by: Dr. Joel B. Santos
Social Organization and Customs
The T’boli Tribe traditionally lives in a scattered settlements in the highlands of southwestern Mindanao in the province of South Cotabato. The settlements are usually scattered but are composed of family clusters of fifteen households or more. Each settlement has a ceremonial house called a gono bong (big house). Members of the communities are usually related by kinship. The head of each grouping is a datu. Extended families are common in households that operate as the economic social unit. Their tradition dictates that the power of the father should not be arbitrarily exercised and that his word is absolute only in major decisions. Marriages are prearranged by the parents and may be contracted at any age, even immediately after the child’s birth.
Religious Beliefs and Practices
The Tboli’s supreme deities are a married
couple, Kadaw La Sambad, the sun god, and Bulon La Mogoaw, the moon goddess.
They reside in the seventh heaven. They beget seven sons and daughters
who end up marrying each other. The T’boli tribesmen also believe
in busao (malevolent spirits) which wreak havoc on the lives of human beings,
thus causing misfortune and illness. Desu or propitiatory offerings of
onuk bukay (white chicken) or sedu (pig) are made to placate or gain favors
from these evil spirits. T’boli rites are normally presided over by a morally
upright elder who is familiar with the T’boli tradition. Often enough,
the datu himself presides over the affair.
The PMF T’boli Ministry
The PMF T’boli ministry started in 1985 in
Polonuling, South Cotabato by Rev. Mariano Detorio and his family. He was
born and raised in the island of Leyte and was called by the Lord to start
his tribal ministry with the T’boli tribe. He started to reach out
the highlanders through Bible studies and outreach program. The ministry
became successful and many tribal people believed in the Triune God.
He was able to train and educate the potential leaders to become missionaries
so that they could serve their own people. After seventeen years
of hard work for the Lord, today there are 5 couple T’boli missionaries
and 13 volunteers ministering to their own tribe. Now there are 24
churches and 2 outreaches planted in the highlands of Polonuling which
are scattered in Mt. Malibato and Mt. Parker. The place is about
2,000 feet above sea level and about 16 kilometers away from the lowlands.
Most of the workers are not receiving anything from the Mission due to
lack of funds. Despite of poverty, still they are serving the Lord
to reach their tribe for the Gospel.
The PMF T’boli Dormitory
It is typical for the T’boli tribes that their
children are illiterate. Going to school is out of their culture.
Nevertheless, the government knows their educational needs. Actually,
the government has a program in providing free education in the highlands.
However, the problem is--the place is not accessible. Further, the peace
and order problem has aggravated the situation due to the presence of bandits.
Teachers who are sent by the government do not come regularly so the education
it provides is very unsatisfactory and low in quality. In such case,
those parents who have strong desire to educate their children and are
capable of supporting them, send their children to the lowlands to avail
quality education. But it is very rare for the native parents to
do this because their source of income is not stable and cannot sustain
the education of the children. There are thousands of children from
these native families who can never avail of quality education.
The Present T’boli Needs
· Presently, not a single donor/sponsor assists the native children
in their education. Although there is an available dorm where they
can stay for free but the problem of the parents is their food. The
average parents are capable of providing only 3 meals per week for each
student causing the students to be absent or eventually drop out from school.
Thousands of children from the highlands are not in school today.
Most of the students staying in the dormitory
are required to attend the spiritual training designed for them.
Most of them have accepted the Lord and some were spiritually revived in
the dorm. Jinky Ugal once said in her testimony, “I understand now that
I need to accept Jesus in my life as my personal Lord and Savior.
I supposed that continual attendance in worship services is enough.”
Students who are spiritually trained in the dormitory become useful in
their own church during weekends. They could speak in the prayer
meetings, hold Bible studies, give special numbers, lead the church service
and various church programs. The students are also required to attend
church services in their own church as their Christian education requirement
Wanted Ministry Partners
The T’boli administrators are now appealing
to the Christian brethren whose heart are open to serve and want to become
partners in reaching these needy individuals and families for Christ.
They believe that helping them is a great opportunity for ministry.
Jesus once told his disciples and the people around him, “I tell you the
truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine,
you did for me…whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you
did not do for me.” (Mat. 25:40,45).
Give your support for the T’boli ministry in the following channels: