By Marivir R. Montebon
New York City – When it is June, the halls of the Philippine Consulate here celebrate Philippine independence by honoring those who excel in their fields of endeavor outside the mother country. It is also the time when Filipinos proudly wear Philippine fabrics that are exquisitely created into Filipiniana clothes. As time evolves, we see how dignitaries re-create the traditional into something stylish but pragmatic and eco-friendly.
The petite Vice Consul Khrystina Corpuz says her modern Filipiniana “instantly makes me feel more beautiful by being beautiful itself.” At the Philippine Consulate’s celebration of the Independence Day with the diplomatic community on June 8, she stylized a turquoise multi-way wrap into an elegant dress. The wrap is made of banaca fabric by wrap artiste Ditta Sandico Ong.
The Philippine textile industry, just like the other agri-based industries in the Philippines, is a gem waiting to be boosted to its fullest potential of ushering local and national prosperity. While that is in the works, we take pride in the fabulous quality of Philippine clothes made by the age-old tradition of loom weaving.
The Barong Tagalog is usually made of pinya (Ananas comosus), extracted from the leaves of a pineapple plant. It is precious and scarce, hence expensive. The pinya fiber is ivory white and glossy. It is usually blended with cotton, abaca, silk, or polyester when hand woven. Local manufacturers use natural dye to color the fabrics, hence environment-friendly.
Today, the province of Aklan is the center pinya weaving in the Philippines. In fact, it is the oldest pinya weaver in the country, producing the elegant pinya seda (pineapple silk) which is known as the queen of Philippine fabrics. The fabric has gone so far, from the quiet villages of Aklan to posh places in Europe and America.
In the neighboring province of Iloilo, Hablon or handloom weaving continues to thrive with women as the major actors of the generational tradition. Hablon is a Hiligaynon word for habol or blanket. Natural fibers from pineapple, abaca, cotton, and silk were tediously woven into blankets by women in Miag-ao and its neighboring villages since the barter period with the Chinese.
Another important material in the Philippine textile industry is abaca, an herbaceous plant in the banana family. During the Spanish colonial era, sturdy abaca was used for ropes that stabilized galleon ships on the harbor and pulled heavy materials. Today, the abaca has evolved into a craft industry where it is profusely used in the production of linen, handbags, hats, and rugs.
Community leader Joji Jalandoni (featured photo) merrily struts in her pink Hablon mini dress and chats with friends during the Independence Day celebration with diplomats. “This is made of hablon by Nono Palmos and hand-painted,” she declares. No stylish Filipina could be prouder.