ARGAO’s hablon industry has come a long way.

Since the Department of Trade and Industry’s (DTI) provided last May 29 handloom weaving machines to the women’s weaving community, orders of the hinablon fabric have shot up, said Dexter Alazas, a Cebuano a fashion designer turned social entrepreneur.

“Market acceptance of hablon is overwhelming. Everybody wants to promote this fabric, not only in fashion but also in furniture,” said Alazas, in an interview yesterday.

Hablon comes from the word “habol”, which means to cover one’s self with a cloth for protection against cold weather or mosquito bites. The woven product is called hinablon but most of the time, the word hablon is used to refer the finished product.

Alazas, who owns the Alazas Atelier, is one of the staunch supporters of the hand-woven, hablon. With his intention to help bring Cebuano products to the global spotlight, he created the “Amano” line, a collection of Cebuano-made products, including hablon.

“It is my dream to showcase this Cebu-made fabric to the local and international fashion scene, not only to help preserve the age-old weaving industry, but also to help uplift the lives of the weavers in Argao,” he said.

Amano comes from the Spanish term mano, meaning “done by hand.” The fashion line offers ready-to-wear clothing, bags, jewelry, and shoes that are made in Cebu.

The Amano line was born in 2001 but it was in 2014 when Alazas started showcasing hablon for Amano’s new collection.

“I am encouraged to create a strong fashion line, as people now are accepting hablon,” he said.

Since then, Alazas has staged a number of fashion events highlighting Argao’s hablon. These events have attracted orders and heightened awareness of the hablon industry, spurring the interest among Cebuanos.

“Everyone’s just helping out to make hablon be known,” said Alazas, noting that a guest in one of his fashion shows even expressed an interest in using hablon for a hotel uniform.

He added that the Mandaue Chamber of Commerce and Industry (MCCI) has also purchased hablon to be used for its awards night. The furniture industry is also tapping Argao’s hablon, said Alazas.

In the coming months, Alazas said he is going to bring the Amano line closer to the public by making it available in the retail space. He is in talks with a mall in Cebu that is offering him a space for his Amano collection.

Alazas was also asked by the Mactan-Cebu International Airport to showcase his hablon clothing, fashion accessory, and souvenir collections to boost travel retail among local and foreign tourists.

Alazas’ fascination with hablon started in 2007 when he was searching for fabric for a fashion show. Since then, he never stopped looking for fabric that he would eventually call Cebu’s own.

“You see, other provinces have their own identities, like Piña in Iloilo, Tinalac in Davao. Cebu, with its rich creativity, still has to make its own identity,” he said.

His commitment to bringing Cebu forward through fashion and design has earned him the support of the DTI in showcasing hablon during the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) Exhibit last year.

The successful turnout of the exhibit eventually led to the installation of DTI’s shared service facility worth P825,000 of handloom weaving machines at Cebu Technological University (CTU) Argao campus.