Friday, December 16, 2016

Rowilda's Handloom Weaving -- keeping the colourful vibrant art of inabel alive

Shall I tell you a dark little secret of mine?  I am a hoarder.  When I like something, I tend to go out and buy indecent quantities of it.
Now there are two things I specifically can't stop buying  -- books (both real and virtual) and that Ilocano handwoven cloth called inabel
If you come to my house, you will see my books all over the place -- on shelves, tables, on chairs and on benches.  But you won't see my hoard of inabel -- blankets, linens, bedcovers, shawls, even fabric for dresses that may never be made. I keep them stashed inside large plastic bins hidden under the beds.  

This inabel addiction is the result of years and years of annual road trips to Ilocos.  On this last trip,
I decided that to truly worship at the feet of inabel, I needed to go and take a look at how this centuries old cloth is woven and made.
My suki in Vigan City, Mang Dante at Rowilda's along Crisologo Street very kindly invited me to
go and visit their looms at their factory in Camangaan, a barangay about 10 minutes away from the centre of town.   Jay and I found a tricycle that took us there.

Barangay Camangaan must be the centre of inabel weaving in Vigan as we passed a few other places before we finally found Rowilda's.  We were met by a kind and gracious lady,  Manang Vangie who very gladly took us on a tour of their factory.

Rowilda's looms are on the ground floor of the owner's  house.  Crates and sacks of thread are all over the place.  The process of weaving starts in this corner where you see wooden rods hanging from the ceiling.  Manang Vangie explained how different coloured threads are hung from these rods then looped together in colour patterns for the weavers to use.

From the rods, these brightly colored skeins of thread are created.  The colour pattern will make  simple but attractive designs used mostly in  linens like napkins and table runners.

Inabel is purely handwoven.  The looms are operated using foot pedals that the weaver pushes on to weave the fabric.  It's a time consuming process -- Manang Vangie said  that an expert and experienced weaver can finish from 5 to 10  meters a day using a simple design.
More complicated and traditional patterns take much longer and sometimes a whole day's work will yield just a few meters.

Perhaps it was merienda time when we visited because most of the weavers were not at their looms.  However we did see the different projects that they were working on.

Manang Vangie said they were rushing orders for a trade fair that would be held in Manila.  Quite a number of finished table runners were just waiting to be wrapped.  Do you see that big loom in the background?  That is used to weave wide and large pieces like blankets and bedcovers.  

I asked Manang Vangie about the future of the inabel industry.  She pointed out that nowadays 
young people are no longer interested in learning to weave inabel -- finding the process too tedious and time consuming.  I suppose everyone wants to work in the big city instead.
Later on, my suki Mang Dante would also mention that he believed that technology like phones, tablets and computers  have contributed to the decline in young people taking up weaving.  Who wants to sit at a loom the whole day when you can be playing on your PS4?

It was an educational and entertaining visit to Rowilda's factory.
 Here's a photo of his brother, Mang Dominic Panela, owner  of Rowilda's along with his wife
and Manang Vangie.   Thank you for showing me the art of inabel weaving!


This lovely painting of a weaver at her loom was hanging in a corner at Rowilda's .  
Mang Dante and Mang Dominic both mentioned that it was their mother who taught them how 
to weave.  
She has been weaving inabel all her life and would still be doing it now at 92,  if not for a fall a 
few months ago that has now kept her at home.  
I wonder if she is the woman in the painting -- weaving and painstakingly creating her inabel masterpieces.  

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