A contingent of Filipino artisans, entrepreneurs, officials and weavers represented the Philippines at the recently held International Folk Art Market (IFAM) at Santa Fe, New Mexico, July 10-12, 2015. IFAM is the mecca for craft persons working in all media, in both traditional and contemporary modalities and aethetics. It being an international folk arts fair and trade show, the Philippine presence was essential to sustaining the increase attention of buyers, collectors, and craft-lovers in Philippine-made indigenous textiles, basketry and other crafts. According to the group, this second year of participation by the Philippines, had better sales than the first during the second day of the festival. IFAM itself generates $2 billion plus in sales with an attendance of about 20,000 visitors. Each booth can earn and average sales of $18,000. More importantly, it showcases the remarkable craftwork of t'nalak by the T'boli (Lake Sebu, S. Cotabato); hinabol of the Bukidnon Higaonon; piña from Kalibo, Aklan; tingkep baskets from the Pala'wan, and tapis from the Kalinga, Cordilleras. Piña artist Anna India Dela Cruz and t'nalak master weaver Bernadeth Ofong came with the group to demonstrate their respective craft arts.
Piña has been described elsewhere in the blog as an exquisite, silk-like fabric produced from pineapple leaves and beloved by Philippine and foreign fashion designers. India, later in their stop over in San Francisco, demonstrated how designs are now painted onto the fabric, an embelishment method that has become acceptable now among designers has also found favor as a way to encourage autistic children as a medium of expression. India herself teaches the children at workshops in Manila. Piña over the centuries has maintained a secular relationship with the act of indigenous weaving, unlike t'nalak, hinabol and ikat that are woven in the cultural fabric of dreams, rituals, practices that the T'boli, Higaonon, and Kalinga still observe. For example, in strict T'boli custom, a finished t'nalak is never placed close to the feet or that future brides must weave t'nalak pants for their husbands.
Like the t'nalak, the hinabol by the Higaonon people are made from abaca threads (Manila hemp) and also have symbolic properties. Traditionally, the hinabol was used as a peace cloth. The ikat weaving by the Kalinga of the Cordilleras were traditionally sacred activities passed on from mother to daughter. These cultures have increasing challenges to continue their weaving traditions amidst rapid modernization and globalization that the Philippines now (and similar societies) face. Fortunately, some NGOs and government agencies are working hard to ease the transition and to preserve as much as possible, these traditions while at the same time establish practices that will develop into sustainable livelihoods for the weavers. The Hinabi Project team (THP) and the San Franscisco public were treated to special trunk sales that show cased the indigenous textiles and the opportunities to purchase these for their own collection.
Custom Made Craft Center (CMCC) and The Hinabi Project Team L-R: Maya Ong Escudero, Ruth Canlas, Beng Camba,
Michael Gonzalez, Tanya Lat, Edwin Lozada at the Asian Art Museum, San Francisco
The visit of Custom Made Crafts Center members who are partners with THP shared their insights and visions on how jointly, a better appreciation, exposure, and education for the American public about these indigenous textiles can be realized, starting with the Piña Education Exhibit at the Asian Art Museum on September 24-October 11, 2015.