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Blog - Philippine Textiles: Our Home, Our Style

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When my husband and I moved to our new home last year, we both liked the idea of making our home speak of us – and that everything should either be beautiful for us or at least practical. We come from very different places with very distinct cultures but we both agreed on this: “Collect things you love, that are authentic to you, and your house becomes your story”.  We both like authentic Filipino things, we drool over rustic and sophisticated pieces in Filipiñana shops and boutiques, we marvel at antiques in ancestral houses. I have been going around the country since I was a teeneager, and continued doing so when we met 4 years ago. One of the purchases we indulge on during our travels, aside from food, are local fabric / textiles and fibres that we either use for our home or put on as clothes or accessories. We appreciate the intricate designs, the elaborate patterns and most especially the hard work and skill of the hands who weaved the masterpiece. Let me share with you some of these “souvenirs” as we make use of them in our home, outdoors or even in our wardrobe

 1. Yakan

Surrounding the Yakan cloth is a framed wood shaving art from Pakil, Laguna and a basket box from Kalinga. Photo: Tropical Experience.

The traditional art of Yakan weaving  originated from the island of Basilan. Yakan weaving is known for using bold colours and geometric patterns. There are also a couple of Yakan weavers who settled and took refuge in Zamboanga City in some recent past. Though the Yakan fabric is traditionally used as garments, we placed this lively patterned Yakan cloth atop our small table beside our house’s main door for a vibrant welcome feeling.

2. Tapis  and Bahag

Some travel knick-knacks to display with the Bahag:
pregnant wooden figure from Palawan, wooden Bulul from Benguet,books, Murano glass bell and candle holder from Venice, “prosperity” lizard wooden box from Ifugao. Photo: Tropical Experience.

The “Bahag” or loincloth are worn by the tribesmen of Ifugao, while the “Tapis” is worn by their women. These handwoven textiles have different patterns and colors that indicate the wearer’s place or stature in the community. In our home, we have the (un-used..ahem) Bahag placed as an accenting runner for our antique narra comoda (buffet cabinet) while the ladies’ Tapis was placed over an antique tea table as  table cloth.

Atop is a capiz tray with floral hand painting from the city of Capiz in the Visayas. Photo: Tropical Experience.

3. Inabel / Abel Iloko

More popularly used as a blanket, the Inabel works great as my mat when outdoors! Photo: Tropical Experience.

The Inabel cloth of Ilocos is usually made into soft and comfortable sleeping blankets. I got this towel-sized fabric from my trip to Vigan in Ilocos Sur back in 1996. It’s lightweight, easy to dry, durable and is multi-purpose. I sometimes use is as my bath towel, furniture cover, a small blanket to curl up underneath on or my beach mat / picnic mat. Inabel or Abel Iloko is handwoven on large antique wooden looms using weaving techniques called Abel by the artisan women of Ilocos.

4. Sagada Weave

Notice the diamond and two half-diamonds pattern. Photo: Tropical Experience

The culturally rich Sagada is famous to tourists for outdoor like adventures like cave spelunking and trekking and is also well-known for its weaving. Actually, one of the leading weaving enterprises in Sagada was already granted a patent. The product design of the weaving firm consisting of one full diamond and two half diamonds  forming an X sign in a mix of two random colours has been granted patent. Travelling with my  mother-in-law to Sagada, she got us some yards of these cloth. She sewed us pillow seat padings for our foldable dining chairs hand-carved from Banaue.  The Sagada weaved backpack  is a practical piece to have when you are feeling outdoorsy and adventurous.

All set for an edventure with the Sagada-weved backpack! Photo: Tropical Experience. 

5. Banig

The natural hues of the banig tones down our bright orange sofa. Photo: Tropical Experience.

A banig is a handwoven mat usually used for sleeping in the Philippines. Technically, the banig is not a textile. They are usually made with dried buri (palm), pandan or seagrass leaves. In Samar, the women banig weavers use “tikog” a special reed grass which grows in swampy areas along rice fields.  Though the Banig of Samar are known to have lively pattern and colorfully dyed, simple and earthy shades are also available like these banig throw pillow covers we have in our sofa.

6. Tubaw

Prettily protected. Photo: Tropical Experience.

Tubaw is a  handwoven bandana worn by the people of southern Philippines, notably in South Cotabato and Maguindanao. It is usually the older people who use the Tubaw as their headwarp or headscarf. In our home, it used to cover our computer printer from dust and make it blend with our Filipino-themed home setting.

7. Banana Fiber

Banana and Pineapple fiber wedding ensemble. What a fruity pair! Photo: Tropical Experience.

The eco-friendly fabric of my wedding outfit (in photo) is lightweight yet very durable, has high moisture absorbency and fits very well. It comes in different hues and manufacturers are said to extract yellow dye from narra seed shovings, red dye from achuete seeds, black dye from talisay leaves and brown dye from coconut husk. Having said these, this fabric is totally biodegradable and sustainable! Most banana plantations in the Philippines are located in Mindanao and some in the Bicol region where 307,000 tons of banana fiber can be generated. The photo above is a shot from my wedding day and I dressed up with a banana fiber top.

8. Piña

The Piña fiber (see picture above) is hand scraped from pineapple leaves, knotted one by one then woven into fine cloth. It is considered as the queen of Filipino Fabrics and is the most expensive and sought-after product of Kalibo, Aklan. It is considered as the fabric of choice of the Filipino elite and is mainly used for the creation of the Barong Tagalog, a traditional formal wear in the Philippines for men. My husband in the photo above classily sported a Piña Barong. This lightweight but stiff and sheer fabric are also made into table linens or other formal clothing items.

9. T’nalak

A lot of love in every meal! Photo: Tropical Experience.

The T’nalak is a traditional cloth woven by the T’boli women in Lake Sebu in Cotabato. The T’nalak is sacred and unique, as it represents birth, life, marriage and death. Most weavers today come from a generation of T’nalak weavers of their great ancestors. Young T’boli girls learn the intricate techniques of weaving these abaca fibers from their sisters, mothers, aunts and gransmothers as the T’nalak requires multiple roles that contribute to its final output. We got some yards of raw T’nalak in one of our travels and sewn them into rectangular placemats we use with our meals.

It just feels wonderful that these pieces in our home each has a story to tell. From collecting raw materials, to the fine craftsmanship and hard work the hands lay into it each weave, the meaning of the paterns and designs to the memories of our travels and placing them in my family’s abode. Truly, home is where the heart is!

(written on May 2015)