Tagolwanen Banig: Reviving Usable Art, Preserving Tribe Culture
The Tagolwanen Women Weavers Association aims for its weavers to continue the Tagolwanen weaving tradition by incorporating weaving into daily life, and passing on this skill to the young. Weaving is a big part of the indigenous person’s (lumad) identity. The beautiful mats reflect the lumad identity through the designs. Weaving has also helped the Tagolwanen women recognize their own strength and ability.
The Tagoloanen are peace-loving, devout people living along the headwater of the Tagoloan River, which is the cradle of their civilization. Nowadays, these gentle people are known as the Bukidnon, Higaonon, and Talaandig tribes. The headwater of the Tagoloan River is located at Kibalabag and Can-ayan Junction, Sitio Kisaray (Sabangan) in Malaybalay City, Bukidnon, Philippines.
About Our Weavers
Our association has 92 active members from the Tagolwanen Tribe. Our members’ ages range from early 20’s to 95’s. Their weaving skills are handed from generation to generation.
It is believed that the weaving skill among the tribeswoman today can be traced to one ancestor, the First Weaver. The First Weaver is believed to have been blessed by Magbabaya (the Deity) with the creativity spirit and the weaving skill. Only the daughters of the descendants of the First Weaver are believed to take to the weaving skill so easily. The descendants have the sharp focus and clear mind to make up the complicated designs as they intertwine each grass thread. It is not a hobby or skill that is simply taught to anyone.
Interestingly, many of our members are from the same families. The women from the different tribes and locations have also traced that they belong to the same clans. From daughters, to mothers and aunts, to grandmothers, our association is a family and community enterprise.
Reviving a sleeping Tagolwanen tribe art
Ikam, the traditional art of Bukidnon weaving, was rarely practiced in the recent decades. The mats were rarely made or used since people preferred mattresses and chairs more. The ikam was still made by the tribe, sometimes to sell, or to be given as gifts.
The ikam was traditionally given as a gift during weddings or funeral ceremonies. In 2010, indigenous people’s advocate Lorielinda Bella “Amihan” Rago wed Tagolwanen datu (tribe leader) Anilaw Marte. She was presented with a beautiful ikam by the elders of the tribe as a wedding gift. Delighted with the beautiful piece of art work, Amihan eventually set out to learn more about the mats.
When Amihan and Datu Anilaw spoke to the tribeswomen about the mats, it was found that the decrease of interest to learn weaving was rooted in the difficulty to sell the mats. The mat weavers had no sure buyers, plus it took hours to walk down the mountains to sell mats. When they do find buyers in the city center, they will be paid much later on installment, or sometimes not at all. The decreasing use of the mats, plus its low marketability, led to the steady decrease of weaving.
One of the strong priorities of the Tagolwanen tribe is cultural accountability, that is, to preserve all aspects of Tagolwanen culture. With proper consultation and tribe counsel, it was decided that the ikam will be revived and that the traditional weaving skill be handed on to the next generation.
Amihan and Datu Anilaw organized the women and founded the Tagolwanen Women Weavers Association. Through the association, it is aspired that the Tagolwanen women will reconnect to their indigenous identity through weaving. There is also the conscious effort to pass on this traditional skill to the next generation. As the members learn how to run the organization and earn from weaving, it is also aspired that they will also develop the natural grace and strength of asserting indigenous people’s right to self-determination.
Impact of Reviving the Weaving Tradition
The Tagolwanen Women Weavers Association was established to reaffirm their lumad identity and preserve culture. They now actively teach the next generation about traditional weaving. Seeing their mothers, grandmothers and aunts’ rejuvenated enthusiasm about banig-making, the younger generation have taken interest too in learning more about weaving.
TWWA opened the way to assist Tagolwanen women with a self-sustained livelihood program that helps them support their families. Interestingly, a Manglala that earns from mat making spends her weaving income on her children. The supplement income mostly go to the children’s education needs.
The TWWA weavers have gained confidence because of their economic contribution to the home. Similarly, attending to the many tasks to run the organization has made them more confident as well. This enables them to engage more with other tribes, fellow Filipinos and even our friends from other countries!