IN PUROK Amguo, tucked behind one the largest pineapple plantation in the country is a national living treasure who continues to weave Tabih, a sacred cloth hand woven by the indigenous women of Southern Mindanao belonging to the B’laan, tribe.
Bai Yabing Dulo Masalon, who prefers to be called Fu meaning “grandmother,” is one of the oldest dream weavers in Polomolok, South Cotabato. Her fingers, although wrinkled from time, is strong as she weaves the patterns from her dreams into reality.
Clad in her intricately designed B’laan costume, Fu Yabing embodies the tradition of women in their tribe.
For Fu Yabing, weaving is a process that requires memory and patience. The process goes on for over two months, and in that span of time, she remembers the patterns that she dreamed. Surprisingly, she does not draw her patterns on pen and paper but rather, relies on memory.
Meticulously skilled, Fu Yabing’s daughter says she can tell that a pattern will be uneven just by looking at the fibers during its first stages of weaving.
“Kahit malayo makita niya yan kung mali yung ginawa mo,” the daughter said.
[Even from afar, she can tell if what you’re doing is wrong.]
Besides being a skilled weaver, Fu Yabing passes this tradition down by teaching at the School of Living Tradition. Before that, she taught students in a nearby village of upland B’laan in Lamlifew, Malungon, Sarangani. It was because of this that she travelled to Manila in 2009 to be part of an ASEAN Textile Symposium at the National Museum of the Philippines.
From then on, her contributions to the rich culture in Mindanao have awarded her the Gawad ng Manlilikha ng Bayan 2016.
Tabih, the type of cloth woven by Fu Yabing, is used during special occasions, religious festivals and rituals.
These cloths come in various patterns with original dye that do not fade for a long time. To make the strings, two metal blades are used to quickly remove the Abaca pulp and reveal the filament, which are worked by hand into fibers.
The traditional process of natural dying uses dyes extracted from Lageh tree (Morinda Citrifolia), turmeric (Curcuma Longa), and Knalum tree (Diospyros Kaki).
With 80 years of weaving experience under her belt, Fu Yabing shared that not being able to touch Abaca for even a day makes her weak. For her, weaving gives her strength. It is more than just a hobby, it is her life. (Jamrell Vincette Buynay, Ateneo de Davao University intern)