Threading Colors, Lacing Bonds through Weaving

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Staw Payap-a, a native of Mountain Province , still practices backstrap weaving even with the existence of weaving looms which supposedly will help her produce woven products faster and easier. However, according to her, the values during the backstrap weaving process is more important just like coordination and cohesiveness. //Sharmaine P. Chocowen

As the dawn breaks, Agnes Chocowen and Veronica Chumacog, both natives of Mountain Province,  leave their sleeping area to be with their aged partners in life, a weaving loom. Treating their looms with passion, they begin to interlace threads which later on forms spectacular fabric. After a while, with a wide smile on their faces, they lift up the newly-woven roll of fabric and find their way to Baguio City. Riding the jitney, the two women are sure to come back home with goods bought by the money which they are expecting from their woven products.

According to handscraft.com, fabric weaving is a process of cloth production, in which one or more different sets of yarns or threads are interlaced to form a cloth. It is done by intersecting the warp (lengthwise threads) and the weft (crosswise threads) using a shuttle. Shuttle is a spindle-shaped holder that carries the weft between the threads of the warp by passing it back and forth.

The research of Nathaniel Baylas IV, Teofina Rapanut, and Ma. Louise Antonette De las Peñas titled “Weaving Symmetry of the Philippine Northern Kankana-ey” revealed that the designs of Cordilleran weaving are associated with rice cultivation and the native’s unique connection with the environment. This is shown in the zigzag designs that depict mountains, X’s represent rice mortars, diamonds symbolize rice grains and eyes, etc.

The birth of garment weaving

In the article “Traditional Backstrap Weaving” by of Dr. Caridad B. Fiar-od which was posted in the Igorot Cordillera BIMAAK Europe (ICBE) website, it stated that weaving in the Cordillera began before the 1990s with the use of banana stalks, bamboo strips, and other fibrous plants such as kapok tree, a tropical tree that has a cotton-like fluff obtained from its seed pods and was made into pillows among the Ilokanos.

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Known as the “Weaver’s Paradise”,one can roam around Mountain Province and witness the intimate relationship between a woman and her weaving loom. A weaver’s day to day activity usually passes by  with her weaving loom  as her sole companion. Through this, the province proudly offers bags, purses, blankets, seat of table covers, natives costumes, etc which are scattered around the area. //image source: http://onefinetrip.blogspot.com/2014/one-fine-trip-car-cordillera.html

Discovering the Ilokano’s usage of kapok seeds, the Igorots got some of the said seeds, twined them into thread and stiffened it with rice. It was on this time that impagod/pinahod or backstrap weaving came about.

Backstrap weaving is an indigenous technology where the weaver with back support made of bark of trees, animal skin or rubber is strapped to the weaver’s back while seated with her stretched feet supported by a log.

Realizing the weaving’s potential in the commercial market, it spread throughout Cordillera, especially in Mountain Province and Ifugao. In the 1970s, backstrap weaving was overtaken by the use of Ilokano weaving loom due to the rising demand of woven products. The Ilokano weaving loom, just like any loom, is to hold the warp threads under tension and to enable the intertwining of the weft threads without using a back support.

Nevertheless, backstrap weaving is still practiced until today in the provinces of Mountain Province, Ifugao and Abra.

A livelihood and a dream maker

From the alternative work to past time activity, weaving at present have become a source of livelihood among women in the region.

“Weaving is our means of survival,” shared Chocowen, adding that weaving can better provide the basic needs of her family and financial support for her children’s studies rather than what she receives from her laborer husband.

Because of weaving, I began to dream. I am sure that through weaving, my children will be saved from being illiterate,” continued Chocowen.

Many of the woven products are brought at Maharlika Livelihood Center in Baguio City, wherein, a weaver can paid as high as P300 per yard for wider ones and P20 for slimmer ones. The produced rolls of cloth are sewed into other products like bags, jackets, purse, seat covers, and many more. Through this, Chocowen stated that their survival for the following days is assured.

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These are just some of the products out of a weaver’s clever hands. Going to Maharlika Livelihood Center in Baguio City gives a shopper an array of choices, from a complete set of native attire (above) to shoes, bags, curtains, and many more.//image source: http://carissainez.com/2015/09/baguio-city-guide

“Weaving is a blessing for those who were not able to finish their studies. It does not require a diploma but only needs industriousness and patience to be able to feed the family’s mouth even without proper education,” added Chumacog, who have degree-holder daughters.

Reports from DTI in 2009 indicated that the average monthly income of a small weaving firm falls from P3, 000 to P6, 000 but is expected to rise due to growing demand on woven products and influx of tourists in the region. So, it also brought the natural dyes of Abra into limelight.

Firming ties through weaving

Weaving is one of the oldest local industries observed in the country, making it an indigenous practice. And just like any other practice, it plays a role in the blossoming of life and in promoting prosperity, harmony, and progress in every community.

In the article of Fiar-od, she stated that in Western Mountain Province, the fineness or smoothness of the weaving gadgets reflects the concern and how responsible the husband is. Consequently, it can prove the strong commitment and the trustworthiness between the couple.

It was also stated that a meticulous mother should always keep any woven garment with beads to be given as inheritance to her child who gets married. This inheritance is handed during the traditional wedding ceremony. Hence, it will give birth to a healthier mother-daughter relationship.

In an undergraduate study of Jimzon Sagpa-ey, a graduate of Bachelor of Science in Agribusiness in Benguet State University, titled “Profile of Loom Weaving Industry in Kabayan, Benguet” it was stated that weaving is an important element and component of Benguet culture.

Sagpa-ey added that weaving became a family activity. Women and children have their own role/function in the industry, from cotton separation, dyeing, drying, spinning, and weaving. Thus, family members often interact, leading to a more harmonious and jovial connection.

“Weaving became our bonding time with my daughter when I taught her how to weave at the age of 11,” said Chumacog, continuing that her relationship with her kailyans, who are mostly weavers, became firmer as proven ever since weaving become part of their lives.

She narrated that when she was out of stock on a thread, she can borrow with another weaver. During special occasions, conversations on the trend of weaving industry, prices of threads, consumers, costumers, etc.is expected to pop out. This talk gives birth to a more enriched links among everyone not just to themselves but also with their family members.

When the clock ticks 9:00 at night, just like the past years, Chocowen and Chumacog, carefully put down their shuttle, put off the light and peacefully went to sleep. Even though worrying with what money will they use to buy their daily basic needs, they need not worry that much because weaving will always make a way.

Indeed, more than just a source of income and livelihood for the mothers at home, weaving is a medium and a living cultural tradition among the Igorots in promoting values such as cooperation and cohesiveness not just within their homes, but also with the people who share the same passion and creativity in the designs of the woven products.

It is the same culture that binds the community together. In the 21st century, where all garments are available, weaving became a tangible manifestation of how Igorots and our cultural practices survive through time.//Sharmaine P.Chocowen

 

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