For the Lumad community of the Higaonon tribe, Hinabol weaving is an artful tradition and a source of livelihood for their families. As the indigenous craft originated in their community, the skill of Hinabol weaving has been passed down from the previous generations of women. Men, on the other hand, are responsible in providing raw materials used for the craft. Located in the municipality of Impasug-ong, the Hinabol weavers and abaca farmers have worked their way up to the Philippine market and introduce their product even to international consumers. The intricate indigenous weaving process of Hinabol textile has been perfected with the help of the Malaybalay local government for the highest community in the municipality - Sitio Manalog, Bukidnon.
The community of Sitio Manalog, Bukidnon composed of 222 households take pleasure in being surrounded by the mountainous view of Mt. Kitanglad rage.
Abaca serves as Sitio Manalog’s primary means of survival. Within those 222 families, most depend on abaca trees as their source of livelihood.
Families store their hablanan or pedal looms inside their houses. Some of the families still live in traditional houses where their hablanan and their Hinabol weaving is done under their elevated houses beside their domesticated livestock.
Composed of women of different ages, the Hinabol weavers are divided into two organizations – the Sunflower weavers and Pigyayungaan weavers.
The process of Hinabol weaving starts with the abaca. A30-minute hike from the community, hectares of abaca trees were kept in best condition by the rainforest’s excellent soil and the Higaonon’s indigenous ways of sowing trees.
Once the men have harvested the trees, tuksi or the peeling of layers start. In traditional tuksi, the Higaonons use carabao bones as their knife. To this day, a small sharp knife is enough to peel hundreds of abaca. Primary layers are stripped to become the lanot or the fibers best for weaving.
Traditional hag-ot or hand stripping instrument is still currently utilized by their people. A simple wooden apparatus with a sharp blade demands expert and strong arms to pull layers of abaca turning it into fine fiber ready for sun-drying. NGOs such as PhilFIDA and Kalasan introduced stripping machines to speed up the stripping production which helped in increasing their export.
Once stripped, the farmers will then hang these fibers in wood panels placed in sun-directed areas within the forest. Sun-drying lasts for half a day up to two days, depending on the weather.
The women from the community will then start their afternoons with a side of daily chats and catch-ups through pagkukuyakay or choosing strands of fiber from a hanged freshly sun-baked lanot. By pagkuyakay, they patiently combine two or three fibers together to create meters of threads for weaving. Along with pagkuyakay is the pagdugtong or knotting of lanot to create longer threads.
After sun-drying, the fibers are then delivered to the weavers’ homes to start the Hinabol making process. The women in every weaving household will start the lubok or pounding of fibers in a big wooden mortar and pestle for five consecutive times to make the thread stronger. Pictured above are the fibers bundled together after pounding.
Han-ay or the arrangement of lanot on a wall embedded with linear patterned nails on the sides follows. Meters of lanot are arranged in a long and alternating pattern to straighten the threads before they undergo dyeing. A minimum of fifty meters and a maximum of hundred meters are arranged in this process.
The Higaonons’ of Barangay Manalog still practice the traditional process of Hinabol weaving except for one, dyeing. From natural dyes which came fresh from the Lumads’ ancestral lands, turmeric for yellow, tungog branch for red, basakan or paddy field’s mud and guava leaves for black, and guava leaves for green or khaki, synthetic dyes started entering the weaving scene.
Synthetic dyes are used to prevent environmental hazards. With the use of natural dyes, chemicals, which remained unnamed, are mixed to improve the dye’s color quality and absorbability. After sun-drying, the fibers are then delivered to the weavers’ homes to start the weaving process.
As the dyed-lanot dry, the assembling of the hablanan or the pedal loom starts. The art of sambud or feeding the thread in the hablanan, from warping through circling the threads to the moton up to the arranging of threads according to its design’s pattern to the heddle then into the suludan/sudlay or comb-like three hundred holed reed, secures the warp in place.
For the weft, a kalingsayan or wheel is used to spin the thread into a spool, which is then inserted in a lansarida or shuttle. This completes the assembling of thread into the hablanan.
The final product from the kalingyasan is then attached to the lansarida or shuttle and is now ready for weaving.
The Hinabol product ranges from Class A to Class C and varies according to the quality of the fiber, the dye used for the fiber, and the quality of weaving. Class C Hinabol can be weaved in a day or two for a hundred meter textile. Class C textiles don’t possess fine and compact intertwined warp and weft. The Pigyayungaan Organization helps in distributing Class C Hinabol around Mindanao. This class is used to sew simple handbags, wallets, coin purses and other common pasalubong found in souvenir shops.
Class A’s process doesn’t stop in the weaving. It is further polished and waxed. The paglilimpyo or cleaning of the finished Hinabol involves cutting excess thread on the surface of the textile, waxing itwith beeswax, and lastly ironing with bayukong or a shell for a shiny and smooth finish. Class A Hinabol textiles are sold by the Sunflower Organization to different small and big entrepreneurs around Bukidnon, Cagayan de Oro, Manila, and even international countries.
The process itself of making such fine textiles demands excessive and intensive labor from the Lumads who depend on their indigenous creations in able to survive. Weaving in such harsh situations left our Lumad brothers with no other options but to continue their crafts and to introduce it to a larger audience. Amidst this fact, weavers are still grateful of the fortune and luck that is delivered by their growing list of consumers.
With Pigyayungaan and Sunflower’s growing population of weavers and the continued pursuance of weaving among the youth, paghihinabol will endure until the next generations. As the Higaonons try to preserve such traditional craft, they also give us a reminder that our origin will persist as long as we educate ourselves with the indigenous peoples’ teachings and ways. Pictured above is the finished product of a Class A Hinabol weave.
Published on Rural Missionaries of the Philippines and Mindanao Interfaith Institute on Lumad Studies.