by Rose Churma
This is the third in a series of books published by HABI, The Philippine Textile Council, and is intended for the use of students and educators as well as a resource for weavers and textile enthusiasts.
HABI was founded sometime in 2010 with the goal of creating a vibrant and handloom weaving industry in the Philippines—one that can enable the weavers derive a sustainable income to benefit the entire family.
Since its establishment, the organization has seen a surge in the industry where traditional textiles are now very conspicuous on the fashion ramp, as uniforms and on decorative items.
HABI publishes books on weaving as part of its mission, and its third book is both a technical handbook on basic weaving and a survey of several communities and their indigenous textiles.
The first part, a technical handbook, was written by Gay Eiko Yoshikawa-Zialcita, a third generation Hawai’i-born Japanese who received her Bachelor of Fine Arts degree from the University of Hawai’i where she specialized in textile science.
In 1977, she moved to the Philippines to get married and soon joined her husband who was then doing his field research in the Ilocos region.
In those remote barrios, she developed friendships with the local weavers who showed her the traditional Ilocano style of weaving. At about that time, she also collaborated with the Design Center Philippines where she wrote two manuscripts on traditional weaving.
During those years, the public was not yet ready to pay premium prices for handwoven clothes, so she shifted her interests on more modern type of fibers like fiber optics and technology.
In 2018, she joined HABI, who was interested in publishing her manuscripts on handloom weaving.
In 2017-18, she joined the Ateneo Social and Cultural Laboratory (led by her husband Butch Zialcita) as volunteer/den-mother to students who did two detailed projects on the binakol, an optical illusion type of Ilocano cloth, where they documented the entire process of weaving, the weavers’ life stories and noted warping procedures for four basic binakol designs.
She shares her weaving knowledge and experience in this manual—so more people will appreciate the skill and accuracy required to make a bolt of cloth, and be encouraged to wear these works of art.
There are four common styles of weaving looms now used—two types of back-strap loom and two types of the upright loom. Regardless of the loom type, the principles and procedures are nearly the same.
This segment of the book describes in detail—in illustrations, text and tables—how to use these looms and produce a handcrafted piece of cloth.
In addition, the set of tools typically used by weavers are also illustrated and described, as well as how to select the yarns to be used, based on the desired designs.
This is an incredible achievement—one that ensures the preservation of a craft that used to be passed down from one generation to the next.
The second portion of the book is written by Norma A. Respicio, professor emeritus at the University of the Philippines on art studies. She also studied art history in Japan and conducted research on Japanese textiles.
In this section, the author provides a brief history of Philippine textile weaving traditions and identifies the twenty-seven ethno-linguistic groups that are actively practicing the weaving traditions.
She also describes the loom and is described with photographs (unlike the illustrations in the first segment). Design techniques are also explained—from the plain weaving with stripes, the binakul (or binacol), the multi-heddle weave, the pinillian brocade weave, to the suksok/insukit scattered design weave, the tapestry weave, and the ikat. Each type is illustrated with color photographs.
The last chapter provides a brief background on eight featured weaving communities: Aklanons (sinamay and pinya); Bontoc; Hiligaynon of Iloilo, Ifugao, Ilocano, Maguindanaon, T’iboli, and Yakan.
The list is by no means exhaustive, but it opens the world of traditional weaving of the Philippines to readers worldwide so that they may be inspired to treasure these textiles that define Philippine identity—use it as part of their wardrobe, as an art piece in their homes, or as a collectible to be passed on to the next generation.
Couturiers and fashion designers catering the to Filipino American market have been incorporating these traditional weaves in their clothing designs lately, due in part to the demand of their clients.
This book is a valuable resource to both designers and fashionistas—since it provides the underpinnings of the spirit that makes each completed fabric a unique treasure.
ROSE CRUZ CHURMAestablished Kalamansi Books & Things three decades ago. It has evolved from a mail-order bookstore into an online advocacy with the intent of helping global Pinoys discover their heritage by promoting books of value from the Philippines and those written by Filipinos in the Diaspora. We can be reached at email@example.com.
by Rose Churma