A few weekends ago, the team was given a chance to visit Argao. Although we have been there a few times already and passed by the municipality on the way South, it has been a first time for us to immerse and experience what Argao is all about.
Aside from the three T’s (Torta, Tuba, & Tablea) Argao is known about, there is actually a weaving industry, unknown to many, even to a Cebuana like me who lived all my life in Cebu, that contributed to the rich history of Argao.
Hablon originated from the word “habol” which means to cover or wrap oneself from the cold or to protect yourself from mosquito bites. The woven product is called “hinablon” but most of the time, the word hablon is used to refer the finished product.
Dexter Alazas, a Cebuano fashion designer and social entrepreneur was looking for a certain homegrown fabric way back 2007 when he joined MEGA Young Designers competition in Manila to promote an organic material representing their corresponding province. Alazas wanted to promote more than just the craftsmanship of Cebuanos can do but also the material and components that Cebu has to offer to the global market.
Hablon has always been a present weaving industry all over the Philippines but it was not that popular among Cebuanos. Upon Alazas research, he discovered that some time between 2007 to 2009, the Hablon industry has been shun from the limelight for a long time already.
According to Alazas, Cebu Vice Governor Agnes Magpale was instrumental upon making his connections in Argao. Through Argao Mayor Stanley Caminero who initially talked to Magpale about “Dalaganag Argaoanon” promoting Hablon, he was able to unfold the potential of the industry.
The industry started several centuries ago even before the Spaniards came to the Philippines in 1521. During the colonial period, almost all women in the town f Argao were described as Tejedoras (weavers) or Hiladoras (spinners). The Hinablon is basically a familiar object and apparently a popular trend back then for women to make clothes from.
Different types of fibers are used in making hablon. These include polyester, abaca, rotex and tingkal (cotton strands). Weaving is usually done in the homes, with the skill passed on from generation to generation.
The process of weaving hablon is very intricate that it requires a certain skill of dexterity, scrutiny and a whole lot of patience since the process is mostly done by hand. Basically a 36-inch hablon is made of 900 strands that are carefully woven.
Maribel Salandron, a Hablon Weaving advocate for more than 20 years has started weaving since she was still 14 years old. According to Salandron, hablon has always been part of her life. It provided her a livelihood and improved her life and her family. She has also shared and passed the skill to her 19 year old daughter.
Through the collaborative ideas coming from the local government unit of Argao, The Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) through its Shared Service Facility (SSF) project was able to fund the weaving industry and provided hablon facility to the women’s weaving community consisting handloom weaving machines at the Cebu Technological University (CTU) Argao campus which paved a way for orders of the hinablon fabric to increase.
According to Alazas, ever since the project has started, the industry has become more progressive. Back in the day, hablon was just the material used for habol (blankets), labakara (towelettes) and towels. Now it has evolved to a fabric that can be used for gifts, decors and a material for clothing which Alazas has been strongly promoting hablon for.
In fact, he was able to experiment on hablon and made clothes out of it. Alazas strongly believes in supporting local products, giving hablon a chance to be recognized in the global fashion industry that comes from Cebu thus he created the Amano line, a collection of Cebuano-made products, including hablon.
Amano comes from the Spanish term mano meaning done by hand. The fashion line offers ready-to-wear clothing, bags, jewelry, and shoes that are made in Cebu.
Alazas has staged fashion events highlighting Argao’s hablon. These events have attracted orders and increased the awareness of the hablon industry and eventually placed Cebu in the global market as well.
Truly, Hablon has made connections not only through empowering the local women of Argao but also in bringing Cebu forward to the world through fashion and design
Watch Coach Bong as he explores Argao’s Hablon and learn more about what this intricate industry has to offer in this ConneXion’s 2nd episode: Hablon ConneXions.