Wednesday, August 21, 2013


a weaver in Miagao weaving hablon fabric for a Barong, photo by Nene Paguntalan Jr.

Weaving is one of the most ancient crafts in Iloilo. It has been a part of the Ilonggo culture that has survived for thousands of years. Textiles were an important commodity as well as symbol in many regions of pre-Hispanic Philippines. Dresses using hand-loomed fabrics suggested class, and gender identity. Every region or ethnic group, at the time of the conquest, was said to have its own style of dress and its own fabric.

Historically, sometime in the 18th century, Iloilo has a small industrial sector, dominated by artisan production and small home-based businesses. A lively trade in local handicrafts includes pottery, wood and bamboo crafts and hand-loomed fabrics. In the later part of that century, the development of a large-scale weaving industry started the movement of Iloilo’s surge in trade and economy in the Visayas. It was then when Iloilo was referred to as the “Textile Capital of the Philippines” where hand-loomed produce such as Sinamay, Piña (pineapple fiber) and Jusi (banana fiber) were exported to Manila and to other foreign countries. There has been a tremendous demand for these Panay fabrics. This ushered in a period of unparalleled prosperity for the Ilonggos.

shuttle carrying blue thread and rotex,
photo by Bombette G. Marin
The local textile industry became popular which gave rise to the upper middle class Ilonggos. The weaving industry in Miagao boast its “habol” or “hinabol” made only of fibrous natural materials. However, economic stagnation of the textile industry began due to competition of cheap cotton from Great Britain in the later part of the century.

Weaving took its backseat for some time because most people are not willing to pay for hand-woven cloth when inexpensive machine-made fabric became readily available in the market. The quality of their work was good, but the market was too small to support many of them.

Weavers made innovations by combining natural fibrous materials with man-made fibers introduced in the early 1920’s, and started to produced colorful textiles that became to be known as “Hablon”. This fabric has evolved to become a major player in the Philippine textile industry, with its heyday in the 1950’s up to the 1970’s. However, it again suffered a decline in 1980’s due to the predominance in the world market of less-labor intensive, machine-woven textiles. This also brought about a dramatic decline in the number of weavers, who started to look for better livelihood opportunities, and lack of interest among the younger generation to take up this weaving trade.

weaver from Igbaras (IKWA), 
photo by Bombette G. Marin

Today, there has been a revival of the weaving traditions thanks in large part to government agencies and concerned cultural workers in Iloilo that have made it viable to keep the tradition alive. Efforts are being made to keep it alive for future generations. The hablon fabric has emerged into a versatile and unique textile, currently making waves in the Philippine and international haute couture. It also shows great potentials in the global market for textiles, next to the old-time favorite, piña and jusi. Hablon has caught the attention of fashion designers who have developed a distinct couture out of it and has made its way into several fashion houses in the United States, Singapore, Hongkong, and the United Kingdom.

Many women now continue to weave in the towns of Miagao, Oton, Badiangan, Igbaras and Dueńas. Many are also involved in the production of our local fabrics such as dyeing and hand-spinning fibers, particularly under the workshop model. The fabrics were woven on portable looms, which limited the size of the fabric as well as the tightness of its weave.

spinning the thread before placing
it inside the shuttle ready for weaving,
weavers from Salngan in Oton, 
photo by Bombette G. Marin
Weavers labor in cooperative workshops for around 8-10 hours daily, while others work in their homes to alternate their weaving with their domestic chores. As the men walk kilometers to their fields, women stay home to raise their babies and weave. They are not paid at an hourly wage, but rather for the completed fabric sold per meter in the local market.

With the rise of popular tourism in Iloilo and its surrounding municipalities, women now use their weaving as a way to provide for their families.

The Indigenous Fiber Fashion Fair organized by the Iloilo Provincial Government through the Provincial Tourism Office and SM City-Iloilo is an annual project that acknowledges these individual artists for their craft. Started in 2008, the event is set to promote our local weaving industries with the objective of exploring the history and importance of fiber and textile arts in our communities and our lives. Daily presentations through series of fashion shows does not only showcase the creativity of our local weavers but, more importantly, it hopes to generate sustained demand for these local fabrics both here and abroad.

a weaver in Badiangan fixes the thread before weaving, photo by Bombette G. Marin

The event is also aimed to foster inter-generational connections, share new techniques and project ideas, and provide opportunities for shopping of hand-made, unique gifts and collectibles, putting to fore the art of hand weaving, one of the most important crafts handed down from generation to generation along with the indigenous fabrics admired for their sheer beauty, uniqueness and global appeal.

1 comment:

  1. HI! My family and I are planning a road trip/roro this summer and I am looking for weaving/embroidery workshops to visit along the way. Could you give me contact information on any in Ililo as I am finding the information hard to find on-line!


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