Philippines' handloom weaving industry still alive: official

Jasmin Romero, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Oct 19 2022 10:36 PM

MANILA - Contrary to some fears and beliefs, the country's handloom weaving industry is still alive and undergoing a resurgence, according to an official.

"Many have been saying that this is a dying sector. But we are not discounting the fact that.. there is a resurgence, a renaissance of interest coming into play," said Dr. Enrico Paringit, executive director of the Philippine Council for Industry, Energy and Emerging Technology Research and Development of the Department of Science and Technology.

Paringit said this during the launch of the first Philippine Handloom Weaving Conference of the DOST's Philippine Textile Research Institute (DOST- PTRI).

The conference aims to put a spotlight on what handloom weaving is all about, including its purpose, significance, art designs, the meaning behind those designs and its relationship to the country’s indigenous people.

MORE PRESENCE

The presence of the handloom textile is not only gaining ground locally as it is also starting to get more exposure abroad with initiatives from the private sector.

"We connected the weavers… to different global market places specifically in Paris, in Paris Fashion Week and in New York Fashion Week.. We also promoted weaves specifically the concept of an indigenous feature in Vogue Italia with Pia Wurtzbach as our model," Chief Executive Officer and Creative Director of Kandama Social Enterprise Victor Baguilat Jr. said.

“The fact that the commercial viability is something that the weavers are seeing… the sustainability market is growing, we have a lot of conscious consumers in first world countries and even in the Philippines, more people who are leading towards more sustainable practices and lifestyle… We also have a lot of Filipinos who are in the diaspora who are, who want to have, you know, feel of home and who want, you know, like more of Philippine cultural items," he added.

According to Dr. Norma Respicio, professor emeritus of the University of the Philippines - Diliman, some designs are meant to convey one's social class or protect wearers from bad luck.

An example is the Kusikos, a fabric design similar to a whirlwind.

“It represents the wind god. It is meant to protect the person wearing such textiles from the effects of strong winds. According to oral traditions… fishermen or those in nearby shores... they make use of the Kusikos demand because that will protect the people on the boat from the whirlwind or whirlpool,” Respicio said.

“Philippine Textile art is a deeply rooted tradition.. It is resilient even in the midst of obsessively exploitative economic policies relentlessly imposed by Western cultures. With the assistance of the government... and non-government entities, the struggle to assert the tradition provides greater dynamism to the art and to Philippine culture as a whole. It is a gentle power wielded by women," she added.

CHALLENGES

While the DOST and other stakeholders vow to boost this industry using technology and other innovations, there are still challenges that need to be addressed when it comes to using the textiles.

These include misappropriation, or the use of the product “without the consent of the creator or community”; misuse, or the use of fabric in a manner unintended by the creator or the community; and merchandise of the products.

According to Jennifer Sibug- Las, National Commission on Indigenous Peoples’ Ethnographic Commissioner for Central Mindanao, consultation with creators and communities is vital since many of the textiles are considered "sacred," and rituals were made first before using or even cutting the fabric.

"We always seek permission from the creator or the community for the purpose or the use of the fabric; Provenance. We always attribute or credit the creation from the origin... Minsan kasi, kaya nagkakaroon ng cultural misappropriation yung ating ibang designers, it’s because there is not enough consultation with the community," Sibug- Las said.

Many weavers also experience challenges when it comes to putting a price tag on their creations.

“How many months ginagawa… minsan binabarat pa po natin sa presyo,” Sibug- Las said.

Weavers are also getting older and fewer students are getting interested in learning handloom weaving.

Proposals to include handloom weaving in the student curriculum were raised, and more training for new students and assisting current weavers are some of the ideas proposed to uplift the industry, as well as the lives of the weavers.