She was among the last living master weavers that kept the Blaan traditional mabal tabih art alive
It’s a sad day for the Philippine culture and arts scene as we bid farewell to Gawad Manlilikha ng Bayan laureate Fu (lola) Yabing Masalon Dulo. News of her demise was shared by independent curator Marian Pastor Roces through a Facebook post early in the morning of Jan. 26.
Born in a Blaan village in Landan, Polomok, South Cotabato, Fu Yabing started to learn the craft of Blaan traditional mabal tabih art of ikat weaving the age of 14. To this day, her role in her community and the Philippines held a great value as she was among the two that kept the art alive. As a master weaver and dyer and bearer of an almost forgotten culture, she was honored with the National Living Treasures Award by the National Commission for Culture and the Arts (NCCA).
“Fu Yabing’s mother, whose mother before her, passed on more than the aesthetic and technical wherewithal to make these textiles—often, a tour de force—but more importantly the stoutness of heart to negotiate with unseen forces,” Roces posted.
Mabal tabih is believed to be a gift from the Blaan’s goddess of weaving, Furalo. The fabric is made from abaca fibers and colored by steeping it with native plants. Featuring the Blaan’s talent for embroidery, it is used as a tubular skirt for women and cover for medallion and knives.
According to Roces’ story published by the NCCA, for the most part of Mindanao, ikat is almost extinct form of art. But Fu Yabing dedicated her life teaching people about the taspetry, threading the legacy of her pure art. She shared the craft to her only daughter Lamina Dulo Gulili and other women of her community. With the help of her grandniece Arjho Cariño Turner and the weaving students from nearby village is Lamlifew, Malungon, Sarangani, Fu Yabing became a full-time mentor for a brief moment. In 2009, she traveled to Manila for the ASEAN Textile Symposium at the National Museum of the Philippines, bringing the weaving culture of her community in the metro.
“Fu Yabing lived her early life in this animism that structured the making of materials of breathtaking refinement. That world—with its own integrities, cruelties, and measures of the sublime—is in her mind,” Roces wrote. “While she was able to pass on technique to her daughter, that memory of the interconnectedness of things and ideas among the Blaan will vanish with her.”
Rest in power, Fu Yabing.