June 14, 2024

Weaving has been an age-old tradition in many parts of the Cordillera.

This was done by women as a craft while waiting for fruits, vegetables, and rice to ripen for harvest.

One piece for a skirt would take weeks to complete on planting months and shorter when there is more time to spare.Still on the backstrap loom or upright loom, she continues to weave after home chores in 2021. Now, some men have taken it up as a craft, after work.

A millennial, Ebson Malingan of Ifugao, has changed the image of weaving in the recent Cordillera Weaves Exhibit and Weaver’s Bazaar last Nov. 27 at the Department of Tourism – Cordillera compound.

Malingan has taken up the craft as some kind of sideline, like some young people from the famed heritage rice terraces area have grown up with. He said he saw how his grandmother used to weave and was allowed to try it as a child. He knew how to dye threads for ‘ikat’ and design his own piece of cloth. Ikat is unique to Ifugao as a traditional design where threads are dyed with a different color in some spots to make uneven splashes of color on the textile. Traditionally, the natural dyes from plants and soil were used for this method. In this modern age, they have taken up commercial dyes to tint the threads. In terms of speed, he can actually finish weaving an eight-foot panel in a day or less that should fetch him P800 for the weft or horizontal threads of the textile while another person prepares the warp or the long strands of thread that are rolled out on the loom which is the design and the more intricate part of weaving.

Ebson showed the strands of yarn that would make up about four inches of the width of the cloth for the ikat, this was combined with other strands of colorsto make up the stripes and these are done with some symmetry. He said many young professionals are like him, they weave as a hobby outside of their regular jobs. The fun in it is in the process of creating your own design and colors, he said.

Margareth Balansi, another millennial from Paracelis, Mountain Province was another culture keeper.

The display of the Ga’dang textiles and the beadwork are unique to this tribe. A great representative of the group, Margareth is not only a weaver, salesperson, entrepreneur, but also author to a children’s book, Aramay’s Sinnun, a Ga’dang Weaving Story.

She readily showed how the bead armlets are used, which are among the ornate embellishments to their already colorful tribal wear. The Ga’dangs have the most colorful and complete traditional costumes in the Cordillera. The headdress, the cape, the upper shirt, skirt, and G-string are found in this group of peoples’ costumes. She said that the weaving industry in their municipality is busy.

The Lepanto Crafts was the newest group to join the bazaar.

This group was revived from the former weaving project in the 1950s of Lucille Foster, a Lepanto Mining manager’s wife. I remember acquiring a skirt from the shop of the Woelke’s in the 90s made from the Lepantotextile.

In those days, they catered to the meld of American and foreign executives in the city from the mining towns with wives who supported the crafts produced locally. On revival since the visit of Miss Earth 2015 Angelia Ong, according to stories, she found the group and her excitement caught the attention of Bryan Yap, Chief Operations Officer of Lepanto, who has supported the livelihood project in Mankayan for the community.

Mayette Gumotda of the Sagada Weavers and the Caneo Weavers of Bontoc were among those whose were also in the bazaar that was neatly arranged in huts and stalls at the parking lot and in the garden. Still very much in demand for their goods, this group maintain their traditional textures and fabrics. The colors remain in their combinations and styles.

In Kalinga, the Bauuer lineage has preserved the traditional craft at Mabilong, Lubuagan and had Ardlyn accompanying the products of the Mabilong Weavers Association to the exhibit. The line of products that they have produced still keep the traditional designs although new details and functions have been added to the stripes and beadwork. The colors have become more exciting and modern.

My gracious apologies for those I skipped but the bazaar was the best update on the craft. In 1995, the Fiber Web was inspired with the end in view of making the weaves wearable. Twenty-five years after, if my calendar is right, the woven products are truly wearable and distinct.

The Cordillera government offices have incorporated the bands or straps of textiles into the design.  But the exciting part of it is that the next generations have taken over the business of the fabrics and have made them modern and given these a finer production.

In 2021, weaving is very much alive in many parts of the Cordillera and have taken on a younger face. These young preservers of the heritage must keep in mind that although culture must evolve, the narratives of the past must live on and must be told every so often. It is not to forget the grandmother who sat on her loom and traded her precious gold or livestock for the threads for the loom. More precious is the production of cotton that was spun for the looms and the indigo and the red dyes that were found in the backyards.

Now the realization is that the traditional designs and styles must be kept for posterity and the production maintained for the traditional wear and use. The modern colors and styles are for now and this generation to wear and utilize as bags and other accessories. I still pray to see the silk editions of the Cordillera weaves because this means it has arrived at the finest pinnacle of wear. My compliments to the Cordillera weavers who have kept their tilars or upright looms and backstraps tugging at their strings.