The Maguindanao provincial government will hold its second Inaul Festival from Feb. 8 to 14 at the capitol grounds to celebrate its indigenous textile tradition.
Inaul, which means “woven” in Maguindaon, is a hand-woven tapestry fabric with geometric designs. As a status symbol, it is revered as an object of “bara-bangsa” which means dignity. The inaul is commonly used in the malong, the multitasking tubular fabric. One of the best image models is ARMM Deputy Speaker Congresswoman Bai Sandra Sinsuat Sema who collects the inaul and wears it with pride.
As one of the province’s major earner, the inaul raked in P1 million in sales during its first week-long festival last year. The festival itself generated P20 million in tourism revenues. The inaul appeals to both domestic and international clients.
Bai Albaya Wampa, who is a main proponent of the inaul, preserves the tradition through her store. It’s located in Datu Odin Sinsuat, a first-class municipality on the boundary of Maguindanao and Cotabato. The sultan of this town is her grandfather, and it’s in her genes to help others.
Bai Albaya owns a farm and a women’s cooperative here called Al Jamela. It was established in 2001 to give jobs to widows of Moro National Liberation Front soldiers, Christians, as well as returning OFWs, and other disadvantaged people. Al Jamela has become synonymous with quality that it has become a tourist destination for souvenirs. Even the ARMM government orders inaul shawls from her co-op for gifts.
How Inaul is Made
Weavers use cotton and rayon silk threads inserted on big looms that can handle huge volumes. Bai Albaya explains that the process starts with arranging the threads to determine the colors, the quantity, and the length of the malong. The threads are put on the wheel, spun, and inserted into the loom’s comb for the design. To assure quality, weavers are tasked to make just one inaul tapestry per creation.
“Once the weaver starts on the inaul, she has to finish it. If she delegates, the result will be different. Each weaver has their own way with the tension of the threads and the loom,” explains Bai Albaya.
By convention, the weaving can take as long as a month to produce one four-meter fabric. A fully embroidered inaul fetches from P1,900 to P2,500. The price is P500 for a 12 inch by 2 meter shawl.
“The inaul has over 100 uses—as bedsheet, turban, table runner, men’s trousers, basket, pillowcase, and cradle. The special inaul is made from imported thread. They are used for formal clothes like gowns and jackets,” says Bai Albaya.
Inaul as a Status Symbol
She explains that in the olden times, princesses in royal households wove their own clothes. To denote their status, they used yellow, maroon, orange, and black for royalty. White threads were used for mourning clothes. Green symbolized coolness and peace.
The common designs are the rainbows or changing hues of threads, stripes, taro, and wide borders. The lumbayan na ta’dman is a silhouette of a woman peering from the window, waiting for her lover. Modern designs consist of twisted florals, the elbow or siko-siko, geometric patterns, triangles, and the reversible fabric.
The co-op receives support from the Cotabato tourism office which brings tourists to Al Jamela. The Department of Labor and Employment and the local government donate looms and provide training. The Non-Timber Forest Products, a crafts center in Quezon City, promotes its products and exports.
Thanks to people like Bai Albaya and her weavers, the Maguindanao textile tradition will thrive as they continue to create demands.