Weaving for life as means of livelihood

The sight of someone creating a beautiful object will always act as a magnet to those who love life. This is exactly the appeal exuded by Janaria S. Magangcong, when she managed to attract attention by simply sitting in front of her looming machine during the Mindanao Trade Expo held at the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas here earlier this month.
Janaria, who hails from Malapatan in Sarangani, has been weaving since she was 17 years old.
“Mga 20 years na siguro ko naga weave; kabalo na ko dati pero mas gitudluan pa ko sa akong mother-in-law, ug sya pud ang nagtudlu sa amoang mga silingan nga mag weave (I’ve been weaving for 20 years; I already knew how to weave before, but improved my skills when my mother-in-law taught me the techniques),” Janaria said.
Janaria said her mother-in-law is from Pinarong in Sultan Kudarat, but she has changed the lifestyles of women in Malapatan ever since she taught them how to weave. Today, majority of the women there weave for a living.
She said weaving a 36” x 47” piece of malong cloth which sells for P1,900 will take two to three days of hand weaving. This is more expensive than other woven cloth since she makes use of embroidery thread.  A mere shawl will cost only P160 and a tubaw or bandana, P150.
Weaving is an ancient art, and there are indications that it existed even in the Paleolithic era. Weaving was a big part of the daily life of enslaved women during the Sumerian era. But in modern times, weaving has become liberating for women, especially the unemployed wives who have finally found not only their craft but also a means of livelihood.
Janaria, who is the president of the Balongis Moro Women Cooperative in Malapatan, said weaving has helped them earn extra income. Their Cooperative has been inactive from lack of funds, she added, but they got support from the Department of Labor and Employment which granted them P166,000 as well as from the Department of Trade and Industry.
The Cooperative also received P123,000 from the Government of the Philippines-UN Act for Peace Programme which stirred them into producing more colorful weaves that will earn then more to feed their families. The grants were used for training and for capability building seminars, as well as threads for the women weavers.
Unlike life, Janaria’s works of art do not need a lot of planning to become a success. “Gina prepara nako kung unsang color na thread ang ako gamiton kung magbagay ba unya mahimo na ang design sa pag weave nako (I prepare the colored threads to be used and then the design will take form during the weaving process),” she said.
Janaria said a piece of malong will require 20 rolls of thread to be completed. The setting up of the thread alone in her makeshift tanunan or wooden looming device, will take about a day, plus a whole week to finish one malong.
A whole week of labor will produce a beautifully-designed malong with intricate patterns that are as unique as the next piece of malong in Janaria’s workshop. Each piece she creates is a part of her that she willingly shares with other people who are willing to pay for what she produces.
Janaria said weaving has become a way of life for her and she does not see herself doing anything in the future except sitting at her tanunan and with her deft hands, create a masterpiece again and again.  [Lovely A. Carillo]