Dreamweaver is a documentary video on the T’boli of Lake Sebu, an indigenous people living in South Cotabato in southern Philippines. A people renowned for their artistry, the T’boli are among the few indigenous groups that have kept their artistic traditions alive, in spite of incursions from the lowlands. But it is a constant struggle, for modernity relentlessly impinges on their lives and continues to lure the young T’boli away from tradition.
The documentary is divided into two main segments. Introduced by the story of the origin of the lake called S’bu, the first part tells the stories of three old t’nalak weavers—Lamfay Lumbay, a widow living alone whose only means of survival is weaving; Lang Dulay, a national artist awardee; and Boi Diwa Ofung, the only surviving woman leader in Lake Sebu. As they painstakingly tie hundreds of abaca strands on their backtrap looms, they talk about how they learned to weave from their mothers, and how a motif or design comes to them in a dream. And while they dye their abaca fibers in juices from leaves and roots, and then weave them into intricate patterns, they tell us about the olden days, when weaving was a skill any woman of stature should have, and the T’nalak a prized and treasured possession, valuable as a horse, a house or a piece of land.
The second segment begins with a chant about how the T’boli have lost the lake to outsiders who have claimed it for themselves by installing fishpens on many parts of the lake. Owned by businessmen from other places, the fishpens yield only tilapia and have killed the endemic fishes of the lake. They also have kept T’boli fishermen out of most parts of the lake. To the T’boli, the fishpens are a bane but more than that, they are a desecration of the lake.
Change is the subject of the second segment–change brought about by the incursion of outsiders, the introduction of a cash economy, and the pressures of the modern world. While all this has ruined the environment of the T’boli and, in a way, their art, it has also strengthened their resolve to keep their tradition alive. The second segment features three young T’boli performers—Maria, Dindo, and Rosie. They have made it their mission to preserve whatever is left of their tradition by organizing a school called the Helobung School of Living Traditions and by teaching the traditional ways of the T’boli to the young.
This documentary aims to reveal the T’boli psychic life through their art, song, and myth. Through the stories of the six artist subjects, the viewer catches a glimpse of their dreams, aspirations, and struggles in a constantly changing environment. Theirs is a story that resonates with many indigenous peoples of the world. Theirs is a story that deserves to be heard and seen.