The Unheard Stories of the Inabel Weavers of Isabela
Written by Sophia Bulalacao
When you think of ‘Inabel’ usually the first few things you would associate it with are either the weaves made in either the Ilocos provinces or in Abra. For other cases, people would think that the ‘Inabel’ are the weaves that are made by the cultural communities residing in the Cordillera Administrative Region (CAR). Yes, those associations are true as there are different kinds of Inabel found in the northern regions of Luzon. However, there's a ‘new’ kind of Inabel found in Isabel province of the Cagayan Valley Region.
A modern take on the traditional Inabel
Unlike the usual stories you hear about weaving becoming a family heirloom which is passed onto generations of family members. The small community of Inabel weavers started their craft out of curiosity. Ms. Andrea Aswigue, one of the weavers who saw the potential of Isabela Inabel weaving industry told us that her weaving journey was born out of curiosity – learned by observing other Inabel weavers in Isabela which eventually allowed her to start weaving on her own. Unlike the established weaving practices of Inabel in other provinces, the Inabel weavers in Isabela just began and are doing a more non-traditional take on Inabel.
The beauty behind the weaves made by the Isabela weavers is their intentionality behind every weave and design. It was not a practice done out of cultural preservation or family tradition. A practice done out of curiosity proving that any Filipino of any age can be a weaver if they put their heart and mind to it.
Ms. Andrea Aswigue has proudly shared that their youngest weaver is around the age of 12 and has managed to start making more intricate and modern designs of Inabel. Majority of her weavers are students and young mothers looking for extra income for their families. On top of the livelihood aspect of weaving, what the weavers enjoy the most is having the freedom of expressing their creativity as their Inabel weaves are not bound by rigid cultural norms and rules therefore their designs can be as wild as their imagination. In addition, the subject of ‘Cultural Appropriation’ is not a problem for them as their weaves are made by ordinary people who share a passion for weaving and designing. Therefore, the weaves are generally easier to pair with your OOTDs or home decor!