I love visiting the Philippines and especially enjoy how lively and vibrant it is all of the time. I also always enjoy a chance to practice my Tagalog language skills.
As you may know, the Philippines has no shortage of colorful and fascinating festivals held in various parts of the country throughout the year. Some of these festivals celebrate important religious events (as the Philippines is a predominantly Catholic country).
However, many others focus on cultural aspects of the regions or originated as a way to move past hardships or difficulties that occurred.
The T’Nalak Festival, also known as the Tinalak Festival, in the South Cotabato province (also referred to as the land of Dreamweavers) is one festival that stands out for being particularly colorful and celebratory in nature.
Make sure you book a place to stay in Koronadal in advance for the Tinalak Festival as it gets very busy during the celebration and the accommodations sometimes get fully booked days or weeks before.
The region is known for the women who weave brightly colored abaca fibers, and you’ll find no shortage of color in their celebrations.
Here’s everything that you’ll need to know about the history of this festival and what you can expect if you plan to attend and participate in the celebration.
What is T’Nalak Festival?
The T’Nalak Festival is a cultural festival that celebrates the Foundation Day anniversary of the province of South Cotabato. It takes place annually in mid-July in the city of Koronadal, also known as Marbel.
The name T’Nalak comes from the black, red, and green colored abaca cloth that the area’s women weave.
The festival has many varied events, much like the unique and multi-ethnic people who live in the area. As with other festivals in the Philippines, it centers around colorful street dancing, lively street parties, and trade expositions that showcase the area.
It primarily serves as a way to promote and preserve the cultural heritage of South Cotabato.
What is the T’Nalak Festival Place of Origin?
The history of the T’Nalak Festival comes from the desire of the people of South Cotabato to celebrate the founding of the province and the heritage of their traditional dress and T’Nalak cloth weaving of the local T’boli women.
In fact, the area is commonly known as the Land of Dreamweavers because the design of the weave is said to be dreamed by the person who weaves it.
The weaving in this region is so vital that it deserves celebration by a festival because the process of weaving the cloth proves quite tedious and shows the resilience, patience, and dedication to quality that the people of the area possess.
The fabric represents the different cultures and multitude of ethnicities that live on the island and demonstrates how they are all unified.
During the first festival, the President awarded a local woman, Lang Dulay, the National Living Treasure award for her contribution as the best weaver of her time.
When is T’Nalak Festival Celebrated?
T’Nalak Festival is celebrated during the month of July when the anniversary of the foundation of the province of South Cotabato takes place. You can usually expect that the festival’s main events will occur in the middle of the month and last for approximately a week.
T’Nalak Festival Costume
As is customary with Filipino festivals, the costumes worn during the T’Nalak Festival are vibrant and quite colorful.
They focus on the patterns of the T’Nalak cloth and showcase the culture of the tribes and indigenous people from the area. Performers wear variations of the cloth along with matching headpieces.
Not all of the costumes are entirely made out of the T’Nalak cloth. However, each of the parade participants includes at least a piece of it in their design.
The rest of their costume exhibits the traditional elements of their specific ethnic group (usually the T’bolis, Christians, and Muslims).
Most of the costumes’ colors are used in the T’Nalak cloth weaving, so you’ll see many greens, purples, and reds representing the vegetable dyes and pigments of roots and bark that they use to color the tapestries.
T’Nalak Festival Description
The best way to describe the atmosphere of the Tinalak festival is to say that it shows the joy of the people who put it on. Everywhere you look, you can see the people’s pride in their culture, tribes, and customs.
You will also see striking colors and hear live music throughout the entire celebration.
The festival begins with the Grand Parade. This main parade highlights the tribal communities of the South Cotabato area.
After that takes place, you’ll experience a variety of other events, each with a vibrant spirit and high energy that matches the area’s people.
Other highlights include sporting events, dance competitions, a cheer dance competition, a fantastic float parade, and many street parties (with an entire night dedicated to rock music!).
At the end of the celebration, you’ll experience fireworks and the traditional crowing of all of the winners of the festival’s competitions.
The festival also takes time to call attention to the tourism aspects of the area and emphasize the various attractions available there, along with the area’s agri-trade and other handicrafts made by the locals.
You will be sure to leave the celebration with a better understanding and appreciation for the culture of South Cotabato.
T’Nalak Festival Highlights
The main highlights of the TNalak Festival include the opening Grand Parade and, of course, the street dancing competitions. If you’ve never experienced a street dancing competition in the Philippines, you are definitely missing out.
These competitions are a part of all the festivals that take place here, and they really are an exhibition of talent and beauty. You’ll see incredibly choreographed routines by people who are thrilled to show off their talents.
Another highlight of this festival is the cheer dance competition, which is different from street dancing competitions as it centers around cheerleading teams showing off their aerial stunts, tumbling skills, and synchronized cheer routines.
If you’re still at the festival during the last day, you will want to witness the closing coronation ceremony where the winners of all the events are named and receive their proper recognition.
Afterward, you’ll experience a colorful display of celebratory fireworks.
T’Nalak Festival Tips
If it’s your first time attending the T’Nalak festival (or even your first time at any festival in the Philippines), you’ll want to make sure you’re well prepared.
- Wear comfortable shoes and clothing. These festivals involve a lot of walking, and you’ll be in large crowds of people. You want to make sure that you can keep up and enjoy everything.
- If you want to see the Grand Parade, arrive at the festival early. The parade starts very early in the morning, and you will miss it if you do not pay attention to the time it starts.
- Find a good spot to watch the street dancing competition. You will want to know where you plan on standing to view it ahead of time and get there early enough to find a good spot. These events all get crowded early and quickly.
How to get to T’Nalak Festival
The Nalak Festival takes place in Koronadal (Marbel), and it is not very difficult to get to the area. You can take one of the daily flights out of Manila and plan to arrive in Gen. Santos City.
From there, you only need to take a short bus ride (approximately 45 minutes) to the city of Koronadal.
Some other things to do during your stay in Koronadal and around
Make the most of your trip to Koronadal by taking advantage of some of the area’s other tourist attractions. If you want to learn more about the culture of the people, you can visit the T’boli Museum there.
For more culture, check out the Surallah Cultural Landmark, which shows the diversity of the area’s culture and the traditions within the province.
For an exciting adventure in nature, check out Eden Nature Park and Resort.
Finally, don’t miss visiting Lake Sebu, which is one of the most famous destinations in the entire country. Here you can explore seven waterfalls and even a zip line.
Where to Stay during T’Nalak Festival
We recommend two places: