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Textile hand-weaving of northern Philippines

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Textile hand-weaving is one of the most attractive and interesting traditional crafts of the Philippines, imbued with romanticism and laden with cultural significance. Despite the current dominance of modern textile production, weaving textiles by hand and loom still persists in remote pockets and communities all over the archipelago, from north to south.

In Northern Luzon Island, the ethnic groups known to have weaving traditions are the Ilocano, Ifugao, Kalinga, Itneg, Gaddang, Kankanaey and Bontoc.

The Ilocano still practice hand-weaving using the pedal loom. Their materials are cotton and natural dyes, although now they use store-bought threads and synthetic dyes. They know several weaving techniques and designs, passed down to many generations. In recent years, there have been several movements to revitalize Ilocano hand-weaving. The common Ilocano words for “to weave,” “abel” and for a woven material, “inabel,” have become terms used by outside the region to mean textiles hand-woven by the Ilocano.

While traditional hand weaving has died out in many areas of the Ilocos region, there are several communities that still continue the tradition. Known weaving centers in the region are the towns of Paoay, Pinili and Sarrat in Ilocos Norte; Caoayan, Santa, Bantay, Santa Maria and Tagudin in Ilocos Sur; and Bangar in La Union.

The Cordilleran ethnic groups also have unique and fascinating textile weaving traditions.

Most of them use the back-strap loom and the ikat, a dyeing technique that employs tie-resist on the yarns, which is a shared process among a number of Southeast Asian cultures. Their textiles serve many functions from fashion to rituals.

The textile tradition is one of the most vibrant examples of the richness of Philippine culture.

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