Senator Loren Legarda said that weaving culture and traditional textiles reveal a lot about a nation’s identity and narrate stories of origin communities, becoming essential to a people’s heritage.
Legarda made the statement during her talk for the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) Economic Ministers’ Spouses Program at the Center for International Trade Expositions and Missions (CITEM) organized by the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) and Mrs. Malou Lopez, wife of DTI Secretary Ramon Lopez.
“Beyond the intricate weaving technique and fine embellishments we find in our traditional textiles, we discover cultural expressions and visions of our history that have endured the test of time. Our vibrant textiles are reflections of our cultural rootedness and symbols of our identity,” the veteran legislator said.
The seasoned lawmaker, a staunch advocate of arts and culture promotion and patron of the country’s first permanent textile gallery, Hibla ng Lahing Filipino, at the National Museum of Anthropology-shared some stories of weaving traditions in the Philippines, like the T’bolis of Lake Sebu whose abaca-made t’nalak is used during significant occasions like birth, marriage and death; the Panay Bukidnons of Calinog, Iloilo who employ intricate embroidery and a unique dyeing system in the creation of their traditional wear; while the Ga’dangs of Mountain Province pass on their weaving tradition to their children to unleash the creativity of the youth while incorporating in them the values of hard work, patience and love of culture.
The lady senator also shared how the Hanunuo Mangyans in Oriental Mindoro continue to practice the tedious process of producing thread from cotton to weave their traditional ramit cloth, which they wear as skirt.
She also said that one of her programs to propagate knowledge on weaving traditions is the Lecture Series on Philippine Traditional Textiles and Indigenous Knowledge at the National Museum of the Philippines. Aside from showcasing the weaving traditions of various ethno-linguistic groups in the country, lecturers from ASEAN neighbors, like Thailand, Vietnam and Laos, have been invited to be part of the project.
Legarda explained that ASEAN member countries, while equally rich in weaving heritage, face several challenges that limit the practice of traditional indigenous weaving.
For instance, with the diminished availability of natural fibers, synthetic yarns such as rayon and polyester have come into popular use; with ease of use, synthetic dyes and dyed synthetic yarns have come into mainstream use; and, fewer are practising the tradition of weaving and natural dyeing as the younger generation have not been as engaged.
She said, “The challenge against a backdrop of a fast-changing globalized world is this: How do we promote, preserve and sustain the many weaving methods deeply rooted in our respective cultures? How do we support talented weavers, our culture-bearers, and encourage them to continue weaving and to pass on their expertise and art to the next generation?”
Since 2005, the ASEAN Foundation has been organizing the ASEAN Traditional Textiles Symposium, which Legarda said helps ASEAN members come up with initiatives either through legislation, innovative policies, or programs to allow traditional textiles and weaving traditions to thrive in this day and age.
“Preserving our heritage should be a shared cause. As individuals with influence in our respective nations, the task before us is to help our people value and continue our traditions. There needs to be convergence among agencies and across sectors to strengthen communities and local industries starting with the production of raw resources, to the creation of textiles, to the marketing of products. We should create a nurturing environment where our age-old crafts can flourish,” Legarda stressed.
“We must promote cultural enterprises and creative industries of our indigenous peoples. We must open doors of opportunities for learning and knowledge-sharing so that we expand our weaving communities and local textile industries. As we have commenced the ASEAN Economic Integration, we must not get lost while we welcome each other into one community. Our respective identities as sovereign nations must remain intact. It is in a stronger and strengthened individual country’s identity that regional integration is enriched,” she concluded.