Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Weaving Strength and Beauty in Abaca

abacca from Janiuay, Iloilo
There is vast amount of indigenous fibers that can be found in the Philippines. And one of the most popular is abaca.

Grown as a commercial crop, abaca is a species of banana native to our country. Called as Manila hemp to the international community, it grows about 15 feet tall with a total lifespan of about 10 years. Its sheath or covering around its trunk contain a valuable fiber known for its high tensile strength.

To produce the fiber, the primary and secondary sheaths are separated---a process called tuxying, and then stripped to get the fibers. It is then dried usually following tradition way of sun-drying and the fibers are spun into twines or cordage. These coarse fibers range from 5 to 1.5 feet in length is of great economic importance to Filipinos.

Classified as a hard fiber, the toughest natural fiber in the world, it is used primarily for rope due to its durability and flexibility and its resistance to salt water damage. It became a popular material for ship's lines and fishing nets.

Not known to many, the abaca produced in our country remains to be favorably competitive over the one produced by Ecuador, the only other commercial producer of abaca in the world. Eighty-five percent of abaca production in the international market is dominated by the Philippines and the remaining percentage comes from Ecuador.

As a lead exporter of this type of fiber, the abaca industry remains as one of our country's major sources of employment sustaining more than 1.5 million Filipinos that directly and indirectly depend on it for their livelihood (source: The Competitive Advantage of Philippine Fibers in the International Market: A Learning Experience," presented by Administrator Cecilia Gloria J. Soriano, administrator of the Fiber Industry Development Administration, 2008).

photo by Boboy Librodo

People have found many ways to use the abaca fiber as raw material for their products such as in handcrafts like bags, hats, carpet, footwear, fashion accessories, furniture, clothing---as a textile material or as a blending material with silk, piƱa or polyester in the production of high-end fabrics.

There is a great potential for our fiber industry, although there is still a need to expand programs on abaca, rehabilitation and maintenance of abaca farms Iloilo, provide facilities to fully utilize the farmers’ produce, conduct livelihood trainings, and partner with private institutions for added investments.

photo by JV Perez (PALI)

Lead government agencies such as the Iloilo Provincial Government through the Office of Culture, Arts, History and Tourism and other concerned stakeholders such as SM City Iloilo became more aggressive in their efforts of supporting this industry and has given abaca its long-overdue recognition for the many contributions not only in the fashion industry but more so in the livelihood of so many Ilonggos.

This collaborative partnership resulted to the mounting of the annual celebration of Indigenous Fashion Fiber Fair. This year, with more visible products made from abaca found in the fashion industry produced from towns such as Janiuay and Igbaras, the 4th Indigenous Fashion Fiber Fair will be held on August 24 -28, 2011 at the SM City Activity Center. See abaca fiber textiles hand dyed into subtle earth tones or riotous tropical hues, interwoven with metallic threads, and turned into an almost limitless variety.

We invite you to view our exhibit section from August 24-28 at the ground floor of SM City Iloilo fronting Toy Kingdom as well as to our daily fashion shows starting on August 26-28 at the activity center for a better idea on the use of these cloths.

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