Souvenir Guide: Lake Sebu

The serene town of Lake Sebu in South Cotabato is home to various indigenous tribes including the T’bolis, who are well-known for their traditional skills in weaving and handicrafts. If you find yourself in Lake Sebu, be sure to drop by the Cooperative of Women in Health and Development (COWHED), a nipa hut on stilts designed after a Gono Kem Bo-I (T’Boli Princess House) where you can buy a range of lovely souvenirs made by T’boli women. I was fortunate to visit and interview several members of the cooperative who rely on handicraft making for their livelihood and supply these crafts to the souvenir shop for a writing assignment. I couldn’t help but take home the souvenirs as well. Here are a few things you can buy to bring home a piece of culture from Lake Sebu.

1) T’nalak

T’nalak or Tinalak is the indigenous fabric woven from threads of abaca by the T’boli tribe, with striking colors of red, black and white. 

T’boli women who weave T’nalak are called Dreamweavers. The patterns they make often take inspiration from their dreams and from nature.

2) Embroidery

Traditional T’boli clothing uses cross-stitch based designs, in threads of white,
green, yellow and red on black cloth.

The T’boli also have traditional designs based on the attaching of round mother of pearl shells to the cloth in geometric patterns.

3) Beads

Intricate beadwork is another traditional craft made by T’boli women. Jewelry-making is one of the traditional arts passed down from mothers to daughters.

4) Brasswork

The T’bolis are masters in brass casting, using small homemade furnace brass casters, to produce a variety of pieces like bells, bracelets and other decorative artwork.

5) Wooden Carvings

The T’bolis use their excellent woodcrafting skills to hand-carve soft-wood for decorations and tokens, taking inspiration from their culture and from nature.

COWHED is located at Tuko-Fol, Lake Sebu, South Cotabato, Philippines. For inquires, you may email them at

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