Thread of Hope- Hablon
HABLON. It comes from the Hiligaynon word “habol” which refers to both the weaving method and the finished fabric itself. The hand-woven textile can be made from jusi or banana fiber, pineapple fiber, silk threads, cotton, rayon and other indigenous materials. The finished fabric comes in amazing colors -emerald, lavender, pink, tangerine and crimson.
Iloilo used to be a leading center for the textile industry and other weaving crafts in the Philippines. Even before the Spanish arrived on these islands in the 16th century, the people of what is now Iloilo and the Visayan region were already weaving textiles from cotton, abaca, pineapple and silk bartered with Chinese traders. Sadly, the region’s traditional weaving industry started fading in the late-1800s. This was largely due to the rise of the sugarcane industry and the entry of cheap textile imports, mostly cotton fabric from Europe.
In the early 1920s, Hablon weavers combined their indigenous fibers with man-made ones. This allowed them to cut costs and to offer much more affordable Hablon textile. This led to a mini-golden age for Hablon in the 1950s. Unfortunately, this started to unravel in the 1980s, with the entry of even cheaper imported machine-woven textiles.
Worse, the younger generation turned its back on hablon because they shunned this low-earning weaving trade. And who can blame them? Hablon-weaving is indeed very hard work. Weaving even the smallest piece of Hablon is an intricate process. It involves extensive planning for the design and the materials to be used.Then there is the complicated, almost micro-surgical process of rolling, manual threading, spooling, tying, weaving and handling the warp and weft of the loom. Think of it as a one-man - or one-woman -philharmonic orchestra.
IN COMES the Sarabia Jewelry Weaving Project. This is part of the corporate social responsibility or CSR program of our family-owned Sarabia Jewelry, with the full participation and passion of my husband and daughters. It has been two years in the making, as we had to scrounge around for the materials to be used by the weavers and cutters.
As part of the project, we are providing Hablon looms to the mothers of Baraclayan village in Miag-ao - where Ms Emily Hagad Noserale is from.The mothers will be encouraged to work from home so that they would be with their family members while they work -they can still look after their kin while imparting important social values, such as industry, discipline, cultural heritage, craftsmanship and creativity.Students from the local Baraclayan high school will be provided with working kits containing sewing materials and tools. They will be designing, cutting patterns and sewing children’s clothes.
In a way, this is a family-driven CSR project. My eldest daughter Regine will be helping the students in the design process. My other daughters, Patricia and Beatrice, will be assisting in marketing the finished products. Of course, there have been various efforts in the past to encourage women from Miag-ao and other former weaving hub communities to continue weaving and producing Hablon fabric for sale.
In the past, most of these finished products were displayed at cooperative centers. Unfortunately, buyers were few and far between due to the under-exposure of the industry. But now, with the help of a new generation of social-media savvy young people -including my daughters, I am very proud to add - we can expect Hablon products to reach a national, if not global, stage.
We have already started on this path. For example, at the 5th Quanzhou Maritime Silk Road International Brand Expo in Fujian, China, on April 18-21, 2019 Iloilo was the only Philippine representative. Our city showcased food, lace and embroidery products, and the Hablon collection of designers Jaki Penalosa, Hector “Totong” Gellangarin,and Girlie Flores of Balai Hablon.
And this December 7, still as part of the CSR efforts of Sarabia Jewelry, we will be hosting a Christmas party for the 75 households of Baraclayan and representatives from the local government units.
There will be the usual gift packs, bags of rice, cans of sardines. More importantly, there will be hablon yarn and sewing kits, so we can help further kickstart the re-emerging hablon industry.
We are also working with the local daycare centers so that mothers with very young children can attend workshops, marketing initiatives and other activities related to the promotion of the Hablon industry. These daycare centers will be collectively run by the community, while Sarabia Jewelry - and other groups, hopefully - will be donating books, other learning materials and equipment.
Our humble goal for now is to set up a small livelihood and skill-development center that can help provide jobs that cater to real market demand. To complement this, We need training for the youth. Specifically, tailoring classes for high school students, starting in the small village of Baraclayan in Miag-ao.
Through this project, we hope to open up stable employment and livelihood opportunities, reduce poverty, enhance productivity, and promote sustainable development. Our family effort is just a single threat in what could be the big project of strengthening our social fabric. We are joining other agencies and individuals who have steadfastly supported our truly local weaving industry. Among the agencies involved are the Cotton Development Program by the Philippine Fiber Industry Development Authority. The Department of Science and Technology - Philippine Textile Research Institute. The Iloilo Science and Technology University. The Regional Yarn Production and Innovation Center - a P41.6 million hub. The Local Government of the Municipality of Miag-ao.
HABI - the Philippine textile council. Individuals such as Senator Cynthia Villar, chairperson of the senate committee on agriculture and food.
Thank you, my dear friends in Philcoman, for promoting the values of leadership,good governance, education, academic excellence, and innovations in sociology, health, sanitation, economics, politics, environment, transportation, e-commerce, entrepreneurship, business planning and strategic management.
Thank you, Philcoman for teasing out and highlighting these various strands of discipline. I now call on you to join us in weaving these strands with our humble filaments of corporate social responsibility. Let us work together in joining the various strands of our respective efforts to weave an all-inclusive fabric - an expansive and ever-growing network of caring, heritage-rich, prosperous, self-sufficient,enduring and forward-looking communities.
MADAMO GID NGA SALAMAT.