabato. The cultural heartland is about the complex of highland lakes – Lake Sebu, Lake Selutan and Lake Lahit. The settlements are usually scattered but are composed of family clusters of fifteen households or more. Clusters, however, are within shouting distance at elevations averaging 3000 feet above sea level. Ore recently these settlements are relatively larger comprising thirty or more households. Each settlement would have a ceremonial house called a gono bong(big house). Members of such communities are usually related by kinship. The head of each grouping is a datu. Extended families are common in households that operate as the economic and social unit.
The T’Boli practice swidden cultivation cultivating highland rice (teneba) which is the staple food. Other crops include sugar cane; corn and coffee which are cash crops; taro; sweet potatoes. Of domestic animals the horse is an index of economic status. While forest products are important food sources, about the lakes fish is an important protein source.
During recent times, the T’Boli have been noted for their back-loom textile tinalak woven from tie-dyed abaca fiber. Nationally popular too are their personal ornaments made of multi-colored beads, their embroidered blouses and hats. Small household industries have grown about their cast brass bolos handles, figurines and betel-nut containers and other ornaments, using the lost-wax process.
While the kinship system is bilateral there is a male bias which the father as the dominant figure in the household. In joint and extended families the oldest male dominates. The oldest male child takes over this dominance upon death of the father. If there is no such son, lomolois practiced whereby the father’s eldest brother assumes the wife and wealth of the diseased.
While the organizing principle in the society is kinship, communities are also linked through a recognized leader – the datu who does not really command but whose word is respected because of his status, economic means, courage, skill in settling disputes,and wisdom in the interpretation of custom laws. The position is achieved through community validation. He traditionally acquires rights over a person for whom he has paid an unsettled debt.
The major social ceremony and ritual of the T’Boli is the moninum usually associated with marriage but includes a multi-lateral exchange of articles of wealth (kimu). The ritual is the climax to a marriage ceremony which is composed of six ceremonial and reciprocal feasts, with the families taking turns in being hosts moken) and guests (mulu). The cycle of ceremonies may take many years to complete which some times result in the construction of gono monimum- a huge house that can accommodate more than 200 persons.
|Distribution of Ethnic Groups by Provinces
(Arrangement: Population count)
|Total National Population||50,724
|Agusan del N.||20|
|Agusan del S.||20|
|Davao del S.||11|
|S. Cotabato||50253 (NM 1991:68282)|
|S. Kudarat||206 (NM 1993: 1000)|