Mabal Blaan exhibit opens in Gensan

If the Tbolis have Tnalak, the Blaans have Mabal. But the latter seems unfamiliar to most of us. Thanks to the initiative done by cultural heritage advocates.

Leonardo Bing CariƱo, Josephine“Arjho” Carino-Turner, Emi Englis, Toto Terando and Helen Lumbos with other cultural heritage advocates conducted the “Mabal Tabih: Weaving the Threads of Heritage” exhibit at SM City General Santos. The exhibit aims to popularize the Blaan Tabih as a heritage material and promote the role of traditional artists as keepers of national heritage. Moreover, this project shall cover a comprehensive study on the Mabal: the technology, the indigenous knowledge systems, the aesthetics and design; a gathering of important pieces ever woven to appreciate the Mabal craft not only as a way of life but as a heritage of the Philippines.

The Provincial Government of Sarangani and the Department of Tourism (DOT) Region XII supported this activity to help revive the culture of the Blaan.
“We support this (cultural) initiative so that they could continue to teach it to the young people,” says Governor Steve Chongbian Solon. The Provincial Government of Sarangani is never tired of helping our fellow Indigenous People living in the Province (Blaan, Tagakaolo, Tboli). For example, the Lamlifew Village Museum serves as an institution to help promote, preserve and protect the traditional culture of the said tribes. It also helps them for economic opportunities. “We really intend to increase their income for sustainability of the project,” says Governor Solon.

There are only two remaining weavers of Mabal cloth. They are Fu Yabing Masalon Dulo of Landan, Polomolok, South Cotabato and Fu Gusiye Buan of Kibala, Malungon, Sarangani Province. Despite the LGUs support, the indigenous knowledge systems revolving around the Mabal is daunting. The two keepers of tradition carry the burden of sustaining, recording and the (re)telling of the entire narrative of Mabal that connects each Blaan to their history as a people.

“Our heritage is slowly dying,” says Leonardo Bing Carino. As he pointed out, this cultural initiative is one of the ways to help preserve these traditional practices of the Blaans.

“The Blaan Tabih is difficult to make. If the entire tradition of Mabal making will be carried on only by the last two masters (Fu Yabing and Fu Gusiye), only a few more Mabals will be completed; the documentation of this fabulous cultural resource will be left unfinished; the noble narrative of the existence of a Blaan nation will go silent with the passing of the masters.”

Mabal has its own unique design. It shows their identity as a Blaan just like the Tbolis in their Tnalak and the Tagabawa Bagobo in their Inabal. The Mabal is a subtle but distinct cultural resource that defines the Blaan culture.

The Mabal Blaan exhibit runs till October 13-16 at the Event Center of SM City General Santos.

YADU KARU is an independent filmmaker and a photojournalist. He also blogs at YaduKaru.Com.

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