IT’S ALL IN THE THREAD!
By: Anne Karmela E. Eucogco and Joy Lopez
It was a Saturday afternoon when my cousin Sidney Roland (a designer) asked me to accompany him in going to Sta. Barbara, Igbaras. He had to check the hablon he ordered for his designer’s collection to be sent to New York for an exhibit. “Why would he use hablon for an international exhibit?” Question I asked myself while we were travelling. As we got there, colorful fabrics which were displayed in front of Mrs. Zenaida Escera’s house captured my attention.
Mrs. Zenaida Escera who is also called “Naids” in their neighborhood is a weaver for 38 years now. She started weaving at the age of 18 as influenced by her parents and since it had been her family’s source of income. Weaving, as a process of making clothes or blankets and other products through over and under techniques has been her expertise. It also served as a source of livelihood to her family.
Looking around her workplace, I noticed another woman in one corner, keeping herself busy weaving a combination of white and gold silk fiber. Out of curiosity, I went near her and observed how weaving is done. At first glance, the process of putting the threads together will look like a difficult thing to do but once tried and done with dedication, it will be an enjoying and beneficial activity (not to mention the little exercise it provides to your arms and feet). It takes a lot of patience to finish one made product. One standard length of hablon can be finished within four hours for expert weavers while it may take a longer time for beginners. If you get used to the process, it will be easier. The hardest part of weaving is called “sab-ong”. It is in this part where threads to be woven are attached to the loom one by one before the whole process starts. According to Manang Naids, the loom or “tidal” they were using was aging 13-15 years by now.
Weaving follows a pattern depending on the design you want but usually it has square or rectangular shapes with colorful threads used. I took time to examine the finished products while my cousin was talking to Manang Naids. With a closer look to the fabrics, one will surely appreciate the artistry of the weaver and its uniqueness because of the distinctive details. Usually, weavers use threads spun from natural fibers like cotton, silk, wool and other synthetic fibers such as nylon and Orlon. But thin, narrow strips of almost any flexible material can be woven. In a country like ours, weaving is used generally as a source of livelihood and for export purposes.
Various organizations of weavers can be found all over our archipelago. Manang Naids is a member of the Igbaras Weavers and Knotters Association in their locality. Some of their products such as handkerchiefs, patadyong, tablecloth and pillow cases are displayed in the locality’s tourism office which are also for sale. They also use abaca and make bags out of it. Weaving has started in the Philippines years ago as a way of life of our elders and to provide them clothing from raw materials found in the surroundings. Although there are still a number of weavers, it has lost its essence overtime as modernization has reached its heights. Despite the outbreak of technology, some will still continue to patronize the products of weaving made with love and passion. I hope that we are one of those who will.
After a while of walking around the weaver’s working place, Sid showed me the black hablon with strips and touches of gold fiber he would use for his collection. He tried to wrap it around me, converting it into an improvised gown and when I turned to see the mirror, “Wow!” The hablon was perfect for a gown! Now this answered my question why my cousin had to use it as his fabric for the NY Fashion Designer’s Exhibit. Wearing an unblemished gown made of hablon will make one truly proud to be a Filipino. Weaving indeed is an art made with passion and love and of dedication and patience.