The Resurgence of Miagao’s Hablon
by Dalisay Guerrero
Iloilo’s rich history is not only transcribed in books or passed down through songs–it is woven into hablon. Hablon, which pertains to both the fabric and the act of weaving it, has been around before the conquistadors arrived, growing into global prominence during the 1800s when the Spanish government opened the Iloilo Port to international trade.
When the sugar industry became popular, however, textile production declined. This was most felt in the weaving town of Miagao. A 2018 feature on Philstar.com notes that at the time it was written, there were only 500 looms across the entirety of Iloilo. Coming from almost 4,000 looms just in Miagao, the drop was nothing short of drastic.
Once considered everyday wear, the hablon has been relegated to annual cultural occasions. Traditional threads of pinya and banana–even cotton–became hard to source, partly due to the prevalence of sugar plantations that took over the province and ate up fields for other crops. Many hablon are now woven with polyester to keep costs down, and while utilitarian, it helped little when it came to quality and comfort.
The good news is that the hablon is slowly and steadily being revived. Miagao launched the first Hablon Festival in 2014 with the aim of showcasing handloom patterns and rich textiles through entertainment and education. While it was put on hold during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Festival relaunched its celebrations in 2022. It not only gave the public a deep dive into these traditional textiles via pageants, parades, exhibits and trade shows, but also encouraged local weavers through talks and consultations with professors and experts.
To address the need to grow raw materials for yarns within Miagao and the general area of Iloilo, the Regional Yarn Production and Innovation Center (RYPIC) was opened at the Iloilo Science and Technology University in 2019. Prioritizing the production of raw materials would encourage farmers to cultivate pineapple and cotton, fix the locality’s broken supply chain, lessen the use of polyester in hablon, and return the fabric to its roots with its original, environmental-friendly threads.
While Miagao’s weaving industry still has a long journey towards a full recovery, the townspeople’s continuous efforts have already managed to bring hablon back into the local limelight. With more opportunities to showcase these traditional fabrics, techniques that have been passed on for centuries now have hope of surviving and even thriving in the generations to come.
Habol Panay Gallery – National Museum
Weaving new life into Iloilo’s hablon - BusinessWorld Online (bworldonline.com)
Hablon-weaving town in Iloilo generates own yarn | Philippine News Agency (pna.gov.ph)
UPV professors speak to local weavers during the 9th Hablon Festival
IN PHOTOS I Are you ready for the face-to-face Hablon Festival? - Municipality of Miagao