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Beyond fabric and fashion: Weaving mirrors Tingguian tribe’s rich culture and identity

PEÑARRUBIA, Abra (PIA) – Intricate and colorful patterns and weaves from the small village of Namarabar in Peñarrubia, Abra have become a staple in Cordillera trade fairs and arts and crafts fairs. 

The unique embroidery and naturally-dyed tops, blouses, vests, pants, dresses, bags, and masks,  among others are the product of age-old culture of the Tingguian tribe in the province of Abra.

Master-weaver Norma Agaid-Mina shared that the modern weaves they now create are inspired by the craft that was passed on to them by generations of Tingguian weavers. 

Dagitoy nga am-amma mi wenno ar-aramid mi ket nagapu kadagidiay kakauna nga am-amma met laeng ken in-inna. Tatta, dagiti naduma duma nga art na wenno ibagbagana, inala mi met nga inadaw iti kabaruan tapno mausar,” she said.

[These creations that we made are from our ancestors, our elders. We now incorporate the different arts and craft we inherited from them with modern clothing so that they can still be used.]  

Master-weaver and Tingguian elder Norma Agaid-Mina explains the embroidery on a blanket she made that contains parts of Tingguian mythology and lineage. (Photo: PIA-Abra)

Mina said that they started making blankets using this craft until it evolved to dresses and modern clothing that can be used daily.

The Namarabar weavers were also able to showcase their creations at the Cultural Center of the Philippines where Patis Tesoro, the designer of former first lady Amelita Martinez-Ramos, liked their designs.

 “Idi nakita ni dagidiay design mi, ti kunana ket mapukpukawen dagiti design isu nga masapul nga i-revive mi isu nga namunganay kami idi nga i-revive dagitoy kasta met ti panagkol-kolor,” she explained. 

[When Ms. Patis Tesoro saw our designs, she  told us that such designs run the risk of going extinct, thus the need to revive the art. So we did, including the art of dying.]  

The Tingguian elder emphasized that more than the embroidery, the natural dye color, and the woven clothes are the meaning that each symbolizes for the Tingguian people. 

Haan laeng nga burda nga ordinaryo wenno napintas nga makunkuna ngem adda pay kayat na isasao nga mangirepresentar ti kinatribu mi nga Tingguian,” she added. 

[These are  not just ordinary or beautiful embroidery designs, they represent our culture as the Tingguian tribe.] 

A dress embroidered with Tingguian patterns are some of the products of the Namarabar village weavers which are sold in trade fairs and other government-assisted ventures. (Photo by: PIA-Abra)

The embroidery and the beautifully woven clothes that carry part of the Tingguians’ culture have different meanings that are rooted in the traditions of the tribe.

For example, the embroidery that looks like planted rice is called ‘Sinanpagay’ that represents the Tingguians’ primary source of food and product for barter in the past. 

The ‘Sinantao’ which features  a person performing the traditional dance symbolizes the tribe,  and the ‘Sinankalasag’  shows their native shield. Other symbols like the ‘Sinantukak’ or the frog are used in rituals to either ask for rain or to stop torrential rains that can destroy rice fields and houses. 

Mina also explained that aside from preserving the symbolic meanings of their embroidery, their craft also helps them preserve part of Tingguian mythology. 

She was able to sew a blanket that contained a depiction of Tingguian mythology including the tribe’s lineage. At a ripe age of 80 years old, Mina continues to embroider and refine her blanket masterpiece that serves as a book of cultural and traditional knowledge imprinted on cloth.

 “Nu mapukaw daytoy art tayo ditoy Abra, haan tayo ma-distinguish uray no naibilang tayo iti Cordillera, haan datayo ma-distinguish, haan datayo madasig. Isu nga daytoy art, embroidery, ken weaving tayo ket adda met identity tayo nga Tingguian ditoy Abra,” she stressed. 

[If we lose our art here in Abra, we can  not be distinguished even  if we are part  of the Cordillera. Our embroidery and weaving  are our identity as Tingguians of Abra.] 

She continues to weave, and pass-on her knowledge and skills to her family and the younger generation in their community not only to help them earn a living, but  most importantly,  to preserve the art and culture of Tingguian embroidery, weaving, and natural-dyeing.

 “Sapay kuma ta agtul-tuloy nga maadalan dagitoy kabataan,  haan laeng nga dakami nga babaket ta mapukaw kami metten. Masapul masursuroan nga ag-kolor, agabel, agburda ken masursuroan da pay nu anya ti kayat nga ibagbaga dagiti nadumaduma nga disenyo tapno adda met ti usaren da iti future,” she added. 

[Hopefully, the young  people will  continue to learn the craft, not only us, the  old women,  because we will soon pass away. They have to learn to  dye, weave, embroider, and  learn the meaning of the different designs which they can use in the future.]  

Namarabar weavers are active in joining numerous trade fairs and other government-assisted ventures as livelihood and to preserve their heirloom craft and arts.

As a Tingguian elder and culture-bearer, Mina hopes to see stronger efforts especially from the Department of Education to integrate their indigenous crafts in their curriculum to preserve Tingguian culture and identity woven in their embroideries, natural dyes, and clothes. (JJPM-PIA Abra)

About the Author

Jamie Joie Malingan

Regional Editor


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