MALAYBALAY CITY (MindaNews / 22 July) – Two female lawmakers made use of Lumad-inspired gowns and accessories to popularize their respective advocacies during President Benigno S. Aquino III’s fourth State of the Nation Address (Sona) Monday.
Gabriela Women’s Party Representative Luzviminda C. Ilagan wore a straight cut fuchsia gown topped with a Filipiniana bolero made of T’nalak, an indigenous cloth woven by the T’boli tribe in South Cotabato.
In a statement, Ilagan said she hopes the gown styled and designed in her hometown Davao will “put forward the plight of indigenous communities and the increasing threats to indigenous life and lands amid Charter Change bids.”
The gown was also accentuated with traditional T’boli brass bells and a backhoe that functioned as a clasp partly and tore through the indigenous design.
“The T’nalak represents the rich indigenous culture and the lives of the Lumads and other indigenous communities that are being plundered and incessantly threatened by large scale multinational mining operations and the Aquino-endorsed militarization that ensures the implementation of such unhampered environmental destruction,” said Ilagan.
She added the backhoe tearing through the T’nalak “appropriately represents not just the plunder of natural mineral resources but the impunity that reigns amid unresolved cases of extrajudicial killings and human rights violations in the Philippines.”
“The T’bolis consider it taboo to cut the cloth because this will make them seriously ill. The traditional tiny T’boli brass bell that herald their approach even when they are a long way off also guide the way and ward off evil spirits,” she explained.
Ilagan was referring to the still unresolved Ampatuan Massacre in Ampatuan town in Maguindanao and the deaths of 30 Lumad leaders who were killed allegedly for their opposition to mining operations.
The 58 victims of the November 23, 2009 massacre were dumped into a common grave which was dug using a backhoe.
“Removing the Constitution’s remaining protectionist provisions will mean the deaths of indigenous communities and the extensive plunder of mineral resources. As Aquino delivers his SONA, we deliver the call to defend our land, our rights and patrimony,” the Gabriela lawmaker said.
Senator Loren Legarda meanwhile donned a red, beaded Gaddang outfit composed of an aken (skirt), a barawasi (blouse), and a bakwat (belt), which are all woven out of cotton “kapat” thread and accessorized with the traditional Gaddang intricate beadwork. A Bontoc necklace completed the outfit.
“My outfit represents ‘fashionalism’ – fashion and nationalism. I wanted to wear something relevant and meaningful,” Legarda said, adding she wanted to make a statement on preserving and promoting the Filipino heritage.
Known for their traditional costumes accentuated with beads and precious stones, the Gaddang women weave these garments and apply the intricate beadwork to every piece of clothing.
The Gaddang peoples are from the Mountain Province and other parts of the Cordillera and Nueva Vizcaya.
Legarda also put on a Nabal abaca cloth turned into a skirt which was presented to her during the third lecture of the Senator Loren Legarda Lecture Series on Philippine Traditional Textiles and Indigenous Knowledge at the National Museum by Master Weaver Tia Ines Pandian of the Bagobo Tagabawa community in Tudaya, Sta. Cruz, Davao del Sur.
“The cloth was woven by Tia Ines’ mother who passed on the Bagobo weaving tradition to her,” a statement coming from the senator’s office said.
The Bagobo skirt will be accentuated by a T’Boli brass belt casted by Sbanay Lugan of the T’Boli community of Lamlahat, Lake Sebu, South Cotabato. The double row of brass bells is intended to attract more spirits to guide the wearer.
“In wearing these garments, I wish to recognize and honor our indigenous peoples for their great contribution to our rich heritage and unique culture. Many of their concerns have yet to be addressed but they remain faithful to the traditions passed on to them by their ancestors,” said Legarda.
“This is a statement of support to all efforts in preserving our culture and protecting the rights of indigenous peoples. This is a statement that we will continue to initiate programs that will promote our heritage. Through this, I also wish to invite everyone to visit the National Museum, especially the country’s first permanent textile galleries known as the Hibla ng Lahing Filipino: The Artistry of Philippine Textiles, to be reunited with our past and discover how blessed and rich we are as a people,” she stressed.