WITH modern textiles, the art of traditional Ilocano weaving maybe seeing the end of its tether.

But Ilocano culture advocates led by Museo Ilocos Norte curator Al Valenciano sought to preserve the craft via an exhibit, Abel Iloco: Hand Woven Textiles of Ilocos Norte last Nov. 7 at the UST Museum of Arts and Sciences.

“The idea of the exhibit was basically to inform and to document the dying art and industry of weaving,” Valenciano said. “We only have 200 weavers aged between 40 to 50 years old, with no willing successors to inherit their craft.”

Valenciano decided to document Ilocos Norte’s inabel weaving, which used to be the primary producer of woven fabrics in the region since the Spanish colonial times. “Fabrics that are mass-produced now come from China,” he said.

The Ilocano process of preparing the cotton for weaving was shown in the exhibit with samples and replicas of bloomed kapas (cotton) flattened into a pagladditan, a miniature cotton gin with narrow rolling pegs. This is then beaten with the pagbatbatan, a small sheet of banig where the kapas is rolled and pounded by bamboo sticks. The kapas is meticulously collected into the pagsunayan (spindle), which turns it into cotton thread.

The processed cotton thread is then wounded into the pagpulipulan (spool winder) to be refined into the gagan-ayan (warping wheel) until it is put into the paglukutan and pasagad (pod and sled).

But weaving the textiles takes a lot more work than processing the thread. Laying out the textile design begins prior to the weaving process as the gagan-ayan (warping frames) is arranged to determine the thinness or thickness of the textile. The warped yarns are then inserted into each eye of the stringed heddle or gur-on and into each slot of the sugod or reed.

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In about three to four days, a fabric of woven inabel is produced with endless combinations of stripes and plaids achieved by using colored warp and weft with tinartaros, the woven designs of stripes technique.

Also mounted on the exhibit were finished patadyong and kimona attire which have been woven, sewn and donated by Ilocos Norte locals, and the portable and detachable pagablan (cotton gin). An Ilocano weaver demonstrated the weaving patterns and techniques during the opening of the exhibit.

Meanwhile, top local designers Michi Galica, Gerry Katigbak, Rajo Laurel, Jojie Lloren and Randy Ortiz used the bolts of inabel cloths as their medium for their clothing designs, with the assistance of famous Ilocano weaver Aida Fernandez. Finished gowns were shown from a projector as models paraded with Ilocos landscapes and scenic spots on the background.

“The documentation and recording of this old is the most valuable piece of the exhibit,” Valenciano said. “The weaving does not have to catch up with the times, nor does it have to be taught forcibly, it has been timeless and is now part of our culture.”

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