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Spinning threads of hope, peace in ‘Aretes Style’

In this material world that seems to be overwhelmed by hustle and bustle compounded by inevitable turmoil, it becomes easy to lose sight of the power of creativity, positivity, and tranquility. 

However, in the heart of an Islamic community, several inspired peace champions are working tirelessly to cultivate these values and spread their message far and wide.

Handcrafting, to include weaving and dressmaking, has often been perceived as a sanative and alleviating task, but for several individuals, it goes beyond just a mere vocation as it comes as a wellspring of hope and a means to cultivate inner peace.

The best example of this is Jalalodin Mustari, who paved the way for the foundation of Aretes Style.

Naturally born and raised as a Maranao, Mustari looked back on the humble beginning of his endeavor, which was rooted in his realizations after the haunting five-month warfare in this city in 2017. He affirmed that while the rehabilitation process is underway, a poignant reminder remains for the affected locals, saying that they will always have a flashback to how their populace was hastily generalized as terrorists, thus barely enjoying some of the basic human rights.

Nonetheless, this gloomy scenario did not hold back Mustari even for a second. He became more fueled to aid in addressing limited socio-economic chances; otherwise, this issue would be a prime factor in drawing victims into unwanted coping mechanisms such as illegal drugs and human trafficking.

Giving birth to a socio-cultural enterprise, Mustari and his Aretes Style unlocked the door to income opportunities for worthy internally displaced persons (IDPs).

He realized the need to make use of his talent and the experiences he had enjoyed in order to portray the Meranaw and the Bangsamoro communities in a picturesque manner and show that they are more than the battles, gunfire, and conflict that the media portrays. He did this by viewing the historic siege through an optimistic lens.

“I really believe in the power of creativity and, in general, the creative industry in addressing pressing issues, especially in promoting and cultivating peace. It is a powerful tool to touch hearts, minds, and souls,” he said.

The Aretes Style produced various handicrafts which all represented the Meranaw culture. (Photo courtesy of Aretes Style)

The benevolence behind Aretes Style

For Mustari, Aretes Style is a noble legacy that speaks of the narratives of their strive for peace and corrects misconceptions about them, from being extremists to artists.

“This creates pieces that tell the story of our community, especially focusing on peace, to show the world that we are creative and not terrorists,” he said.

To date, 15 local weavers and 10 artisans make up the enterprise of Mustari, and most of them are single mothers who are eased from their struggles after belonging to the marginalized sector and being left facing physical, economic, and psychological barriers.

Named Project Omekulay, he shared that this undertaking has been near to his heart as he saw mothers playing a significant role in the rehabilitation process.

Apart from this, Mustari takes pride in his group, which opens the platform for dialogue while showcasing the Meranaw culture featured through the langkit intricately woven in their fabrics.

Jalalodin Mustari of Aretes Style worked hand-in-hand with his partner weavers and dressmakers to create a craft intertwining peace and hope. (Photo courtesy of MPOS-BARMM)

The tale of uplifting lives

The optimistic citizens who benefited from the Aretes Style's well-known goal of developing a rapport with the founder have painted it in a positive light ever since its inception.

Ate Joh, a partner weaver of the enterprise, described the invaluable moment she had from working with Mustari.

She attested that the social entrepreneur served as a bridge for them to nurture their skills, promote their products, and earn independently.

“It helped us a lot. It is beneficial for myself, my children, and the entire family. This kind of venture saved our lives," she said.

Ate Tata, who has also worked as a partner dressmaker for the organization, echoed the same sentiment.

With this, she was grateful that she encountered Mustari, whom she treated as her own son, sibling, and mentor.

Ate Tata detailed that she has been receiving additional pay for producing various handiworks.

“He really helped me as I sew his products, such as tote bags, veils, and jackets. Sometimes, he would even increase my wage to help me and my children. A never-ending thanks to Sir Jal. Without you, Tata’s Tailoring will never have an income,” she said.

Women weavers and dressmakers behind the Aretes Style exhibited their own products which symbolized the lively and colorful culture of Maranaos. (Photo courtesy of MPOS-BARMM)

Journeying toward sustainable peace

The crusade of Aretes Style is seen to still trek a long way, but regardless of the obstacles and with its consistent perseverance, it will surely attain its triumph.

Mustari has guaranteed that he will always be an advocate of sustainable peace through advancing social entrepreneurship, cultural preservation, and economic empowerment.

Alongside this assurance was his call to strengthen the support system for the Bangsamoro creative industries by amplifying their motivations both nationally and internationally.

“Our collective efforts can uplift our socio-economic status, which plays a vital role in peacebuilding. Together, we can craft hope and peace,” said Mustari.

The Ministry of Public Order and Safety (MPOS) of the regional government highlighted Mustari and his business partners' admirable deed as he was named the 2023 Bangsamoro Peace Champion, reaping heartening fruits from the sown decent seeds. (CRG/PIA-10/Lanao del Sur)

Jalalodin Mustari who established the Aretes Style received Bangsamoro Peace Champion 2023 award after his socio-economically empowering goal was recognized by the Bangsamoro government's Ministry of Public Order and Safety (MPOS). (Photo courtesy of MPOS-BARMM)

About the Author

Claire Gigje

Information Officer I

Region 10

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