Habi: Reviving The Lost Art of Philippine Weaving

Woven Fabrics

When we first launched Ang Buhay Lokal, RJ and I envisioned a journey of [our family] going back to our roots, seeing everything that makes The Philippines, and sharing it [here] with you. Everything stems from our family’s love for travel, exploration, and wandering. Raised as city folks, our feet are always itching for new adventure, new knowledge. That’s just what we do. We hope to immerse ourselves in the beauty that lies beneath each place, the story behind each tradition.

2017 has been a year of discovering our Filipino heritage. We try to incorporate Filipino-made products in our daily lives – from the soaps we bathe in, to the healthy snacks Yñigo munches on. Buying from local artisans whose hearts lie in living out Filipino artistry and creativity is a norm for us. However, apart from purchasing, we try our best to know the stories behind ’em. Here’s a sneak peak of our personal collection ~

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Woven Love

Some of the things we got during our travels to Aurora, Sagada, La Union and around the Metro.

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If you noticed, RJ loves woven baskets and bags. Sometimes, I’d try to control it….. but when we see these from our travels and learn the stories behind each,  I can’t help but support her on her buys. For more expensive stuff, we try to save up for it. We never want to devalue the work and effort put in each piece just because we can’t afford it now. I have so much respect for these communities who continue to live out their traditions. It was something I always saw growing up, traveling to different provinces, meeting different ethnicities.

[RJ & I] want to give back — not just through buying, but educating ourselves. We want to discover what it takes to really make one, what the meanings are behind it. Apart from that, we want to learn the stories, the relevance of these textiles is something taken so lightly nowadays since the growing trend in incorporating Philippine textiles to everyday products (sofa covers, table runners and more).

 

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philippine weaving

Handloom weaving is considered a traditional craft in various regions. It is an intricately practiced, centuries-old tradition performed by tribes all over the country. It’s labor intensive, and depending on what region it’s produced in, it will utilize materials such as buri, inabel, raffia, pineapple, abaca and more.

Tradition has always been a source of inspiration for contemporary designers and artists. In the ethnic tradition of textile, each motif, each pattern represents a re-connection to a people’s heritage, customs, practices, and belief systems. So much to learn by merely looking at the surface of a cloth.

They aren’t just your ordinary, colorful textile patterns. Textiles are essential to the personal, socio-political and religious lives of the indigenous groups. Each textile had a functional use — either to represent rank, power, wealth, virtue or incorporated in sacred ceremonies. It’s used to enhance an individual’s character. Philippine weaving really is more than just the beautiful patterns you see.

 

What is Philippine Cotton?

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Our Cotton “ Barbadense” is among one of the top types of cotton produced in the world, along with Egyptian and Pima cotton. Both these kinds of cotton are renowned for their quality, which is a big deal! Sadly, our cotton production has drastically declined since the 90’s. What used to be around 38,000 hectares allocated for cotton production, is roughly 1000 hectares now. This is mainly due to the fact of life, supply and demand.

Since our world is moving at a much faster rate than say 50-100 years ago, a lot of people prefer items that they can get “instantly” without much care for its effects. Cheaper alternatives such as polyester and synthetic cotton are just some examples. Yes, they are cheaper and easier to produce but these are not natural so it takes more time for nature to take its course, basically, decompose these products.

Luckily we still have cotton-producing major provinces such as the Negros provinces, Iloilo, parts of the Ilocos region and Benguet. These areas keep our production of cotton constant but the lack of knowledge and demand for our said cotton is threatening its growth. CODA or the Cotton Development Administration is now in the works to find an alternative source of cotton that is both economical and advantageous to our farmers.

We must not lose such an important product such as our “Barbadense” cotton. Such a product that is engraved in our traditions and a fundamental aspect to our tribes’ livelihood. It’s fiber that is endemic in the Philippines but is very much part of the native Filipino rituals,  lore and indigenous culture.

(Insights from HABI Chair Maribel Ongpin as seen here)

 

Learning with Likhang Habi Textile Fair

The  HABI Textile Council [through their market fair] continues to preserve, promote and enhance Philippine textiles through education, communication and research. They don’t want to be bigger…. they want to be better for the artisansThey’re all about preserving our roots through proper education on Philippine textiles.

Apart from that, they inculcate the importance of using Philippine cotton and the value as to what this brings. Raising awareness of Organic Philippine cotton will help promote its use, and sustain communities’ livelihood. There will be a lecture on cultivating and growing this.

The Habi Fair is a space of learning – with some performances from our indigenous brothers and sisters, and inside look on the relevance of woven textiles to those who make it.

We want to pay homage to the very makers of the indigenous Filipino textile… They empower the local Filipino tradition, culture, and customs to thrive in the modern market.
— Habi Chairman Maribel Ongpin

You see, these artisans… makers… creators weave sacred, traditional art to become wearable. Sadly, not everyone’s educated, nor conscious about weaves and patterns. In the minds of those uneducated in Philippine weaving, patterns are just patterns. Lines that go any which way, shapes and shades that dance around in a blank colored canvas and colors that seem to hypnotize consumers. Nonetheless, there’s a lot more to them. These “lines” actually tell the whole biography of the weave. From which tribe it came from to what the true purpose of the weave is, this is what the creator wants to tell you. It’s not that we’re ignorant. Sometimes, people are just too stubborn to allow this knowledge to touch their lives.

our finds from the fair

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ynigo's find was this carabao stuffed toy

Banigs

if only we could

get all the banigs

The 7th Likhang HABI Market Fair was an important spiritual & cultural experience.

Spiritual in the sense that you realize there’s a deeper meaning to the things you like or do. You might have instances where certain patterns talk to you or draw your attention more than others. Maybe it’s due to your subconscious speaking to you, telling you something about your past. Maybe you came from a certain tribe that makes that specific pattern and never knew. This is just one of those things that happen unexpectedly… but can hit us deeply. 

Cultural in the sense that we learn about our indigenous tribes, those who can be called “the first Filipinos“, and what we can do to support and respect their culture.