Optimism Seen in the Future of Philippine Fabric and Weaving

Thursday, July 15, 2021

Dropped by the talk about Philippine fabrics yesterday hosted by Humboldt University in Berlin wherein Deputy Speaker Loren Legarda was guest speaker along with Ms. Analyn Salvador-Amores from UP Baguio. It was entitled "Habi: Weaving Philippine Textiles Future" and it was quite a nice discussion on how those who care are strengthening their efforts to keep the weaving culture alive, learn more about regional designs, documenting it, reviving designs from museum archives (yes a long time ago), and perhaps where to see the industry flourish in the next couple of years.

Professor Dr. Vincent Houben from Humboldt University in Berlin says "I'm very happy to have this happen, to put in place this program to advance Philippine studies. The PH and Germany are close and very intertwined. Rizal spent quite some time here and we have lots of information about that. We're thinking in some scales we can focus with the Philippines and see in a context where there is a weaving connection. The Philippine culture needs to be seen in a broader sense. Through the program over the past couple of years, we're grateful that we have a lot who have done their studies about the country, welcome from Europe."

Analyn Salvador Amores the project leader of Cordillera Textiles Project UP Baguio says "Weaving communities in the Cordillera region exist and empower communities. Cordillera region is in North Luzon from the ranges in Apayao to the more central Nueva Vizcaya, an Igorot domain. Through trade, inter-marriage, weaving patterns have similarities in this study. These communities have a long history of weaving, you can see this in the tribal photos from various photos archived in the US, Russia and other countries. Textile are produced through natural fibers, and cotton, manually weaved with sticks passed on from generation to generation. Lowland Ilocanos introduced new ways through export and trade. Fabric was traded for goods, food, poultry and farm products. There is a decline in weaving in the region because of an aging population, decrease in master weavers, lesser interest in generations thereafter. The government has taken steps like endorsing acts for the use of Philippine tropical fabrics for uniforms of public officials, employees and festivals. They also enacted resolutions for research, put up school for living traditions that promote indigenous weaving but met challenges as it has been not sustainable, and has lesser funding access. In the recent years, there is a resurgence in textile weaving including geographical sourced Cordillera textiles identified with certain communities. The CordiTex currently is doing multi disciplinary research and vigorously documenting textiles. Now local weavers get to access records, learn and re-learn weavings as we continue to do anthropological fieldwork in the Cordillera."

Deputy Speaker Loren Legarda concentrated more on the resurgence on the demand for the more intricate production of Piña Seda (silk) fiber and says "We started in the school of oriental studies 5 years ago. There's so much I have to say about Pina Seda Weaving and Embroidery in the Philippines. It is not just done in my province of Aklan, but in different regions in the country. Traditional textiles are ties that bind, it links the past to the present and brings together cultures no matter how diverse it is. It's a synergy between workers and artisans, several hands are needed to make one fabric alone, not to mention the designer and embroidery of which women would hand make it from farm to shop. Since 1998 we have worked to enact this into law to not just protect but help the industry. The pineapple plant is not indigenous to the Philippines but we have made way to produce the red variety of fibers from it. It is laborious to produce it and the influx of imported fabric and fashion trends made it dwindle. With government efforts, provinces have been tapped to produce this including Aklan, the Bicol region, Cavite, Davao, Misamis Oriental, Laguna, Cagayan, Saranggani has been tapped to produce it. Mulberry farms are needed to produce silk in the Philippines, and demand has remained high for it. In a bid to produce more Pineapple fiber, machinery has been provided to farmer cooperatives in plantations so they can increase production  of pineapple fiber. There's a need for convergence of government agencies, so they can continue building capacity, promote domestic trade and do a systemic development in marketing the fabric. All of these are necessary to produce products to respond to immediate needs of the public. The DA should assure steady supply, DTI can help promote these fabrics through trade fairs both locally and abroad. TESDA can also do skills training for weavers and embroiderers and have a nurturing environment for this industry. It is one way of showcasing our traditional textiles in the hopes to further promote it in different markets. It takes support from legislation to make things happen, soon we will have more galleries in different parts of the country. We plan to put up documentation centers, conservation agencies, to help farmers, weavers, local textile manufacturers and establish centers where they can get services in processing. If there's a desire, there's a need, and we need to support them. It will also provide jobs for the countryside, the Philippine Piña Seda is a prized fabric and it is truly world class. I wish to go back in time and tell you that the task before us is to help our people value and continue our heritage, we must open doors of opportunities for weaving communities and promote greater support for our cultural enterprises."

Honestly, it was like a breather to hear them be optimistic about Philippine fabrics and with a good amount of systems in place, plus continuous efforts in policies and funding, the future looks bright for the weaving industry. It's definitely a pillar for the fashion industry and without the raw materials, how can one create? I feel as the economy is slowly going back to normal, this deserves the attention it should get. It's part of culture, and without it, we would cease to exist as Filipinos because it makes us who we are as a nation.


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