This art I've mentioned is the weaving of the T'nalak cloth, one of the hallmarks of the rich culture of the T'boli tribe of southern Mindanao. The weaving is exclusive to the women of the tribe and it takes years of practice before one can learn the whole tedious process and more years, and probably lots of inspiration, before a unique design can be attributed to a weaver. But by the age of 12, Divina already started weaving and producing complex designs.
I met Divina 2 years ago when I documented the T'nalak weaving process for one of UN's agencies. I had the privilege of shooting her and other "dreamweavers" - a group of T'boli women featured in a book entitled "Dreamweavers" by Neal M. Oshima. Divina is the youngest of the group.
Lake Sebu's T'nalak weavers are nicknamed "dreamweavers" because the patterns they use in the weaving are supposed to be inspired by their dreams. Its a complex process involving close to 10 steps.
This recent set of photos were taken in Man family's weaving hut in Lamkua, one of Lake Sebu's highland sitios (quite a motorcycle ride). Divina's sister Elena and mom Yab are also master weavers (and both were also featured in the book). Yab is considered one of the icons of T'nalak weaving, with more than 100 designs to her name.
Divina is one of the faces of the new generation of weavers, keeping this tradition alive for future generations. Even in the face of mass produced low quality T'nalak (the ones usually sold to tourists in Lake Sebu), she and other young master weavers adhere to traditional ways of producing T'nalak. Its a tedious process (which I hope to feature soon), but the output is priceless art: an imprint of the dreams of the T'boli people.