Monday, September 22, 2014

Integrating Weaving in Rural Tourism

photo by Ray Tabafunda

Rural Tourism works with communities and individuals to develop tourism systems where the locals and rural life patterns form the foundation of the touristic experience.

It is place-based and includes a central theme or focus. It also combines natural ecosystems and human communities in the visitor experience making it authentic because it reflects the reality of rural life patterns which become the attraction where the ordinary for the host community becomes the extraordinary for the visitor. The elders in the community provide the background. Education of both the visitor and the host is a cornerstone of the experience. And with this, partnerships are formed within the community between parties interested in providing a tourism experience.

photo by Ray Tabafunda

Weaving plays a role in the history of weaving communities in Miagao, Oton, Igbaras, Badiangan and Duenas which articulates social relationships and continues to play a role in their culture.

weavers in the 18th century. photo courtesy of University of Wisconsin archives

Weavers, mostly women, have the chance to improve their quality of life and uphold the customs and traditions that shape their identity. By applying skills that are steeped in the old ways, women weave new opportunities and culture and commerce merge for development. Unlike in many western countries where generally little importance is placed on women’s work with textiles, in Ilonggo culture, cloth plays a key role in social and ritual life and also in some instances, assigning women’s standing in communities.

photo courtesy of University of Wisconsin archives

Our hand-loom textiles were highly regarded and have been sought after as trade items in the late 18th century. Commercial production of hand-woven textiles has been an important element of the Ilonggo economy. Ilonggo textiles were originally utilitarian blankets for use as wrap-around, dresses and similar purposes.  

women in pina , abacca fabric and jus. iphoto courtesy of University of Wisconsin archives

Our patadyong, pina, jusi, polyhemp and hablon fabrics have long been prized for their quality and beauty. The ancient tradition of hand-loom weaving in Iloilo has been kept alive to the modern day, and weaving workshops are helping Ilonggos in remote communities to improve their living conditions. The effect of these workshops is to help to keep traditional textile techniques alive and well, and they also provide meaningful employment to women in poor communities.

By the end of 1980’s till mid 1990’s, traditional weaving skills were in danger of disappearing from other weaving communities around Iloilo. Some of the earliest activities supported by the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) focused on helping weavers recover or improve traditional weaving skills, learn to use natural dyes, and assist in obtaining looms and natural fibers.

In the year 2000, Fiber Fairs incorporating exhibits, demonstrations and pocket fashion shows have provided a better venue the weaving industry in Iloilo. The more proficient weavers taught those just learning, and the weaving knowledge of the elders was recorded, preserved and passed on. Adults and children both were encouraged to wear and take pride in using local fabrics in their everyday dresses, further driving the motivation to produce new weavings. These activities have continued with the addition more weavers and more wooden looms.

Weaving communities have been a special project since the founding of the Indigenous Fashion Fiber Fair in 2007.  Organized by the Provincial Tourism Office of the Provincial Government of Iloilo in partnership with SM City Iloilo, weaving workshops in weaving towns were given looms. Because of this, some local government units have built weaving shelters where weavers come together on a regular basis to learn, work, and give support to one another. Some have organized themselves into an association where they govern their cooperative collectively and elect their own leaders to manage finances and decision-making. This structure encourages weavers to develop managerial and marketing skills.

Know more about the weaving communities of Miagao, Oton, Igbaras, Badiangan and Duenas on the 8th Indigenous Fiber Fashion Fair on October 5-11, 2014 at the event center of SM City Iloilo. The fair is brought to you by the Provincial Tourism Office, SM City Iloilo, DOT-VI, DTI, GMA-6 Iloilo and The Daily Guardian.

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