One Weave, One Dream

The t’nalak, is a traditional cloth woven on a backstrap loom by the T’boli women of Lake Sebu in South Cotabato, Mindanao. Here, the indigenous weavers continue this tedious, age-old practice involving the ikat method while using natural dyes and abaca plant fibers that are indigenous to the Philippines. Often called “dream weavers,” these women design the patterns from dreams which serve as mental images. These dreams can be of their own, those handed down from ancestors or those bestowed on them by Fu Dalu, the spirit of the abaca.

Today, the T’boli women continue to dream, but instead of t’nalak patterns they dream of a better life. Over 70% of people living in Lake Sebu from the city of South Cotabato are living below the poverty line with many rely on a hand-to-mouth existence.

One Weave, One Dream aims to achieve a delicate balance between providing a source of income for the T’boli women and safeguarding their t’nalak weaving tradition. The underlying thread merges the idea of how the women design patterns based on their dreams, with their current dreams for a better life. This entity provides retail channels to help sell the fabric, educates the public on the unique tradition behind the t’nalak, encourages a sustainable production of raw materials as well as educates the women on basic marketing concepts and fair trade principles.


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The research conducted for this thesis involved several months of rigorous research. The backbone for the project was developed through the guidance of thesis advisers and the reference of written materials on the subject as well as text on similar projects worldwide. Interviews with the target audience, founders of similar organizations, and textile and industry experts were also conducted.

The most essential and rewarding research methods were used during two field research trips back to the Philippines. The visit to Lake Sebu brought about insightful results. The trip involved gathering original photography, interviewing the t’nalak weavers, and conducting activities taken from IDEO’s Human Centered Design Toolkit.



Work Academic, 2012 MFA Thesis
Photography Menchit Ongpin, Joelle Cuna-Villalva, Erin Canoy
Website one-weave.org


To learn more about the project and its process, flip though the book below.