By Emme Rose S. Santiagudo
ILOILO CITY — Connie M. Atijon, a master weaver of Iloilo’s hablon cloth, believes that the younger generation can be enticed to appreciate and keep alive the fading tradition.
Her son Franco is living proof.
The mother-and-son team, along with other weavers mostly from the town of Miagao, recently conducted lectures and hands-on demonstration of hablon — a Hiligaynon word that refers to both the weaving process and the finished fabric — organized by the National Museum Western Visayas in Iloilo City.
The event was attended by students of different age groups from public and private schools and universities, men and women from public and private institutions, and even tourists.
“Mostly, the teenagers want to play rather than learning hablon weaving. I hope they give time to learn how to weave,” Ms. Atijon said in an interview.
Her son Franco, who assists in the family’s weaving business, stressed that the tradition need not only be for women.
“Anyone can learn hablon weaving. It’s not only for women, even us men can learn weaving,” he said.
One of the participants, tourist and local product enthusiast Yeti T. Arbiz, said experiencing the actual weaving process on the terol (loom) deepens one’s appreciation of culture and tradition.
“It’s a bit complicated at the start, but it gets easy later (on). The experience is fulfilling because you get to go back in our own heritage and culture,” she said.
“Not all teenagers could be able to experience hablon weaving, but they should know the culture of hablon at least. Usually, most of them lack the basic idea on various Ilonggo cultures,” Ms. Arbiz added.
Historical records show that traditional weaving in Iloilo, which used to be a major industry in the province, started to fade in the late 1800s when sugarcane production became highly profitable.
Efforts to revive the tradition are growing, with Miagao town receiving various grants for projects to support the textile industry.
Among these is the Cotton Development Program initiated by the Philippine Fiber Industry Development Authority, while the Department of Science and Technology-Philippine Textile Research Institute, together with the Iloilo Science and Technology University, is building a P41.6-million Regional Yarn Production and Innovation Center.
At the 5th Quanzhou Maritime Silk Road International Brand Expo (MSREXPO) held on April 18 to 21, Iloilo was the only Philippine representative and showcased food, lace and embroidery products, and the hablon collection of designers Jackie Peñalosa, Girlie Flores of Balai Hablon, and Hector Gellangarin.