Monday, July 29, 2013

Hablon Weaving


A closer look at "hablon" weaving in Iloilo. 
"Hablon" is a hand-loomed fabric woven by women of Panay Island in the Visayas region for more than a century.



I have always associated the tapping sounds of hablon weaving to that of  Tinikling, a traditional Filipino dance.  The rhythm and grace of a hablon weaver are comparable to that of a Tinikling dancer, but hablon weaving is definitely more challenging.  I've watched the weavers at Arevalo Weaving Center in Iloilo and I came to appreciate the intricacy of this craft.


When the Spanish arrived in Panay in the 1560s, hablon weaving in the island was well-established.  Colorful hand-woven fabrics were sold in festive market fairs, local traders bartered with the Chinese, and by 1870s, hand-woven textile was the main export of the province. 


The weavers were using natural fibers such as cotton, jusi (banana fiber), pina (pineapple fiber) and maguey fiber.  By the 1920s, weavers made innovations by combining man-made fibers and hablon went on to become a major player in the Philippine textile industry in the 1950s up to 1970s.  The demand declined in the 1980s when the market was dominated by less labor-intensive, machine-woven textiles.  The number of weavers also dwindled as they started to look for better job opportunities.  The lack of interest to learn the craft among the younger generation also contributed to hablon's decline. I don't blame them---hablon weaving is not easy.

Hablon weavers are getting old.  Lola Mayang, a hablon weaver in her 80's, started weaving at 15 and was able to send her children to college.  I watched as her arthritic fingers skillfully handled the spools, both legs pedal the bamboo poles.  But her fading eyesight will eventually force her to retire soon.

Patadyong is a multi-colored fabric, also a hablon product, worn by Filipino women in pre-colonial Philippines.  It is still worn today by older women in the provinces, especially in the Visayas region.  It is worn like a loose skirt, knotted on the waist.  It is also worn as a sling and used to carry a baby so the mother's hands are free to do other chores.
Hablon are made into shawls, barong (a formal Filipino garment), dresses and gowns, home textile and scarves.

At Arevalo Weaving Center, I was pleasantly surprised to see 3 young weavers---they're young men in their early 20's.  Hablon weaving is still a woman's craft but I wouldn't be surprised if more men would get into this livelihood.  The 3 young weavers were field workers in a sugarcane plantation in my home province of Negros Occidental.  A nun brought them to Iloilo to help them find jobs that would eventually support their schooling.  They expressed interest in learning hablon weaving and the owners of the weaving center took them in.  


It was particularly fascinating to watch this young man with tattoos unwinding threads, making spools dance across strands of fibers.  I asked if he'd go back to his old job---he said no, hablon weaving is easier than cutting grass in the fields under the hot sun.  He smiled and added that his skin became lighter since he started weaving.  


To sustain this industry, hablon weaving definitely needs young blood and new market.

Panay is a historic island in the western Visayas region.  It is composed of 4 provinces--Iloilo, Aklan, Capiz and Antique.  Iloilo is the biggest city and the center of trade.  There are numerous sea ports and 4 airports in Panay, 3 of which are for domestic flights, the airport in Iloilo now caters to international flights. It's 55 minutes from Manila by plane.




23 comments:

Andrea said...

That's nice Luna. I've seen weavers of cloths like that in Dumaguete, maybe it is also the hablon.

Re my hoya post: The fuzz depends on the species Luna, but they are all beautiful. I guess you didn't read the whole story, haha!

Gerald (SK14) said...

looks colourful

Jesh St Germain said...

One thing to do on my bucket list: weaving and spinning! Bautiful:):)

Kara said...

How interesting. It would be nice to see a complete piece. It's so pretty.

SmilingSally said...

So intricate! I like this strip of blue; thanks for sharing.

Happy Blue Monday, Luna.

Lea said...

Great photo!
I always learn something new when I visit your blog. Thanks!
Have a wonderful day!
Lea
Lea's Menagerie

Kim Hkiss said...

Very intricate waving and is handmade ^_^ Wish I could learn how to do this thing. Thanks for the visit I do appreciate it.

Kim,USA

acreativeharbor.com said...

Fascinating process and great colors ~ wonderful photo ~ thanks ^_^

FABBY'S LIVING said...

Oh Luna, this is fascinating! Here in Ecuador there are people who work like this too and I love the weaving things they produce, as yours are! Gorgeous! Thank you so much for visitng me. Have a lovely week.
FABBY

Hannah said...

What a fascinating process. Weaving on looms always looks so complicated and difficult. I'm amazed the young man would have the patience to get into it. Beautiful fabrics!

Harley Wilde said...

The man had lots of tattoos like the cloths on his arm.

Beppan said...

Beautiful things - interesting photos!

EG CameraGirl said...

The work is very pretty! The weaving in the first photo is superb!

eileeninmd said...

Luna, thanks for sharing the weaving process. It is neat to see new things! Great shots, have a happy week!

Gary said...

Beautiful fabrics!! Boom & Gary of the Vermilon River, Canada.

Indrani said...

I wish I could lay my hands on one of those shawls. Great shots Luna.

chai-and-chardonnay.blogspot.com said...

I hope that this craft will survive and flourish! And I learned something new today...thanks

Huldra said...

Interresting and beutiful handcraft. Thank you for sharing :)

magiceye said...

Glad to note that the traditional art is preserved

Birgitta said...

Such beautiful and colorful work! Very nice pictures Luna!

Katrin said...

So beautiful! I've never heard about it before, so thank you for sharing!

Betty Luckhurst said...

Those are some amazing works of art!

Howard said...

Cool!