Celebrating Mindanao in the midst of a pandemic: face masks made of ‘Inaul’ and other weaves

DAVAO CITY (MindaNews / 28 May) — I have always been mystified by the woven fabrics of our Mindanawon weavers. This fascination to anything indigenously woven can all be traced back to my childhood. My aunt used to be an evangelical missionary pastor to Lake Sebu in South Cotabato. She would always come home with beautiful rolls of T’nalak from our dreamweavers down South. Such childhood encounter with woven fabrics left a lasting impression on me as a child as to the richness of Mindanao cultures.

In Mindanao, the Blaans are proud of their ‘tabih’, the Mandayas of their ‘dagmay’, the Meranaos of their ‘landap,’ the Bagobos of their ‘inabal,’ and the Maguindanaoan of their ‘inaul.’ The patterns are so intricately woven out of love. And each time I wear any of these fabrics, I can’t help but feel that primeval connection to an identity I call my own — Mindanawon.

I am no collector, but I keep a roll of T’nalak woven by the daughter of the National Living Treasure Awardee, the late Lang Dulay.

When I was given my first ‘Inaul’ by my friend, Ging Panda, I refused to have it tailored into a vest.

Face masks made of inaul.have sturdy nose bridge pinch wire features for snug fit, pocket linings where one can put a tissue as filter and they come with small storage pouches. Contributed photo

At times, I would also give a roll or two of Mindanao fabric as special gifts.

Before the Luzon lockdown, I remember unfurling rolls of t’nalak from the Tboli of Lake Sebu and the Meranao landap of Jamela Aisha Alindogan woven by the weavers of Sinagtala.

Then, the pandemic reached our shores. Our lives exponentially shaken and disrupted. Everyone turned anxious and scrambled for the “world’s most coveted commodity” — the face mask.

N95 and surgical masks became household terms overnight. Almost all of these masks are disposable and this raises concern among conservationists as these disposed masks would greatly contribute to the world’s ocean garbage.

I thought having an ecologically friendly and yet equally protective mask from our local materials would make a difference.

Facemask made of inaul, the Maguindanaon weave. Contributed photo
Facemask made of inaul, the Maguindanaon weave. Contributed photo 

My friend, Davao-based fashion designer Windel Mira, thought of customizing Mindanawon fabrics such as the Maguindanaoan Inaul and the Dagmay of the Mandayas into face masks.

As a member of Davao Fashion and Design Council (DFDC), Windel shares how he and other fashion designers were dismally affected by the pandemic. Some beleaguered designers in town were even forced to close their shops as they could no longer afford to pay the rent.

Yet in season or out of season, designers like Windel find hope in the familiar fabrics Mindanawon weavers painstakingly weave in their looms.

Facemask made of inaul, the Maguindanao weave, comes with a pouch. There is a pocket in the mask where one can insert tissue or any filter. Contributed photo 
Facemask made of inaul, the Maguindanao weave. Contributed photo

Those beautiful Mindanao fabrics found a new purpose in a world threatened by a global health crisis.

These special face masks are for my new normal. They have sturdy nose bridge pinch wire features for snug fit, pocket linings where one can put a tissue or wipes as filter. They come with small storage pouches. and they are reusable.

We thank our Mindanawon weavers and our fashion designers for innovating the ‘inaul’ to be part of our everyday life in a COVID-19 world.

Buying these artisanal face masks will exceedingly help alleviate the plight of our local designers, “sastres,” and yes, the weavers. By doing so, as Mindanawon, each one helps one.

No pandemic can stop us from celebrating who we are…

(Hadji Balajadia is a full-time faculty of the Psychology Department of the Ateneo de Davao Universiy. She teaches social psychology and Filipino psychology. She is a member of the Social Psychology Division of the Psychological Association of the Philippines and the Philippine Sociological Association. She first posted this on her FB page. MindaNews was granted permission to publish this)

For inquiries on how to order these special face masks, please visit the FB page of Windel L Mira