The women weavers of Miagao: Weaving their lives, their dreams
By Elsa S. Subong
Miagao, Iloilo (1 March) -- If the hand that rocks the cradle, rocks the world, for the women weavers of Miag-ao, the hand that weaves, weaves the thread of life that moves forever.
Corazon Montagot, 69 years old, started to weave when she was only seven years old. All through her days and even nights, when needed, she works at her loom, putting together the fine threads, as if she were putting together her own dreams with her patience and diligence.
"Amo lang dya ang naman-an ko nga obra halin pa kagto," she said in the local dialect, which means that weaving was the only job she learned to do, owing this from her grandmother and her own mother.
"Amo dya kabuhi ko," (This is my life) Corazon said as she looked up from her work, her tired eyes glittering. She will not stop weaving as long as she can still see the thread and her hands are still strong. Her children were able to go to school and her daily needs answered through her income, which though not big but at least, sustaining even some of her grandchildren are going to college through their family income from weaving. She said that for a woman like her and all the other weavers of the Indag-an Multi-Purpose Cooperative , weaving is a tradition, a culture that depicts a similar indispensable routine, like that of a daily household chore, even a past time.
She was there bent on her loom, working skillfully and patiently, on the day President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo visited Bgy. Indag-an, Miagao, Iloilo, to see the growing loom-weaving industry, specializing in hablon.
"Sobra gid nga kalipay kon makahapit daad si Presidente Gloria giya sa Coop."(How happy it will be if President Gloria can drop by here at the Coop), says Corazon, without knowing that the coaster the President was riding in had already passed. In spite of the fact that she missed seeing the President, Corazon was still happy that GMA recognized their efforts by visiting the place and endorsing the industry as a priority concern..
The women of Miagao Hablon Weavers Association said that weaving has been creating changes not only in their income but also in their personalities, as they felt a surge of pride in being recognized as the community's weavers because of the increasing demand for their products and the prestige these products are establishing nationwide. All of a sudden they have become important in Miagao's journey toward development.
Josie Espana, 44 years old, with five children, learned weaving at age nine from her Lola. She was not taught formally at that time, but as she would take over the loom each time her Lola took a break, she became skilled in it. Today she can make pretty designs and can finish a maximum of six meters a day, each costing 40 pesos, giving her an income of 240 pesos that she allocates for allowances of her children and for some of their daily needs.
The women all learned hand looming from either their grandmothers, aunts, or mothers, at a very early age. For almost all of them, weaving took the place of formal academic schooling that is why, if it were not for the importance given to the industry, the women said that all they could have become would be ordinary hard-working, harassed housewives and mothers, battered by poverty.
Lourdes Failagotan, 44 years old, reached only up to the elementary level, kindled hope that her six children will be able to get a better education even as she also would like them to learn weaving. Nilda Robido, 31 years old and Patriz Monocay, 42, were pleased that their children have developed an interest in following after their footsteps even if they also want them to finish college courses.
Part of their pride in their craft is the fact that they get trainings facilitated by the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) to upgrade their skills and know-how, especially in creating unique, fashionable and artistic designs that make their products competitive in market value. Concordia Facto, 53, single proprietor who operates her own hablon business, appreciated the promotion of products which they get through trade fairs and other activities, which increased their sales and challenged them to improve workmanship.
The women said that they are happy with the interest and support of the local government unit. They delighted in the centers constructed to house their looms and the provision for a space where they can display their finished products for the customers and visitors. Before, they had to content themselves with makeshift under-the-house locations, small and dusty. With the help of the British Embassy through then Sen.. Loren Legarda, they were able to avail of funds for building of training centers.
There are several weavers' groups which have been formed out of the mother cooperative, the Indag-an Multi-Purpose Cooperative, and Facto's is one. The others are the Miag-ao Hablon Weaving Center, Connie's Handwoven Products, and Miag-ao Warps and Wefts.
These groups have established their structures and they each have governing bodies, except for the single proprietors. Some men are in these groups serving as members of the board of directors. Not one of the men is a full time weaver. The women, however, felt that men should also learn handloom weaving by heart, but they accept the fact that the loom is the best place for women as they help their men cope with living. Besides, as they sit in their looms every day, the women gather strength from each other, just like the threads they weave, they learn to fashion their responses to life's unending surprises. As they watched their President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo trying her hands on the loom, they felt that they could not falter because a stronger hand holds theirs. (PIA) [top]