November is Filipino Values Month

This month, we explored other Tboli values that are deeply rooted in their tradition and cultural heritage. Working together, which is the essence of Sesotunawa, will not be possible without these qualities.

sesotunawa lake sebu handcrafted work table

Kehulong: The Value of Creativity

In Lake Sebu, kehulong plays an important role in the lives of the Tboli. Creativity, when translated into their crafts, becomes an important source of livelihood. It also connects them to their heritage as art traditions are passed on from one generation of Tboli creatives to another. Kehulong also reinforces the Tboli's deep appreciation of their lifeworld. Their beautiful and intricate designs are inspired by their environment, which is the source of their identity and culture.

There was a time in the past when the Tboli creatives were highly respected. Those who were skilled in weaving, brass casting, beading, and other forms of art were considered guardians and bearers of the Tboli cultural knowledge and traditions. Today, while the Tboli creativity is still very much alive, it seems to have lost its value. Tboli creatives are now only seen as craftsmen and not as the revered artists that they used to be.

May this month be a reminder that the Tboli and other indigenous makers are not just craftsmen, but they are also artists in their own right. And just like any artwork, what they create are more than just products. Their artwork is their life’s work.

sesotunawa lake sebu kebeng

Hemduf (Hospitality)

Hospitality is a common trait among Filipinos, so it is no surprise that you will also experience this when you visit a Tboli community. The moment you enter their home, you will notice that the dining table has been set and a feast has been prepared for you.

Sesotunawa and hemduf are strongly channelled through the manner the Tboli people from Lake Sebu share their food. Guests on a mere casual visit can easily sample the very best of the Tboli cuisine because food and Sesotunawa are almost always synonymous in Lake Sebu.

At any given time of the day, anyone from next door, who may just be walking by, is always warmly invited to join the feast.

From the gathering of ingredients to the preparation of the dish, Sesotunawa shines like a newly polished temwel (brass cast product).

Tboli hospitality is truly inspiring and heart-warming. Without even noticing, you’re already sitting side by side with your new friends, comfortably sharing a meal and a few stories here and there.

joel blunto sesotunawa lake sebu

Heglaan (Humility)

Every Tboli artwork carries with it generations of indigenous knowledge and skill. More than the unique beauty of these crafts, the Tboli understands that these products are symbols of their community’s collective knowledge, passed on from one generation of creatives to another.

Heglaan, or the Tboli value of humility, is evident in the way they take ownership of their art. The ability to design these earrings, bangles, and homeware was not only passed on to them from their ancestors, but was also borrowed from the spaces that they dwell in.

The Tboli do not take individual ownership of their art. Kuya Joel does not like to sign his brass products with his name because he understands that what he creates is not solely his, but the community’s.

Heglaan is strongly evident in the artisans’ acknowledgement that there is more to learn than what is already known. It is also strongly felt in the artisans’ desire to instruct and share. Our dream has grown from reaching more artisan communities to building a trade school that will teach younger generations in the art of Temwel and Lemimet. True artisans are humbled by the knowledge that nothing is owned, and everything is meant to be shared.
This is heglaan. This is sesotunawa.


Stories originally appeared on our Instagram and Facebook pages for Filipino Values Month. Words and photos by Sesotunawa.