In the Philippines, the Tbolis have become famous for their colourful attire and weaving techniques. Not the least, Philippine anthropology has contributed to their fame through colourful publications featuring the tribal art in the Philippines. From a social anthropological point of view, however, little has been presented about the Tbolis. Their social organization has hardly obtained any attention. Neither are their marriage practices addressed, as well as their apparent contradiction with current models of marriage payments in European and American anthropology. The Tbolis practice to provide substantial marriage prestations for the bride (sunggud), combined with uxorilocal settlement, cannot be accounted for by previously forwarded approaches to marriage payments. Thus, my dissertation aims to suggest a model of the Tbolis social organization in general, and their marriage practices in particular.
Starting from a discussion of various approaches to marriage customs and their short-comings for the uxorilocal Tbolis, the thesis goes on to describe the Tbolis environments and the historical events in Mindanao that have shaped the living conditions of the Tbolis. Their response to these events is discussed in detail with special emphasis on the implications for the social constitution of their relationships. This leads to a discussion of their marriage practices and a suggestion as to how their substantial marriage prestations may be understood in an uxorilocal setting. In conclusion, an explanation of the Tbolis apparent shift from the provision of "groomwealth" to providing "bridewealth" is offered.
Central to the argument is a discussion of the ways in which social relations are constituted and the kind of transactions certain relationships permit or prohibit. Equally important is the recognition that people bring multiple concerns into their encounters, that people are socially differently positioned, and that the meaning of an act may vary according to these positions. This position has bearing on the analysis of marriage payments. Since Comaroff et al's seminal work [Comaroff (ed.) 1980: The Meaning of Marriage payments], it is generally accepted that there is no universal meaning of marriage payments. Instead, it is understood that every particular people, practising marriage payments, has its particular meaning. However, a particular incident of marriage payments is still understood as having only one, though particular, meaning. From my position, then, we should not assume beforehand that the meaning of marriage payments is the same for the bride, the groom, the bride's father, her mother, the groom's father and mother, and all the other relatives on both sides who contribute to the payments. Thus, I had to reformulate the question. Instead of asking "What is the meaning of the Tboli marriage payments?", I asked "What meanings do sunggud (provided by the groom's side) and its counterpart lós (provided by the bride's side) acquire for the involved actors, and how do these meanings vary according to the various social positions?"