Weaving gives Filipinas enough power to leave abusive marriages

Published August 29, 2020, 7:09 AM

by John Legaspi

And other ways the craft empowers PH and the Filipinos

Photo by Bagane Fiola from the British Council

The Philippines is among the many countries that are blessed to have a weaving culture. Every region has its own handloom tradition that dates back to pre-colonial times.

What started as textiles based on women’s dreams and aesthetics became the new patterns for today’s garments, bringing in a new sense of pride in Philippine fashion.

There is the Ilocos region’s binakul-patterned inabel, a fabric used to ward off bad spirits now made into different wearable pieces. Aklanon’s piña, the mother of all Philippine textiles, is now being promoted as “haute culture.” The hablon from Iloilo is revived to help build a more eco-friendly fashion. Mindanao textiles from the weavers of Lake Sebu are also being recognized for their intricate hand beading. 

There are many stories to tell about the newfound popularity of Filipino textiles. To think that years before, just like the creation of the Philippine terno, the indigenous craft of weaving was dubbed as a “sunset industry.” This craft has definitely come a long way, and now has its well-deserved time in the spotlight.

With changes here and abroad come challenges for the local weaving culture. And the new tapestries reflect new tales, not only concerning the future of weaves but also the future of the hands that threaded the patterns.

To know the current state of the country’s weaving culture, the British Council, in partnership with sustainable communication company Muni, conducted a research titled Crafting Futures: Sustaining handloom weaving in the Philippines last March to provide artisans, designers, entrepreneurs, and decision makers a valuable reference for co-creating a sustainable future for and through craft.

“The Philippines has a vibrant and diverse culture reflected in its cultural heritage and the emerging practices of artisans today,” says Pilar Aramayo-Prudencio, country director of the British Council in the Philippines. “While there are various reports on the wider craft industries in the Philippines, we identified a need for an updated study on handloom weaving given the sector’s motivations to reinvent and propel itself into the local and global craft scene.”

The teams studied the art of weaving from various angles, based on the country’s commerce (economic), the importance of weaving to heritage (cultural), and how weaving affects the daily lives of its weavers (psychological).

Here are some of the Crafting Futures research’s discoveries.

Weaved textiles becoming global

One of the key findings of the report is that the perceived value of handloom weaving is constantly changing. This is often influenced by global trends like the circular economy, within which weaving is seen as among the many steps to take by various industries to promote a more sustainable business. 

Weaving fosters cultural awareness

The study also found that some collaborations with designers and government agencies have kept culture at the forefront of the practice, allowing the skill and heritage to continue. Weaved textiles gained new audiences that not only want to wear them, but are also interested to know the history behind every fabric.

The Crafting Futures program is designed to celebrate the value of craft in our history, culture, and in the world today…bringing together designers, craft practitioners in organizations from around the world, to explore the possibilities for the future of craft.

Katia Stewart, global program manager Crafting Futures

Weaving empowers women

It further reveals that weaving is still able to significantly empower weavers as women, artists, entrepreneurs, and community leaders. Having a means to earn an income improves the roles of women in their household and tribe in general. These women were able to leave abusive marriages by being able to return the dowry paid in tribal nuptials.

Also, these women are seen as cultural bearers and designers in their own rights. Many of them expressed that the income from weaving will never be able to match the prestige of being recognized as an artist.

There are things to accomplish 

With today’s technology and other advancements, some of the weavers are searching for alternative livelihood as weaving requires hard labor and produces minimum rewards. 

This idea opens the issue of uncertainty of the craft’s future as younger generations are also likely to pursue a different path away from weaving.

To help avoid forgetting handloom weaving, the research recommends continuous education, community investment, and holistic interventions for the sector to thrive. 

Another issue the research brought up is the concern about documentation. Many of these weaving crafts are passed on by word of mouth and through actual techniques. Having a proper guide on every region’s textiles will not only provide information about their history, but will also educate people on how to properly use them.

Learn more about Crafting Future by reading the full report here, or by listening to its community discussion at Muni Community Facebook page.