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In our Filipiniana library is a treasure trove of images of Philippine life, history and culture from the 15th century to the early seventies. The 4" x 5" black and white photos include reproductions of engravings, lithographs, drawings, and other modes of visual representation, as well as original photos gathered and annotated by the Ayala Museum research department over several years.

We have over 35,000 photos at the moment and are expanding the collection.

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[ Monthly Feature ]

T’BOLI BEAUTY

The T’bolis believe that the gods created man and woman to look attractive so that they would be drawn to each other and procreate. Among the Lumads in Mindanao, the T’bolis stand out for their passion for beauty and personal adornment. This is evident in their costumes, body ornaments, hairstyle, and cosmetic practices.

“The vanity of a T’boli woman is hard to match”, said Gabriel Casal, O.S.B. who conducted a formal anthropological study of T’boli art and its relation to social and economic development. According to him, T’boli women learn the skills of looking beautiful from an early age and it is normal to see 5 or 6 year-old girls fully made-up just like their elders. They use face powder made from a mix composed predominantly of lime and the lips are colored with juice from the fruit of a tree. Eyebrows are plucked and painted, and a “beauty spot” called m’tal hifi is placed on either or both cheeks.

A traditional hair-do is also worn by the women, without which a T’boli woman will not allow herself to be photographed. The hair is parted laterally along the axis of the ears, with the tufts of hair along the front hanging loosely to fall in bangs over the woman’s brow. The rest of the hair is pulled backward and tied into a bun at the nape. To complete the hair-do, a comb called su’wat is stuck horizontally onto the back of the woman’s head.

As for the use of body ornaments, the T’bolis believe that “more is better”. Their ears are not only pierced on the lobes but also along the entire outer rim, from which they wear several sets of earrings. A characteristic ornament that stands out is a combination of earrings and necklace which is called kowol or beklaw. The women also have different attires for different occasions. The clothes she wears in the fields or on a regular day are different from their formal wear or the costumes for special occasions.

For the T’bolis, another way of enhancing beauty is through the tamblang, which is the practice of filing the teeth into nihik (regular teeth), and silob or olit, which includes blackening the teeth with the sap of the bark of a wild tree. Having such teeth is a sign of superiority over the animals who may only have white teeth as they were born with.

There are other practices followed not just by the T’boli women but by the men as well. This particular group of Lumads proved that beauty may be interpreted in so many different ways, using varying types of materials, and that beauty is truly in the eye of the beholder.

Reference:

T’boli art in its socio-cultural context. Gabriel S. Casal. Makati : Ayala Museum, 1978.

CCP encyclopedia of Philippine art. Manila : Cultural Center of the Philippines, 1994.


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