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Likhang HABI Textile Fair is a gentle reminder that we're cut from the same cloth

Now on its 7th year, the Likhang HABI Market Fair continues to educate and empower. The focus is less on a bigger and more on being better, for the artisans and their market.

Textiles created by weavers from across the country will be available from October 20 to 22 at the Glorietta Activity Center. Brands like Hola Lili, Twinkle Ferraren, Beatriz, Gifts & Graces, PJ Arañador, Herman & Co, La Herminia Piña, Etniko Pilipino, just to name a few, will be participating in the fair.

But there's more on offer than just the tangible product. Culture is imbued in the fabric and HABI hopes that people ruminate on how the thread, however diverse, make up one vibrant whole.

"There's really great diversity, from North to South and these are all linked to their traditions and cultures, each one different from the next," HABI President Adeleida Lim said during the press launch on Tuesday at Hinelaban Café. "We're showing this diversity, but we're also showing that there's a certain quality that makes it Filipino and this is what connects us together, even if we are an archipelago. There is some connection."

"Maybe it's the water between us," Lim mused.

Don't wear a death blanket to a party

HABI in seeking to preserve, develop, and modernize the Philippine textile industry has partnered with Marlon Martin of Save the Ifugao Terraces Movement and Ifugao Heritage School — organizations that share HABI's goal of bridging the gap between the weavers and the consumers, as well as entrepreneurs who want to work with the weavers.

Martin at the press launch spoke off sacred blankets being used as sofa covers and table cloths. Through the organizations he founded and the partnership with HABI, he hopes to educate people about the proper use of textiles.

"The can come up with infinite patterns using the ikat technique. I'm just wondering why a lot of designers want to use our death blankets for gowns, for furniture covers," Martin said. "That's not the only fabric we have. You can come up with something more interesting than our death blankets."

Traditionally, Martin explained further, the symbols imbue power on the textile and designers should understand how the fabric works as they could also be blessed with these powers.

HABI Chair Maribel Ongpin agreed that the history and tradition found in the textiles should be regarded with reverence, adding that this is part of HABI's mission. "We're not just trying to sell. We're trying to educate."

These fabrics have always been the subject of commerce, Martin said, but the exchange was done in a limited area. Now that the market has broadened, communicating with the weavers is of primary importance.

"We do have Internet in the mountains," he said. There are only four to five types of blankets that should not be used outside of their intended purpose, which shouldn't be too hard to remember for designers.

Those interested in acquiring basic knowledge on these fabrics are in luck, as two books — "Habi: A Journey Through Philippine Handwoven Textiles" (P300) and "Rara: Art and Tradition of Mat Weaving in the Philippines" (P500) — will be available at the market fair.

Understanding the value of the fabric

The task of preserving these traditions seem gargantuan, but seven years later, HABI is still discovering new designers. The availability and variety of the products has helped develop the audience's taste and as more people become aware of the impact of "fast fashion", the appreciation for malongs that last generations grows.

On Likhang HABI Market Fair's opening night, a fashion show featuring the hablon and patadyong will be staged. Hablon, meaning woven in Ilonggo, refers to fabric made from piña and other gossamer fibers. Patadyong, on the other hand, is a tubular skirt commonly used throughout Souteast Asia.

"More than presenting our unique and varied indigenous fabrics, we also aim to educate the public on the importance of supporting our traditional textile industry, Lim said. "We hope to prove to our fellow Filipinos and the global community that indigenous textiles fit very well with the modern lifestyle." — LA, GMA News