“This one took me about 2 weeks to finish” the woman weaver told me as she showed a golden angular pattern on a clean white sheet. The pattern is called sugkip, a tipas (slanting) design touted as the most complicated of Inaul Weaving designs that it takes 2-3 people to weave. I inspected the pattern in awe as I ponder its intricacies. Cotabato City may not have much in terms of natural attractions but cultural products such as the Inaul, a Maguindanaon hand-woven fabric, is particularly sought-after for its quality and beauty.
At Al Jamelah Weaving Center in Datu Odin Sinsuat, Maguindanao, I saw how the weavers display meticulous craftsmanship – from spinning each strand to the shuttle, arranging them one by one on the wooden loom, to creating the unique patterns with precision. The dominant colors of the fabric are symbolic of virtues and qualities; yellow and orange for royalty, red for bravery, green for tranquillity, and black for dignity and white for mourning. Weaving could take 3-15 days depending on complexity of the pattern. Prices for a meter can go from P600 up to P1000 or more depending on the quality and materials used
Inaul Weaving are typically used as “malong”, a tubular skirt or “sarong” that wraps around the lower part of the body but is versatile enough to be used as turbans, wedding gowns, polo barong, even bags or pillow cases.
Sadly, Inaul Weaving is a dying tradition but with the efforts of Haji Bal Alelzzah Albaya B. Wampa (or Bai Albi as people there fondly call her) of Al Jamela Weaving Center, the tradition lives on with the employment and teaching of disadvantaged mothers and out of school youths the art of Inaul weaving for their livelihood. It made me more impressed that these women, with little education can create something complex and meticulous.
I also visited the Weaving Village in Bulalo, Sultan Kudarat, where families of weavers continue the tradition in their homes. The skill of Inaul weaving is also passed down from generations of families and that is evident here in Bulalo. Sadly calamities have also hampered the production of Inaul. Recent flooding north of Mindanao have affected this part of Sultan Kudarat that a lot of looms (contraptions used for weaving) were damaged. Those that survived were placed on the upper floors of their houses in case there are floods again.
Both Al Jamela Weaving Center and the Weaving Village of Bulalo are technically outside the borders of Cotabato City already but these people still consider themselves as Cotabateños. Their products are brought in the city to be sold.
Ferdz Decena is an award-winning travel photographer, writer and blogger. His works has found print in publications such as Singapore Airlines’s Silver Kris, Philippine Airlines’ Mabuhay, Cebu Pacific’s Smile and Seair InFlight. He has also lent his expertise to various organizations like the Oceana Philippines, Lopez Group Foundation, Save the Children and World Vision, contributing quality images for their marketing materials.