Handloom weaving is part of the cultural heritage of the Philippines. Every tribe has their own patterns, every region their own styles. We love to use local handwoven textiles in our products to create demand for this industry and hence keep this part of the culture alive, but also to keep it as a source of livelihood for many families who live in remote areas. Since we are based in Manila, the weaves of the provinces of Ilocos are most accessible to us. To get more insight into this industry, to meet weavers in person and to purchase textiles, we went on a trip there. In this blog and the next ones we will share some stories and pictures from our trip.
Our first destination was Santiago, Ilocos Sud. The Couples design in grey and blue, the Turquoise Fish design and the Red Pineapple all originate from Santiago. Since these types of weaves are quite well known in Manila, you would expect that Santiago would have lots of signs directing you towards a huge workshop. Hmmm.
We had been travelling for up to 8 hours by car on the main road – which is also used as main road going north right through villages, with jeepneys and tricyles stopping everywhere, people biking, walking and shopping – and left it for a road winding down through some rice fields to the beach. Ending in a beautiful lagoon we got stuck. Now where should we go? Asking around did not help. We spotted a newly built hotel and decided to ask there. Upon entering the concierges were excited to have guests and more and more staff from the hotel emerged. Everyone was super friendly, we were shown around the newly built hotel, were offered all types of food and received hotel flyers, but no one had any idea what we were talking about. After taking some pictures of the gorgeous murals with one of our bags we left, confused about our next step but smiling about all the friendliness we had received. Suddenly the cook’s helper ran after us. He saw the bag being photographed and finally understood what we were looking for. His auntie worked at a handloom workshop so he could point the way.
Piling all up in the car –his friend was also happy to join us – we went looking for the house. A lovely lady opened the door, the owner was not there but she could show us around. We left the house through the back door, where a whole village emerged. Chickens, roosters, pigs and dogs were happily mingling in the mud between the houses. In the back of a little alley several handlooms were hidden. We felt like Indiana Jones finding a treasure chest! The weaves were absolutely stunning. The simple circumstances in which these people work and live are such a contrast to the sophistication of their products. Several ladies came to help us and introduced us to their art. Beautiful patterns were visible on the looms. Mind blowing how they can keep these textiles, often with a white base, clean in these circumstances. They showed us how to weave, which only increased our respect for them. We bought as many textiles as we could and promised to order more. We will be back!