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T’boli Mothers Take Part in Saving Culture |

T’boli Mothers Take Part in Saving Culture Pinay, Pinays, T’boli, Mothers, Indigenous, Tribe, South Cotabato, Save The Children Philippines, First Read Program, Identity, Culture, Tribal, Heritage Pinay, Pinays, T’boli, Mothers, Indigenous, Tribe, South Cotabato, Save The Children Philippines, First Read Program, Identity, Culture, Tribal, Heritage
Anna Liz Cabrido

Vivian Antang, a young Pinay T’boli mother of three, listened intently to the speaker in front who enumerated the elements of a good children’s story. A few seats away from her is Sally Dala, her neighbor who seemed to enjoy remembering numerous indigenous games of their tribe. On her left side is Yuda Prospero, the daycare teacher who tried to recall the rhymes and lullabies she heard from her grandmother.

Antang, Dala, Prospero and the other T’boli mothers in Barangay Lamsalome, a far-flung Philippine barrio in South Cotabato, were invited by Save the Children Philippines, a leading independent organization that focuses on the welfare of children around the world, and its partner First Read Program, to develop books and early literacy materials using indigenous material to save T’boli’s cultural identity and reintroduce it to the younger generation.

When Save the Children’s creative team visited them one early morning, the mothers in the village were dressed in their native T’boli costume. Antang said they were up as early as five in the morning to prepare the children and everyone who participated in the video shoot. Aside from the books, the team also produced a video material, featuring their songs, rhymes and lullabies that could be used by kindergarten teachers in their town to encourage young T’bolis to read.

During lunch break, Prospero shared an old T’boli myth that was barely heard in the village. She lamented that the younger generation was bombarded with western stories like the kings and queens and castles and cakes that they hear and see on radio and television while the ancient T’boli world became a forgotten past.

Yuda Prospero with Daughter - Vivian Antang and Daughter -  Sally Dala and Son

Yuda Prospero, with daughter; Vivian Antang and daughter; Sally Dala and son

Antang believed that lumad women—a group of indigenous people in Southern Philippines—especially the mothers, have important roles in handing down T’boli arts and culture to their children. She also recognizes that T’boli pride is worth preserving and the mothers are carriers of this great human race.

“The stories I shared with my children create a strong bond,” she said.

For Dala it is more than just a story. “I realize that by preserving my culture, I am also learning to value quality time with my children,” she said, using the story of the great Len-a, a T’boli legend of Lake Sebu and the God of Water, as a bedtime story.

For one day, the T’boli mothers were together in relearning and rediscovering their roots through old songs, rhymes, lullabies, children’s games and of course, bed time stories, making the quaint rural appeal of their village a perfect backdrop to start retelling their ancestors’ stories.

“We will pass through this world but the old T’boli stories, rhymes and lullabies and indigenous games will never fade,” Prospero said.

Pailyn Tan, communications officer of Save the Children, said the project aimed to revive the T’boli arts and letters for the kids of today, making it more appealing for the younger generation as it is written in their native language.

As the creative team spent several hours shooting the video material, T’boli mothers eagerly sang lullabies and the children gamely played the indigenous games until the valleys disappeared from view in the afternoon fog.

Last year, December 6, the first batch of “T’boli Children’s Games” and “A Collection of T’boli Songs and Rhymes” in their native tongue were launched and introduced to the public at the Univeristy of the Philippines-Ayala Land TechnoHub, in Diliman, Quezon City.

“This is for the future to hear and share,” Prospero said, a thought shared by the other mothers. is publishing this story in honor of mothers, coinciding with Mother’s Day. May is also the National Heritage Month. Anna Liz Cabrido is a blogger based in South Cotabato. All photos were taken by the author.

Anna Liz Cabrido

Anna Liz Cabrido is a contented 32-year old single lady and a proud South Cotabatena, whose home province, South Cotabato, is known as the Land of the Dream Weavers. When not in her writing mood, she is offfor another traveling experience---to islands in the sun, to a grand or street food trip, happy when in a tranquil vacation with her best travel buddies. Visit her blog at


  1. Anna Liz! I love this story about our indigenous sisters passing on the pure Philippine treasures of their history and families. I hope to see more stories like this at Even your photographs are beautiful. And I hope that more people will embrace weave their valuable indigenous roots into their modern lives.

  2. Thank you so much Ms. Perla and to Ms. Tish also.I am learning a lot from you guys! More Tboli stories to come for sure.

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