History and Culture
Reviving A Centuries Old Weaving Industry In Miagao, Iloilo
Lory Joyce Andagan | Sep 17, 2019
Photographs by the author
Back in 18th century, Miag-ao, Iloilo was one of the major producers of Hablon weaves, a fabric that is used as Patadyong. Hablon was coined from the word habol, an Ilonggo term for hand weaving.
Connie Atijon, one of the weavers, tells the story of how this handicraft business helped her in so many ways. “When I was 8 years old, I would sneak into my nanay and lola’s Tiral (weaving machine). I was curious about how these patadyongs were made.” That was the start of her weaving journey.
She recalled having a hard time when the Hablon Industry died in Iloilo because of low labor cost. "During these times, we struggled a lot. My husband, who is a farmer, cannot sustain our needs anymore," Connie recalls, "It came to the point where my eldest child had to stop going to school because we needed help in the farm."
[related: Cagbang: The Pottery World of Miagao]
It is always darkest before daybreak and this period of trial for Connie's family was slated to come to an end. In 1996, she was a beneficiary of an agency aiding small entrepreneurs to start their own business. “They provided us with training in marketing and managing a business,” Connie shares, adding that this opportunity was pivotal in her decision to start her own weaving business with a capital of Php 500. “Because I am good at weaving, that’s the business that I thought of.”
With hard work, dedication, and commitment to quality, her Hablons are now in demand, with famed designers such as Rajo Laurel counting as one of her regular customers. She also supplies the Sablays in University of the Philippines, earning a monthly income ranging from PHP40,000 to PHP 100,000. “Now, I have twenty in-house weavers who I personally trained,” says Connie.
With the support of the local government, the Hablons from Miag-ao has gained international fame. This year, they celebrated their 6th Hablon Festival showcasing and honoring the weavers. Because of her expertise, Connie does demonstrations of weaving in different areas in the Philippines and around the world. “I am happy that I get to share it to them. One of my reasons is that I do not want this traditional handicraft to be gone," she relates, "I want the next generations to know how these clothes were beautifully and intricately made out of hands.”