Miagao's Hablon: Weaving the Past into the Future

I love dressing up. However, my adoration for clothes doesn’t mean I give them much attention. I’ve never been passionate about fashion. Heck, I don’t even know if I have a particular style.  I’ve never looked at clothes beyond its entirety. My appreciation is limited to the surface – how they look like when they’re worn. But my ignorance about the artistry and creativity in fashion ended when I was invited to a press conference about the Hablon Festival in Miagao, Iloilo.

Along with the people from the press and some Ilonggo designers, the other bloggers and I witnessed the pride of the Miagaonons as they talked about this heritage fabric. At first glimpse, you might think it’s just like any other striped or checkered fabric. Watching the short clips of hablon making at the beginning of the press con totally left me in awe. Fingers crossed that no one saw my enthralled face while watching.

The Process

Before the work even starts, the weaver’s imagination should already be running. You see, they have to pick the thread cones and arrange them to their desired pattern even prior to setting them up on a warping tool. Would you believe that they have to count these threads by hand as they roll them along the pegs of the warping frame? To add up to this, they have to consider the length, width, and the design of their desired outcome. After that, they roll it along their so-called “weaving machine” and shoot each thread through the openings of the heddle. (Ah, totally not for me. I’d end up double-sighted). After which come the reeding and the tie-in process where the weavers insert the thread on the metal reed and tie it into a cloth roll at the loom’s base. Using the traditional spooling wheel, they spool the weft thread for the shuttle and finally move on to the weaving process.

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Spooling
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Hmmm. Hablon weaving can be a good upper arm workout.

Observing the weavers truly made me appreciate the creativity and intricacy involved in hablon making. What even amazed me is the fact that this was handed down from generations and originated even before we were taken captives by the Spaniards.

The Future of Hablon

Like other heritage pieces, the hablon industry experienced a downfall. Fortunately, esteemed designer Nono Palmos found a way for its revival. As he showcased the fabric in a local fashion show, he renewed the Miagaonons’ pride on their rich culture and heritage. The local government recognized the importance of honoring the heritage fabric and so every first week of September, they pay homage through the Hablon Festival. During the weeklong celebration, various activities will take place for locals and tourists to enjoy. There will be trade fairs, float parade, logo and hablon-making contests, food kiosks, live bands, and exhibits from September 3-6. The highlight is the Little Miss Hablon Finals on the night of the 5th of September. (Come and watch me flaunt on the runway as a contestant. Haha)

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These little girls who were introduced during the press con will showcase innovative and creative hablon designs. Nono Palmos, the Father of Modern Hablon, has created new designs for the hablon, the vinta design, for one. The contestants will wear gowns and casual dresses that will prove that hablon is as versatile as other fabrics too.

To further promote hablon, the weavers, with the assistance of Nono Palmos, have also come up with a secondary line that can cater to the needs of the retailers. The Miagaoanons themselves have passed an ordinance requiring all government offices and schools to use hablon in their uniforms. Hablon Weaving is also offered as a course at ISAT University.

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We visited the current weaving center at Brgy. Indag-an where all the weaving takes place. The good news is that around next year, the building of the Miagao Hablon Weaving Center will start. Aside from the church, tourists can also visit the building where the weavers will be housed. Areas will also be allotted for a museum, a pasalubong center, and a café.

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Nono Palmos and the Ilonggos designers. (C) Kathy Villalon
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Bloggers and people from the press showing off the hablon

It was a day well-spent at Miagao. It gave me a different perception about hablon. Now when I see it worn in the offices, strutted on the runway, or displayed in couches as pillow or trinkets, I don’t just think of history and novelty. It’s a piece that has brought in livelihood, art, craft, legacy, and recognition to the town. It has given Miagao yet another identity apart from being home to Sto. Tomas Villanueva Parish Church, a UNESCO Heritage Site. We can all jump into the bandwagon as it is another reason for us to be proud as Ilonggos.

Connie’s Hablon

Indag-an, Miag-ao, Iloilo

(033) 513-7292

0919-393-7285

Imees Hablon

Indag-an, Miag-ao, Iloilo

(033) 315-9537

Indag-an Primary Multi-Purpose Cooperative

Indag-an, Miag-ao, Iloilo

(033) 315-9722

Natinga’s Hablon

Bugtong Naulid, Miag-ao, Iloilo

0930-266-0129

Valencia Hablon Center

Valencia, Miag-ao, Iloilo

(033) 315-3005

 

Website: www.miagao.gov.ph

Email: lgumiagao@yahoo.com

Tel. No. (033) 315-8050 Local 101-/315-2185

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