Friday, May 18, 2012

Filipino Textiles at the National Museum

Among the basic necessities in life is clothing. It is common on all civilizations the need to protect the delicate human body from the environment. As culture and social classes evolved, clothing became a distinction, separating the ordinary people from the ruling classes of a society. In the Filipino Culture, we have been observing this practice even before colonials arrived. Filipinos already have a sense of fashion even before the word has been invented. 

It was a privilege to be invited to the inauguration of the exhibition of "Hibla ng Lahing Filipino" in the National Museum and experience how deeply connected fabrics are to our culture, so I went. Besides, I haven't visited a museum for a long time so I took the opportunity.

The inauguration was very intimate and there were a lot of dignitaries there. After the speeches of a few important people which were quite inspiring, several guides toured us through the exhibit. We were given abanikos which made me feel quite awkward, but it was a great relief from the summer evening heat.

It was pretty amazing to know that our country possessed the technology of producing complex and colorful patterns in textiles and this was part of our culture before the colonizers arrived. One thing is common, the creation of our ancestor's clothing is very intricate and time consuming. From the raw materials to the finished product, it takes a lot of processing done by hand. They used the leaves of plants and trees like abaca, banana and pinya, or use the bark of trees as basic composites of the fibers used in making the textiles.

Here are some of the images that I took during the exhibit, please excuse the quality of the images, they were only taken with the phone I have.

It dawned upon me that we are fortunate there are people who are dedicated in preserving the heritage our ancestors. During these times of globalization and western fashion, our cultural treasures are slowly disintegrating. There had been less and less demand for the skill and produce of our "manghahabi" that some had given up the skills they inherited from their ancestors to a more practical occupation. I believe it is the responsibility of every Filipino to take care of our inheritance. Every thread tells us a story, every finished cloth has a rich history behind, every outfit lives and breathes our identity.

The way our ancestors dress and the way they were made makes us stand apart. In reality, we haven't been able to give definition to who we really are. Perhaps we can start defining who Filipinos are by the way we dress. Barong Tagalogs and the saya is distinctively ours, but there are other outfits that give a deeper identity. Maybe in changing the way we clothe ourselves we could have a change of outlook of who we really are, and finally become one. The first step is knowing our heritage, and a visit to the museum can do that for you.