Helobung Festival 2024 in Lake Sebu

Adventures of Teacher Maita
Filmmaker KL Carpio, Comm. Reden Ulo of NCCA, Folklorist Karl Gaverza and Teacher Maita Rue.
Filmmaker KL Carpio, Comm. Reden Ulo of NCCA, Folklorist Karl Gaverza and Teacher Maita Rue.

As a writer, artist, and teacher, I was thrilled to receive an invitation from the esteemed Boi Rosie “Lemingon” Godwino Sula, a Gawad Manlilikha ng Bayan (GaMaBa) awardee, to attend the Helobung Festival in Lake Sebu, South Cotabato. It is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to immerse this way. 

Cultural Worker Boi Oyog, Maria Todi, showing what traditional T’boli food is.
Cultural Worker Boi Oyog, Maria Todi, showing what traditional T’boli food is.

Known in her community as Boi Lemingon, Aunty Rosie is a revered T'boli chantress whose voice and stories are central to the cultural fabric of the T'boli people. She invited me not only to witness the grandeur of the festival but also to collaborate on potential book projects and assist with her memoir.

Joining me on this cultural expedition were folklorist Jean Karl Gaverza and filmmaker KL Carpio. We arrived on May 27 to explore the serene beauty of Lake Sebu before the official start of the festival, which spanned from May 29 to 31. 

Aunty Rosie’s students perform during GaMaBa Day.
Aunty Rosie’s students perform during GaMaBa Day.
Palaro or games during the festival
Palaro or games during the festival

The anticipation in the air was palpable, as the Helobung Festival promised a plethora of activities: games, fashion shows, traditional lunches, press conferences, tribal presentations, and much more.

A painting of GaMaBa Awardee Lang Dulay
A painting of GaMaBa Awardee Lang Dulay

The highlight of the festival was undoubtedly the GaMaBa Day on May 30, a day dedicated to celebrating the illustrious GaMaBa awardees. 

In addition to Aunty Rosie, the festival honored Boi Barbara Ofong, renowned for her exquisite T'nalak weaving, and Datu Bundos Fara, a master of brass casting. The legacy of the late Lang Dulay, another GaMaBa awardee, was represented by her daughter-in-law, Sibulan Dulay, one of Lang Dulay's dedicated apprentices.

Comm. Reden S. Ulo, NCCA SCCTA
Comm. Reden S. Ulo, NCCA SCCTA

Commissioner Reden S. Ulo of the National Commission for Culture and the Arts (NCCA) graciously guided us through the festivities, explaining the profound significance of having four GaMaBa awardees from one region. He highlighted how Lake Sebu stands as a beacon of Mindanao culture, meticulously preserving its rich heritage. This unique cultural resilience is a source of immense pride for the local community. He hopes that many areas can learn from the T’bolis of Lake Sebu. He himself is a T’boli.

Commissioner Ulo further explained that the T'boli people's cultural education extends beyond language. Every child in the area is taught various traditional arts, including weaving, basketry, brass casting, epic narrations, and dances. This holistic approach ensures the perpetuation of their cultural identity. 

Festival grounds, Folklorist Jean Karl Gaverza, Boi Rosie Sula, her husband Allan Sula, Writer Teacher Maita.
Festival grounds, Folklorist Jean Karl Gaverza, Boi Rosie Sula, her husband Allan Sula, Writer Teacher Maita.

The T'nalak fabric, with its intricate designs and symbolic patterns, remains the most distinctive product of Lake Sebu, embodying the artistic spirit of the T'boli.

With Aunty Rosie, while we talk about books, culture and more.
With Aunty Rosie, while we talk about books, culture and more.

The convergence of GaMaBa awardees and the vibrant celebrations of the Helobung Festival underscore Lake Sebu's vital role in the preservation of cultural heritage. It not only attracts tourists but also beckons cultural scholars and enthusiasts to delve into how this community has maintained its traditions amidst the tide of modernity.

Lang Dulay Weaving Center with master weaver Boi Sibulan Dulay between us.
Lang Dulay Weaving Center with master weaver Boi Sibulan Dulay between us.
Giving gifts to the VIP. Unknown man, Jean Karl Gaverza, KL Carpio, Maita Rue, NCIP Chair Bae Jennifer Sibug-Las, Boi Rosie Sula, National Museum Representatives, NCCA Representatives with Comm. Reden Ulo.
Giving gifts to the VIP. Unknown man, Jean Karl Gaverza, KL Carpio, Maita Rue, NCIP Chair Bae Jennifer Sibug-Las, Boi Rosie Sula, National Museum Representatives, NCCA Representatives with Comm. Reden Ulo.

The Helobung Festival of 2024 was more than a cultural spectacle; it was a testament to the enduring spirit of the T'boli people and their unwavering commitment to preserving their heritage. For me, the experience was an invaluable journey into the heart of a culture that treasures its past while embracing the future. My aim is to write their stories to share with future generations.

Students of Gono Lemingon with two of the teachers. Boi Rosie Sula sits in the middle. Writers Maita Rue and Jean Karl Gaverza join them in the picture.
Students of Gono Lemingon with two of the teachers. Boi Rosie Sula sits in the middle. Writers Maita Rue and Jean Karl Gaverza join them in the picture.

A special thanks to the following who have donated books and other items for this trip: The Robillo Family, The Lu Family and Pawikan Press. Special thanks to Aunty Rosie Sula and Aunty Maria Todi who hosted us. To Mr. Reden Ulo, who took us in and explained every aspect of the GaMaBa and the Helobung Festival. Joseph Todi, our student photographer and area guide.

Trending

No stories found.

Just in

No stories found.

Branded Content

No stories found.
SunStar Publishing Inc.
www.sunstar.com.ph