Weaving history

March 25, 2014

TRADITIONAL garb worn by tribes such as the Ifugao, Mandaya, Bontok, B’laan, and more are displayed at the newly refurbished Hibla ng Lahing Filipino gallery at the Museum of the Filipino People. Inaugurated last September, the exhibit includes tribal accessories, different kinds of looms, various spinning and weaving implements, and historical photographs.

Taking care of the fabric is not easy.

According to Dr. Ana Maria Theresa Labrador, the assistant director of the National Museum, the pieces are housed in microclimate cases to protect the textiles from mold. The lights in the gallery have no ultraviolet rays which fade colors, and even the windows have been treated with nanoceramic material which allows sunlight to stream in but filters out the ultraviolet rays.

“We collectively own it, so we should collectively take care of it,” she told BusinessWorld shortly after the gallery opened. “Public spaces have to be respected so we can pass it on to the next generation.”

These measures are necessary as the exhibit holds several valuable textiles.

One is the Banton cloth from Banton Islands in Romblon. A National Cultural Treasure, it is the oldest piece of cloth in the Philippines.

Estimated to have been produced sometime in the 13th to early 14th century, it was discovered in a coffin found in a cave in Banton. The death shroud was worn by a high ranking member of the tribe, which makes it a very valued piece, said Dr. Labrador.

Not everything on exhibit is “tribal.” For example, Senator Loren Legarda, a strong supporter of the exhibit, donated her mother’s (Bessie B. Legarda) baro’t saya with pañuelo for the collection. Made of abaca cloth from Bicol, the three elegant baro’t saya feature floral prints and embroidery.

Another highlight of the exhibit, according to Dr. Labrador, are the blown up photographs of 1904 St. Louis Exposition which show the traditional attire of the Bagobo, Manyan, Visayans, Bontoc, among others. The photos of the controversial exposition come from the American Museum of National History archives. Dr. Labrador said that one couldn’t deny how spectacular the costumes were.

The temporary exhibit is entitled Abel Ilokana, which features woven cloth from Ilocos Sur, La Union, Ilocos Norte, and Abra. The temporary exhibit runs until March 30.

The museum hopes to attract the younger generation through this new gallery, said Dr. Labrador. They want to redefine leisure days and family outings as not just going to the mall but also visiting the museum. Not only will visitors learn about history and culture, but they will also see the talent of the Filipino people, she said.

The Museum of the Filipino People also refurbished the Baybayin exhibit, which focuses on the ancient Filipino script. Included in the exhibit are the Laguna Copperplate, the Calatagan Pot, the Intramuros Potsherd, and the Monreal Stones.

The Museum of the Filipino People is located at Finance Rd, Ermita, Manila. It is adjacent to the main National Museum building and was formerly the Department of Finance building. It is open from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Tuesdays to Sundays. For more information, visit www.nationalmuseum.gov.ph.

Source: Business World Online