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Weaving Dreams

November 03, 2019 - Sunday 7:11 PM by MDM

Article Banner Image Dream weaving is an art form that creates handmade products by choosing and pulling thread. It uses strings from native abaca trees in Polomolok.

Dream Weaving is an art form that creates handmade products by choosing and pulling thread. It uses strings from native abaca trees in Polomolok. The strings are often dyed black and red and woven into mesmerizing patterns.

These patterns come from the weaver’s dreams.

Fu Ya Bing, who is 105 years old, is the oldest living master weaver of Tabih, the traditional Blaan fabric made from abaca. Known in Barangay Landan, Polomolok, South Cotabato for her incredible skill in weaving, it takes her three months to finish a piece of cloth, especially malong or banig, using fresh abaca fiber.

VIVID THREADS. Colorful abaca fibers dyed in white, red, green, and blue colors.

Two of her most prized tabih are considered masterpieces, with one on display at the National Museum. Now a master of the craft at 104 years old, she says weaving is her happiness because it is what she has always been called to do.

When she was still able, she taught at a school of living traditions in her village, furthering the craft of dream weaving among the younger generation.

TANGIBLE MEMORIES. Photos of Fu Ya Bing’s family and students posted on the wall of her school in Polomok, South Cotabato.

For all her years in honing her skill and imparting knowledge to younger generations of Blaan weavers, she was awarded the Gawad sa Manlilikha ng Bayan by the National Commission for Culture and the Arts (NCCA)  in 2016.

Fu Ya Bing’s woven fabric artwork represents the tradition of weaving that is engraved in their culture – a skill that is passed down from generation to generation.

COZY SCHOOL. Myrna weaves her designs inside the cozy school of Fu Ya Bing which is made of bamboo trees and amacan in Polomok, South Cotabato.

One of her students is 44-year-old Myrna Sarino, a manicurist. Myrna never thought of weaving as her work until she saw Fu Ya Bing’s works. Inspired and curious, she came under Fu Ya Bing’s wings at the age of 18, and it was then that she realized that she had the potential for weaving. What started as mere curiosity turned into a full-time job for her.

EMOTIONAL. Fu Ya Bing gets emotional as she narrates her struggles and triumphs in weaving.

Weaving was difficult at first, but after a while she got used to it. With the guidance of Fu Ya Bing, she managed to develop her own style. Soon she was going to different places representing her tribe with her woven products. She has also visited other countries to represent her tribe's work and promote its beauty through weaving.

Undergoing training from Fu Ya Bing has been a privilege for Myrna. For her, Fu Ya Bing’s teachings have been a source of strength in overcoming her doubts and fears.

It hasn’t been easy for Myrna, however. While she is definitely talented and skilled, the money she earns from weaving has hardly been enough to support her four children.

HOSPITABLE. Fu Ya Bing poses for the camera with a visitor inside her weaving school in Polomolok, South Cotabato.

She was on the verge of giving up one day when a customer liked one of her works and bought it. When the buyer asked Myrna how she could make such intricate designs, she answered that they came from her dreams. The vision reveals a design only the weaver can fashion. She then wakes up and begins weaving her dreams into reality. Myrna works on the fabric until after over one-and-a-half months she produces a beautiful malong that has fantastic colors on it.

Learning of her struggles to support her family through weaving, the buyer encouraged Myrna to continue weaving. “Don't stop weaving because of the low income. You never know what lies ahead if you keep going,” Myrna quoted the buyer as saying.

VERSATILE. Aside from tube skirts or “malong”, the woven fabrics can also be used for making traditional Manobo clothes such as these ones. Fu Ya Bing and Myrna sell these garments from P 500 to P 1,000 depending on the size and style.

Today Myrna continues to work as a manicurist for additional income. Despite the tiresome work, she manages to juggle both jobs and handles both in stride. Throughout the struggles that she has faced, she continues to pull herself up. What she gained from her career as a weaver was not money but priceless experience and memories. For her, opportunities are not to be wasted. 

"Dili nako basta basta ma biyaan ang mapatulen kay napamahal na siya saakoa. Dahil pud ani mas nakita nako akong sarili kung unsa pa akong kaya," she said. 

(I cannot give up the things that I love because they have taught me that I can do more.)

STURDY. Abaca fibers are one of the raw materials used in weaving. Fu Ya Bing sources these sturdy threads in Polomok, South Cotabato.

Myrna can produce different varieties of fabrics like malong and shawls, depending on the orders requested by customers. She can produce a malong in three months and other fabrics in two months. As of now, her plans are to continue weaving and making a living out of it. She hopes to inspire her children to inherit the gift of weaving dreams into reality.

WOVEN MALONG. Myrna’s woven tube skirts which are locally known as “malong” showcasing different intricate patterns. She sells these beautiful fabrics for P1,000 per one meter.