The T'boli of the Philippines
The nearly 93,000 T'boli (or Tiboli) are a tribal group in the Philippines. In the past, they were often referred to as the 'Tagabili', but now dislike that name. They primarily live in the South Cotabato province of Mindanao Island, which is located in the southern part of the Philippines. The T'boli speak a Malayo-Polynesian language called Tboli. In addition to their native language, many of the T'boli also speak Ilongo or Bilaan.
The Philippine Islands contain a patchwork of various people groups and religions. In fact, more than 150 ethnic groups inhabit the Philippines. Some of the groups profess Christianity, others are Muslim, and a few follow their ancient animistic religions (believe that non-living objects have spirits).
This great diversity has been the cause of much conflict and bloodshed among the various ethnic groups. The T'boli have often been caught in the crossfire as various groups have battled each other.
What are their lives like?
The T'boli live in "long-houses" that are built on six-foot stilts. Homes are generally about 50 feet long and nearly 30 feet wide. They are typically constructed of bamboo, wood, and palm fronds. The people do not live in towns or villages, but live apart from each other in their widely separated houses.
Distinctive and colorful clothing characterizes T'boli men and women and is a major source of ethnic pride. Nearly all clothing is made of t'nalak, which is a cloth that has a brown background, lightened by red and beige designs. Women wear ornamental combs, earrings, bracelets, and rings. The T'boli usually cover their heads with turbans or large circular hats.
Marriages are usually arranged by the families after lengthy negotiations. Weddings are colorful celebrations that often require months of preparation. Monogamy (one husband, one wife) is nearly always practiced. However, the rich may sometimes have multiple wives as a symbol of prestige.
What are their beliefs?
Although the T'boli believe in a great pantheon of gods, the two most important are Kadaw la Sambad and Bulon la Mogow. They supposedly gave birth to the lesser gods, who either bestow benefits on people or afflict them with bad luck or ailments. The T'boli place large wooden statues of the gods in their homes and fields. They frequently offer food and liquor to the gods for appeasement.
What are their needs?
Despite the work of Christians among them, the T'boli continue to serve their various gods, daily living in fear. The New Testament is available in Tboli, but Christian resources such radio and television broadcasts are not yet available.
All around the T'boli, conflicting religious groups continue to battle with each other. These precious people need to find the peace and love that comes through knowing Christ.
Latest estimates from the World Evangelization Research Center.
© Copyright 1997
Bethany World Prayer Center
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