Lake Sebu's Tiboli Tribe on Gifts and Tradition

A day of Sharing with the T'boli Tribe

"Seeing the world from a different angle is a revelatory experience that adds depth and wisdom to our lives." 
tribe members of Barrio Siete, Lake Sebu

Spending the holiday season of 2008 with my family and relatives from the province of Mindanao left me nothing but good memories.

The highlight of our Lake Sebu trip was the scheduled Gift Giving and Medical Mission to the natives from Palo Siete. It has been a yearly family tradition spearheaded by Uncle Nonoy and wife Auntie Malen who've both been actively involved in community service in Lake Sebu. But year 2008 was different, because I was there, and that was one amazing journey!

Our day started with a 30 minute road trip up the hills from the family's property (Balben Family Cove) .We rode 2 Hilux 4x4, an Isuzu Innova and a 20 seater jeep. It was quite a bumpy road trip. As we drove up along the narrow path uphill (making it more exciting and scary!) we passed by incredible sites of lush forest greens and we could really tell we're really way up because we started feeling the chills. There were less than 50 excited family members and close friends ready to explore and all set to give. When we arrived at the site, we were all stunned by the T'boli tribe who greeted our family with a smile and welcomed us with their vibrant tribal dresses and unique native dialect.

We've put together a short program that started off with a prayer from a native elder. The host of the program was a 14 year old tiboli lass, who by the way, is like a "princess" in their tribe, the heir to sizable pieces of real estate, mountains that is! :) My sister Hannah and cousin Marianne performed their acoustic version of "Hawak Kamay" while 3 T'boli girls presented to us a native tiboli dance backed up with a music from a 2 string guitar which they call "Hegelung". That was the first time I've seen upfront an ethnic T'boli Dance. I also couldn't help but marvel at the sound of their accessories made of brass which by the way is part of the heavy pieces from the entire t'nalak costume.

It never occured to me that one day some natives would perform for our family, guess it was their way of showing their appreciation, especially to my aunts and uncles in Mindanao. And I can't help but be proud of them.

The site is a residential to approximately 50 families. Each family was given bags loaded with clothes, foods and toys for the kids. Days before the mission, Auntie Malen (of Balben Family Cove) prepared a list of how many members are there in a family, their gender and age, so that they will be given the right set of clothes gifted by family members. She was indeed incredible!

Aunt Malen (in red) leads the gift giving part.

The food? Yummy! Everything were cooked and harvested right from the community's farm. As part of the custom, they all hesitated to eat until everyone of us had already digged in. The program ended when my younger cousins and siblings threw coins, paagawan na!!

My brother Arthur, Auntie Bebing with her son Kuya Bimbim and Uncle Benjamin Suedad graciously served the medical needs of the natives while others helped out in packing of the medicines.

T'boli elders of Lake Sebu

Sharing and spending a day with the people far different from the way I dress, the way I speak and the way I live has been a humbling experience! It was a wonderful day full of discoveries and fresh experiences! Lake Sebu had once again made this shared family experience a blissful memory. And I had the best time of my life!


  1. this is such a humbling post! Go back to your roots, that's the way to go!

  2. It was truly a humbling experience. I hope to see more of tiboli tribe this May when I get back there. :)

  3. "pinoy boy journals said...
    this is such a humbling post! Go back to your roots, that's the way to go!
    May 9, 2010 4:01 AM"

    I concur. For some reason I found myself doing something similar.

    @saggi - depending on my financing. How does one get around to this place? I have seen few phtos of Lake Sebu and I am intrested in visiting perhaps a day trip or an overnight or something or rather. Transportation will be an issue for me though.. There will be 3 of us travelling (hopefully) 2 adults and a 1 year old.

    So, what's the best way of getting there and how do i get there? (from either Davao, Kidapawan or Tagum ) doesn't matter maybe from Davao?

  4. @ kidapawan city: thanks for visiting, to help you get started on your lake sebu tour you can check out one of my post

    hope it helps :)

  5. please continue your wonderful endeavor...
    super galing...

  6. Lake Sebu has its eerie feeling or Am I just the one thinking this way? nevertheless, the place looks awesome... I would love to see ethnic people like them...



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