T'boli princess in a coma

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Lang Dulay is best remembered for her contribution in the promotion and preservation of T’boli culture in Lake Sebu, South Cotabato. She pioneered the weaving of T’nalak, a traditional cloth among tribal groups in Mindanao.

(CNN Philippines) – Lang Dulay, a T'boli tribe princess who was declared a national living treasure in 1998, is comatose after experiencing a mild stroke.

The 91-year-old princess was in a coma since January this year.

On Tuesday (April 28), Professor Framer Cristy Mella, chairperson of North Cotabato Network of Women, expressed her sadness upon seeing Lang Dulay in her critical condition.

“Matagal na siyang naka-coma at ngayon ay tinanggal na nga ang kanyang ventilator at patuloy naman nabubuhay kahit nga nasa coma na siya,” the professor said.

[Translation: She has been in a coma for a long time and now her ventilator was removed but she still continues to live even if she’s in a coma.]

Mella said she first met the T’boli princess in December 2014 but she did not expect that her condition will deteriorate at this rate five months later.

Lang Dulay is best remembered for her contribution in the promotion and preservation of T’boli culture in Lake Sebu, South Cotabato.

She pioneered the weaving of T’nalak, a traditional cloth among tribal groups in Mindanao.

There are only a few traditional weavers of T’nalak.

The weaving process begins with the tedious process of stripping the stem of the abaca plant to get the fibers.

The stripped stem is then coaxed into finer fibers for textile use followed by the delicate task of setting the strands on the "bed-tying" frame made of bamboo.

The National Commission for Culture and the Arts (NCCA) said that Lang Dulay speaks more eloquently through abaca fibers – that are as fine as hair – than words can.

She first learned how to weave at age 12 and through the years the princess dreamt to pass on the tradition to the young in her community.

The NCCA said that four of her grandchildren “picked up the shuttle and are learning to weave.”

Dream weaver

Lang Dulay is called the “dream weaver” as a description to her rare ability of weaving T’nalak based on the designs she dreamed about.

The spirit of abaca, a fibrous banana-like plant used as main material for T’nalak, is said to have spoken to Lang Dulay and guided her in making very intricate designs.

The traditional tapestry became more popular when some legislators made it their habit to wear T’nalak–inspired gowns during the annual State of Nation Address (SONA) of the Philippine president.

Mella said that she hopes that the younger generation will value the tradition of T’nalak trading just as Lang Dulay did in her youth.

“Ang ikinalulungkot ko lang malaman [na] marami sa ating mga Pilipino ang hindi man lang alam na meron pala tayong isang national living treasure,” she added.

[Translation: I fear that Filipinos are not even aware that we have a national living treasure.]