(March 02, 2015 to May 31, 2015)

A Survey of Handwoven Blankets in Ilocos Norte

Textile art cannot be attributed to any ancient culture, as each civilization developed independent techniques. Even before the Spanish colonization in the Philippines, textiles were woven on the loom from cotton grown abundantly in the Ilocos Region.

From the early days of Spanish colonization, Ilocos Region cotton textiles were already regarded highly for their premium quality, beauty and strength. Cotton textiles in the Ilocos Region called Abél are woven on the traditional loom by weavers who acquired their skill in the art through a long line of generations of weavers. These weavers are unsung heroes deserving accolades for their talent and industriousness in creating painstaking works of art on the loom. In earlier times weaving became a cottage industry providing additional earnings supplementing the family income derived from farming. Later research and development resulted in the new and improved abél compatible to modern living.

Using different techniques, variations of the basic weaves enable the weavers to create various types which range in complexity of weave from the simple and plain to the expensive and intricate designs. Today, abél comes in various types, sizes, intricate designs and vivid colors, depicting the history of the people, giving a glimpse of their character, resourcefulness, creative ingenuity and aesthetic sense.

Among the most useful and popular products from abél Iloco are the blankets called Ulés. Because of its versatility the ulés comes in various types to suit every need. There are blankets designed for babies. There are special blankets elaborately designed according to the motif of every occasion such as weddings, fiestas, and also funerals. They are ideal gifts for friends and relatives, sometimes with hand-embroidered monograms. An array of a wide selection of ulés of every description is available in every town market in Ilocos. In Ilocos Norte, Paoay, Pinili and Sarrat are the major producers of ulés.

The revival of the traditional loom weaving in the recent years has rekindled the interest in the production of the abél cotton textiles on a large scale in the Ilocos Region with ulés dominating the growing demand because of its unique qualities. As a metaphor of comfort and security, the ulés holds a promise of a bright future in the global market which can being economic security to the abél Iloco industry.

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