MERCIFULLY, the world doesn’t stop for weavers. Even a pandemic can’t freeze the movement of looms around the country. The well-loved Likhang Habi Market Fair of years past — showcasing handwoven items for the home and self using local fabrics, fibers, and textiles — is going online this week, from Oct. 21-27, via the website www.shophabifair.com.
“In these pandemic times, we cannot gather in numbers,” said HABI: The Philippine Textile Council president Adelaida Lim from her Baguio home during a webinar early this month. “Things have to be done differently,” she said, also noting that the previous fairs, which began in 2009, were held over a weekend in Glorietta. She summarizes Habi’s purpose: “It was really to help the weavers to get their products to a buying market.”
Over 30 merchants will join this year, with their products sourced from and made in all corners of the country. “There are many beautiful fabrics from the different areas in our country. One of our main goals at HABI is to make sure that our traditional textiles will still be a part of our modern lifestyle as we transition to the new normal,” says HABI chairperson Maribel Ongpin.
HABI also continues its long-term commitment and advocacy of reviving the use of pure Philippine cotton, a fiber that is very much a part of the Filipino culture. HABI has partnered with the Philippine Fiber Industry Development Authority (Philfida) to give local weavers organic cotton seeds and threads for its Cotton Adoption Project to boost its position in the handloom weaving industry.
“This is how HABI: The Philippine Textile Council proposes to start that creative economy. We urge our HABI friends to sustain that economy purchasing online. You will have the option to acquire beautiful things, and things that speak of identity and tradition,” said Ms. Lim.
Another highlight of the annual Likhang HABI Market Fair is the Lourdes Montinola Piña Weaving Competition. Now in its third year, this competition recognizes exceptional craftsmanship and mastery of the delicate process of turning pineapple threads into works of art. “The competition has encouraged us greatly over the years because it brings out new talent and revives old techniques. So, we always look forward to the surprises that this competition will bring,” says Ms. Lim. The judges for the third Lourdes Montinola Piña Weaving Competition are Filipino fashion designers Leslie Mobo and Len Cabili, and piña textile expert and food historian Felice Sta. Maria.
Ms. Ongpin said, “The modern world is realizing the beauty of handwoven items and the beauty of tradition.”
When we think of going online, we think of new worlds and the youth. It’s hard to associate those two things with the age-old craft and art of weaving. HABI members shared their thoughts on the matter of getting a new generation interested in weaving. “The problem is, people [aren’t] interested anymore in these crafts, which is discouraging. Working with the hands is something that develops the intellect as well. Maybe this should be the focus of education. Rather than just developing intellectual skills, you have to also develop hand skills,” said Ms. Lim.
Ms. Ongpin pointed out that some institutions, particularly the Aklan State University, offer courses in weaving, with some programs devoted to teaching about natural dyes. “The only thing that’s necessary is perhaps new designs, perhaps competitions, and a more available market. If there’s a market, there will be people who will provide for that market.”
Aside from the online trade fair, there will also be a series of webinars and a four-day online summit in line with HABI’s mission to promote Filipino culture and heritage.
For this year, HABI is supporting Nayong Pilipino for Mga Hibla ng Pamana: A Summit on Weaving as Intangible Cultural Heritage. The four-day online summit aims to discuss how different sectors in the country are coming together to protect and conserve traditional weaving practices and traditions.
HABI is also collaborating with CulturAid, Kularts, House of Gongs, and Museo ng Muntinlupa to present the first-ever international Voices from the Field Program that will feature a series of webinars on the topic of Filipino Identity and Contemporary Cultural Practice in the Philippines and the Diaspora.
Aside from the webinars, the latest work of Philippine textile experts Dr. Norma Respicio and Gayle Zialcita, Weaving Ways: Filipino Styles and Techniques, will also be available at the online fair. The book discusses the different weaving communities in the Philippines, their history and traditions, and the different weaving styles and techniques of Filipino weavers.
For more information on Likhang HABI Online Market Fair, the series of webinars, and other HABI advocacies, visit www.habitextilecouncil.ph or follow www.facebook.com/HabiThePhilTextileCouncil and Instagram @habifair. — Joseph L. Garcia