Monday, January 24, 2011

HINABOL: Weaving Culture and History of Iloilo

photo by Manny Librodo, outfits by Angelette Borja-Ragus
Clothing and textiles are vital elements of any culture. It identifies the history and the influences of some communities.

People learned to weave thousands of years ago. And in the Philippines, the 18th century saw the golden age of weaving where the artisans of Panay were already well known for it. It was said that when Spanish colonizers arrived, they found that the weaving industry in Iloilo was already well established and observed that hand-loomed textile were already traded by the Ilonggos with other groups of people in the archipelago.

Iloilo at that time experienced the advent of large-scale weaving and this brought a great impact to the area and its economy. In the 19th century, Iloilo was referred to as the “Textile Capital of the Philippines.” “Habol” or “hinabol” is any hand-woven fabric made of fibrous natural materials such as the jusi from banana fiber and piña from pineapple fiber. The art of hand weaving fiber, which is carefully extracted from these tropical plants has seen a tradition in the provinces of Aklan, Iloilo and Antique for more than a hundred years and is now considered as one of the oldest surviving crafts in the country.

The island of Panay was the chief source of quality handloom fabrics, which were sought after throughout the Philippines and beyond. It has long been considered a mecca for skilled weavers. It is the largest producers of the finest piña fabric – a fine and transparent fabric made from the leaves of red pineapple variety native only to the island. The biggest yardage is from the province of Aklan.

On the other hand, Iloilo is known for its exquisite, silk-like hablon---a hand woven fabric from polyester yarn indigenous to the towns of Miag-ao and Oton and the colorful patadyong---a multi-colored handloom cotton weaved usually with narrow width widely hand woven in Iloilo and the Province of Antique.

photo by Manny Librodo

Weaving is an integral part of the cultural identity here. It is a time consuming, laborious process that has remained unchanged for hundreds of years, but one that is a source of great pride. Everything is done by hand. It is a family activity where each member has a role to play in the process. It generally takes a patient and skilled weaver a number of days to produce a meter of material. The finished product is a reflection of hundreds of years of knowledge and skill, mixed with the flavors and influences of modern life.

photo by Manny Librodo

Weaving is done using two sets of threads interlaced; the warp which is run lengthways, and the weft that runs across one end to the other. The fabric is woven on a wooden loom, a device that holds the warp threads in place while filling threads are woven through them. The way the warp and filling threads from the weft interlace with each other is called the weave. The woven cloth can be in any color, plain or in decorative patterns.

Our hand-loomed fabrics have evolved to become a key player in the Philippine textile industry especially in the 1950’s until the 1970’s. However, due to the predominance in the world market of less-labor intensive, machine-woven textiles. It suffered a decline in the1980’s. This resulted to a dramatic fall off in the number of weavers who scouted for better livelihood opportunities. The lack of interest among the younger generation to take up the weaving trade was also and added factor to its decline.

It was at start of the millennium that our local fabrics bounced back to the limelight. The revival of these fabrics caught the attention of local fashion designers such as Nono Palmos, PJ Aranador and Tess Salvador who have developed a well-defined couture out of hand-loomed fabrics. And these fabrics made its way into several fashion houses abroad.

Our local fabrics have been used by prêt-a-porter and haute couture designers in the fashion capitals of the world by popular designers such as Donna Karan and Calvin Klein and have integrated our local fabrics in some of their designs. Truly, the world recognizes the beauty of our indigenous fabrics and the Filipino's world class ingenuity and creativity.

It was during this period when financial grants were given for weaving development projects thru the efforts of then Senator Loren Legarda. It reawakened the interest of our weaving communities, particularly in Miag-ao and Oton and sales of hand-woven fabrics have improved that benefited many families that started to depend their everyday living on weaving .

photo by Manny Librodo

The ancient craft of hand-weaving, along with hand spinning, remains a popular craft in Iloilo up to this day. It is one of the most important crafts handed down from generation to generation, and the indigenous fabrics of hablon and patadyong are admired for their sheer beauty, uniqueness and global appeal.

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