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Help raise funds to keep the T’boli school open! | Center for Babaylan Studies

The Center for Babaylan Studies wants to raise $10,000 to keep the LASIWWAI Learning School in Lake Sebu, South Cotabato, Philippines, open for the rest of the 2015-16 school year.

Early this year, a severe drought in the T’boli  area damaged the water system project of the women in the village; it has impacted the resources of the community.

Although the rainy season has begun, damaged infrastructure has severely impacted the community’s harvest and livelihood for the year. It will take more than a season for the T’bolis of South Cotabato, Mindanao to recover from the drought.

The Center for Babaylan Studies  (CfBS) learned about this crisis from Jenita Eko, a young T’boli woman whom Leny Strobel met in 2006 through the Fulbright program. A young Lumad scholar, Jenita eventually became the leader of a group of weavers. The Fulbright teachers from California were able to help the community to establish a livelihood project that enabled them eventually to open a  kindergarten school to support 40 children.

The school has been in operation for the past three years. Despite financial crisis faced by indigenous peoples communities, in this case, in Lake Sebu, Cotabato in Southern Philippines. The T’boli women weavers have continued to support their school activities and feeding programs by carefully managing their Tnalak Social Enterprise income and Level 3 water system monthly collection fees.

T'boli children at school


The situation of the T’boli teachers has now reached crisis proportions. For almost a year, teachers have not received their honorarium and there are not enough school supplies and food for the children.

The Center for Babaylan Studies (CfBS) has been in relationship with several indigenous communities. In gratitude and in honoring the beauty of our indigenous heritage, we work to create opportunities for Filipinos in the diaspora to become involved in showing our kinship; this time specifically with a group T’Boli women weavers and educators.

We are a group of dedicated CfBS volunteers who believe in the importance of cultural stories and in helping keep alive our indigenous peoples’ ways of life.

We are moved by the story  of the  Lake Sebu Indigenous Women Weavers Association, Inc. (LASIWWAI) Learning Institute, a project of the T’boli women entrepreneurs and community leaders of the LASIWWAI T’nalak Social Enterprise, which provides educational opportunities for indigenous T’boli youth in Lake Sebu, South Cotabato, Philippines.

Our immediate concern is to raise $10,000 to keep the LASIWWAI Learning Institute open for the rest of the 2015-2016 school year. Once that is secured, we will begin working on creating a sustainable partnership with the community.

The LASIWWAI Learning Institute is a project of the T’boli women entrepreneurs and community leaders of the LASIWWAI T’nalak Social Enterprise. It upholds the hopes and aspirations of the indigenous T’boli community by fully developing the potential and capacity of T’boli youth through holistic education that inculcates love and appreciation for the indigenous culture and self-reliant leadership in service of a sustainable future.

The LASIWWAI Learning Institute works to uphold and preserve the dignity of indigenous cultures and traditions while creating community. The school supports the next generation of teachers who are committed to providing culture-appropriate education to T’boli children. Lessons also involve T’boli mothers, many of  whom are learning alongside their children.

The LASIWWAI community consists of members of the T’boli tribe who live in the highlands of Lake Sebu, South Cotabato. The community is one of several T’boli weaving communities in Lake Sebu.

According to one creation story, the T’boli are descendants of La Bebe and La Lomi, and Tamfeles and La Kagef, two couples who survived a big flood after being warned by the god D’wata. Taking a huge bamboo that could accommodate countless people; they filled the vessel with food. When Lake Holon was inundated, the four got into the bamboo while the rest of the population drowned in the swollen waters. When the floods subsided and the days grew warm, the fortunate couples split the bamboo open and emerged into the sunlight.

The T’bolis’ close and enduring connection with Nature is rooted not only in their creation story, but also in their art, music, dance, and spirituality. T’nalak (cloth) is a traditional textile of the T’boli people made from abaca fibers. The T’bolis  believe that the goddess Fu Dalu, the spirit of abaca hemp, comes to them in dreams and inspires the beautiful patterns that they then weave into the cloth.

Among the T’bolis, the best and most gifted weavers are blessed by ancestors who share the most intricate and beautiful T’nalak designs through dreams. Only T’boli women may touch the sacred textile.  For the T’boli, the weaving  of the T’nalak is steeped in spiritual and symbolic meaning; hence, there are many rituals surrounding the production of the sacred cloth.


Maintaining Connection and Solidarity through Story.  In the West, we have become a society that yearns for and grieves the loss of connection to our ancestral origins, identities, and cultures. With the advent and popularity of sites such as ancestry.com, television shows like “Once Upon a Time” featuring orphans searching for roots, and genetic tests like 23andMe and National Geographic’s Geno 2.0, we instinctively know that our stories are important. They ground and connect us to the Earth, to ourselves, and to each other.

This is why we want to support the indigenous Tboli; they have not yet lost what we long for. Help us keep alive and pass on their enriching cultural stories.

Biodiversity Conservation. Climate change has a severe impact on T’boli communities. At Lake Sebu, their water recovery and distribution system has been severely impacted. Without revenue, the community is unable to sustain the school and pay for teacher salaries and school supplies.

By supporting the LASIWWAI Learning Institute, we can help the continuation of T’boli dreamweaving, preserve indigenous traditions, and help instill a greater sense of pride among the next generation of T’boli leaders.

As blogger Vinci Bueza remarked, “[The T’boli] stories may give us a glimpse into the attitudes of the T’boli towards the lakes, rivers, forests, and animals in their proximate environment.”

This, in turn, carries ancestral knowledge that can teach us to care for the Earth and help restore her vitality.

With your partnership, we can ensure that the T’boli peoples’ rich traditions are passed on to future generations.

STAGE 1: Ensure that the costs of educating the T’boli children in the 2015-2016 school year are covered.

STAGE 2: Establish an “adopt-a-village” intercultural program to create a sustainable future.


“I am concerned about the impact of climate change on the most vulnerable populations – the indigenous communities! Focusing on this small-scale project is my own way of sharing responsibility for ways to mitigate climate change impact.”  ~ Leny Strobel, founder and co-director, Center for Babaylan Studies

“When you think about it, our lives as city-dwellers are not really separate from those of our indigenous brothers and sisters. They live the way they do (often impoverished, struggling, their very survival threatened) because we live the way we do (hungry for resources, dependent on raw materials often violently extracted from under their feet). We owe it to them to do what we can to halt the system that is killing them, and, in the meantime, to do what we can to keep them from totally going under.” ~ S. Lily Mendoza, co-director, Center for Babaylan Studies

“Political unrest, religious intolerance, colonial mentality, and the dismal economic climate in the Philippines all contribute to pushing indigenous communities further out to the margins of society. Out of necessity and the everyday struggle to survive, indigenous peoples are forced to abandon their traditional ways. I believe that the work of Jenita Eko and the LASIWWAI is important in ensuring the continuity of indigenous knowledge in the Tiboli community, and provide children with a sense of self-worth, hope and determination to preserve customs and beliefs.” ~ Maileen Hamto, project coordinator


Your donation is tax-deductible.

DONATE HERE – http://www.gofundme.com/cfbs-tiboli

If writing a check, please make it out to MINDANAO LILANG-LILANG; on the note write “CfBS/T’boli School.”

Mail donation checks to:
Center for Babaylan Studies
282 Beech Avenue
Santa Rosa, CA 95409