The Sama indigenous cultural community consists of seven subgroups that are concentrated in Sulu and Tawi-Tawi, the southernmost islands of the Philippines. The Sama people are both farmers and seafarers, maintaining affinities with the coastal groups of north Borneo. Their houses are usually built on high stilts over shallow waters in sheltered areas, with their boats usually moored alongside.
The Sama weave colorful pandan mats called tepo using a very precise “counted thread” handweaving technique that has been handed down for generations. Sama weavers are able to create complex geometric designs evincing advanced levels of geometry and algebra without formal mathematical training and relying entirely on mental blueprints. Tepo are generally used as sleeping mats as they remain cool in the heat of the day and are porous enough to let ventilation through. In special instances, they are used as a venue to dialogue, resolve conflicts, and negotiate peace agreements.