A NAME drapes over your destiny much the same way clothing does. Your name can say a lot about your story in the same manner that clothing can. For Fawzia Maridul, founder of Malingkat, destiny can be found in both her own name and the brand’s: “Fawzia” means “successful” in Arabic, while “malingkat” means “beautiful” in Tausug.
“I’m Tausug on my father’s side,” she said proudly during a luncheon on Aug. 28. Ms. Maridul heads Malingkat, a cause-driven brand that aims to highlight Philippine textile traditions by way of Mindanao, a place her heart calls home. Ms. Maridul sells home and personal accessories woven by partners in Mindanao, particularly the Yakan and the Maranao people.
Ms. Maridul doesn’t quite like the social enterprise tag, though she is a finalist in BPI Foundation’s Sinag competition for social enterprise. It’s simply because she felt that she hasn’t ticked off all the boxes for herself to qualify as a social enterprise. “In terms of doing more for the community, in terms of really being entrenched in the community, doing social services or something — but we’re not that. Although we try in our own little way to address the needs of our community,” she said.
The cause that drives Malingkat is preserving textiles through preserving the stories behind them. For example, she mentioned a pattern by the Yakan people, made to resemble crabs, which points to the fishing traditions of that group. A pattern by the Maranao people, meanwhile, point to the waves of Lake Lanao, where their people thrived. “Those are the stories we try to convey.”
Oddly enough, even though her father belongs to the Tausug people, she has not produced a piece done with pis, the traditional textile of the Tausug. “[It’s] one of the most beautiful handwoven textiles in Mindanao — and I’m not being biased,” she said.
“It’s really precious, that’s why I’m taking my time. I really want to make it special.”
When you do business in Mindanao, it’s hard to divorce yourself from the Mindanao conflict, a reality that she faces when she’s sourcing: “Although I go to Jolo — I still have family there — there is a challenge in terms of going to the outskirts, even for my cousins who live there. They’re a bit concerned.”
But that’s precisely why, for her, Malingkat is a story that needs to be told. When you love something, you protect it, and for you to love something, you have to know about it. In keeping the traditional textiles alive, and telling their stories as honestly as possible, the thought of why Mindanao matters becomes more tangible to the consumer. “They are able to see that the Abu Sayyaf isn’t the only thing in Mindanao,” she said in a mixture of Tagalog and English.
This stretches beyond the idea of Mindanao but also in appreciating textiles beyond their aesthetic value. “Really, handwoven textiles come about because there’s an inspiration from outside the weaving process,” she said.
“It’s important to honor the hands that made them.”
Malingkat is available through Instagram @malingkatweaves, and on Facebook as Malingkat Weaves. — Joseph L. Garcia