Recently, a news article about counterfeit Cordillera weaves made the rounds in social media. The news headline read, "Cordillera weavers seek protection vs. fake fabrics".
Unfortunately, these have been issues that we have heard all too frequently, especially from fellow Philippine weaving advocates and artisans. With the rise in appeal for local weaves & textiles is promising, there is indeed the threat of mass production producing counterfeit textiles using our Philippine patterns.
This poses a grave threat especially for patterns with significant indigenous and cultural heritage.
According to the British Council of the Philippines report on Crafting Futures: Sustaining Handloom Weaving in the Philippines there are two informal types of weaving communities here in the country:
(1) Lowland-weaving communities
These are communities whose weaving traditions have been influenced by modernization and have no intrinsic indigenous properties. Usually weaves from these communities can be easily commercialized. Iloilo's hablon is an example of this.
(2) Indigenous weaving communities
These are communities who have a deep tradition on weaving and have specific customs & cultural significance ingrained in their weaving, including patterns of unique meanings, etc. Weaves from these communities require special protection especially from government agencies like the National Commission on Indigenous People (NCIP).
Our weavers in Cordillera fall under the latter category. Each province in the Cordillera Administrative Region has a weaving tradition unique to the indigenous heritage. From Abra, Apayao, Benguet, Ifugao, Kalinga and Mountain Province (the provinces of the Cordillera Administrative Region)
Read more about Cordillera Weaving Traditions here: https://www.nardas.com/cordilleran-weaving-culture/
Therefore, this is why Indigenous weaving communities need more support & sensitivity. The rise of supporting local can have a detrimental effect if the consumers are also not aware of the harm they commit by demanding these beautiful and unique textiles with rich indigenous meaning. This is also true for indigenous weaves in Mindanao like the T'nalak, which the community is already advising not to use as face masks.
That is why it is very important for customers to always ask, "Who made my weave?"
The non-profit organization, Fashion Revolution popularized the call to always ask who are the makers behind our clothes. One has to be more mindful about this especially when handwoven craft is concerned.
That is why we in Panublix always makes sure that each piece of textile we sell can be traced back to the weaving community and weaver who made them. Although we are working initially with hablon which can be easily commercialized and does not have indigenous properties, we still aim to promote transparency and traceability by giving the customers full information of who made each textile.
See all our Panublix communities here: https://panublix.com/pages/community-partners
So everytime you see a handwoven product that touts itself to be made in the Philippines or handwoven by indigenous communities, always ask the seller #WhoMadeMyWeave? If they cannot identify or show proof that they ethically sourced it from a community, then do not buy it.
Policy is also needed to strengthen the implementation. Hence, we support the ongoing policies being lodged to strengthen protection of indigenous patterns, like what Congresswoman Loren Legarda filed:
Furthermore, this is also where we need to fight technology with technology. Pattern recognition and artificial intelligence should be used to help protect our indigenous patterns and cultural assets. Cordillera scholars have done already amazing work in documenting & digitizing patterns through CordiTex led by Professors from University of Philippines, Baguio, which is proposing to digitize Cordillera Weave Tradition to ensure its sustainability, study and preservation.
Learn more at: https://www.facebook.com/CordilleraTextilesResearch/
Be vigilant, be informed. Protect our indigenous textiles and weaves! Protect our culture & heritage - aton nga kultura kag panubli-on.