Filipino textile is alive today thanks to indigenous mothers

Published May 5, 2021, 2:10 PM

by John Legaspi

This Mother’s Day, let’s recognize the role of weaving mothers through their works

Tagbanwa weavers

Since its earliest days, weaving in the Philippines has been a tool for storytelling. It encapsulates our history, not with ink and paper, but with natural dyes and fibers. It anecdotes dreams through intricate techniques and designs that take years to be mastered. This weaving heritage is still celebrated today as among the things that make the Philippines unique. Though it had some sunset moments, we owe it to Filipinas, particularly the mothers, who have kept weaving alive and have passed it on to future generations.

That was the life lived by some of the National Living Treasures of the Philippines. The late master weavers such as Yabing Masalon Dulo, who championed the Blaan textile weaving, and Salinta Monon, known for her quality Bagobo tapestry works, both inherited the craft by watching their mother do it.

A mother’s role in indigenous communities, indeed, calls for beyond just nurturing young ones, but also includes being a vessel to pass on culture. And up to this day, weaving mothers still benefit from the craft. “One of the many goals of the weavers, especially as mothers, is to put their children through school, which is one of the reasons why they continue to weave,” according to a study conducted by the British Council.

That’s why this month, as we celebrate both Mother’s Day and Heritage Month, it is best to recognize not only the women who have helped us become who we are today, but also the ones that have helped our country’s identity to survive. Doing just that is Habi: The Philippine Textile Council, which is putting the spotlight on the artisanal works of indigenous mothers with “Habi Mama, a Habi Mother’s Day Fair,” happening until May 9, 2021, at

“Mothers are the ones who shepherd traditions such as weaving to their families. They are the ones who can pass on the love of weaving to kids,” says Habi vice president Ruby Roa, who is also co-chair for the Habi Mother’s Day fair. “We hope Filipinos can make this year’s Mother’s Day extra special for both the moms who cared for them and the weaver moms who take care of preserving our culture by supporting the Habi Mama campaign.”

Habi has been a strong advocate of supporting weaving communities and local artisans all over the Philippines, and its largest annual trade fair happens every October during National Indigenous Month. In its 12th year, the nonstock, nonprofit organization continues to find ways to help uplift these local artisan communities through pop-up fairs like Habi Mother’s Day under its Habi Mama project, especially since they have been strongly impacted by the pandemic.

The organizer of artisan fairs, have worked closely with its partner communities to come up with special “curated” gift baskets. Made by women-lead basket-weaving Tagbanua communities in Aborlan, Palawan, these baskets contain themed gift sets composed of sustainable and ethical fashion and lifestyle products from over 28 merchants representing various weaving and local artisan communities from Luzon, Visayas, and Mindanao.

The Stay Safe Mama

Handwoven leather clip-on hand sanitizer bag accessory; two three-ply face masks made of Philippine cotton; leather face mask holder with Maranao beads and Philippine cotton tassel

The Kikay Zoom Mama

Sunnies lipstick and lip and cheek tint; handwoven makeup pouch; handmade and locally sourced face soap made with aloe vera and coconut oil; handwoven Philippine cotton scarf by Creative Definitions

The Relaxed Mama

Handwoven inabel towel; lavender soy cold-pressed candle; lavender massage oil infused with extra virgin coconut oil, grapeseed, and jojoba; handwoven buri banig yoga may by Aklan Ati Community (sourced from Aklan)

The Cooking Mama

Handwoven apron and oven mittens; locally sourced wooden ladle and fork; handwoven bucket hat; handwoven binakul face mask by YakangYaka

The Garden Plantita Mama

Handwoven half apron; Habi Philippine cotton seed kit (grow your own cotton at home); handmade citronella lotion bar in waterlily container

The Coffee-lover Mama

Two local coffee products, Original Grounds Baguio Gold and Tommy’s Roasted Sagada dark coffee; two handwoven Yakan coasters, 1 customize fabric graphic mug by Habi Philippine Textile council

For more updates on Habi: The Philippine Textile Council, visit its Facebook page and follow on Instagram at @habifair.