Weaving Dreams and the Spirit of the Abaca


Filip + Inna and the Tboli women

In the highlands of Mindanao, the Tboli people weave their Tnalak through dreams revealed to them by the spirit of the abaca, Fu Dalu. By happenstance, it is also there that the dream to create garments inspired by traditional embroidery, beadwork and weaving took its first step as FILIP + INNA, which found a group of Tboli women to work with and create a striking collection of woven and embroidered fashion.

The Tbolis, an indigenous people in the Philippines, live in Lake Sebu, which is their ancestral domain. They have retained an enduring sense of their tribal heritage as they live around symbols. Through dance, the emphasis of a step expresses anger. Through textiles, the Tnalak patterns show symbols from their daily life like the menaul ( eagle ).

From fiber to fabric, the Tnalak goes through an extensive process that takes months. It starts by stripping the abaca (Musa Textilis) into ribbons, and then goes into a scraper to separate the fibers from the pulp. To make the Tnalak soft and flexible enough to be made into textiles, the fibers are pounded in a mortar.

The fibers are separated into fine fibers which are used for the warp (lengthwise threads) while the coarse fibers are for the weft (crosswise threads), and then they are placed on a beam inside the Tboli traditional Longhouse to dry. The fibers are individually knotted from end to end and then attached to a frame to start the Mbed, which is wrapping portions of the warp to resist the dye. The Tnalak has three colors : hulo (red), hitem (black) and bukay (white). The warp and weft take its place in the Back
strap loom, and thus begins the unraveling of the dream.

The handwoven abaca is finished off by polishing using seashell held under tension by a pliable rod that presses the shell against the Tnalak. Beeswax is added for sheen. Tnalak patterns are very intricate and reveals the consummate artistry of each weaver. Each piece is a work of art.

The Philippines is an archipelago and boasts of 30 indigenous groups. It has a rich heritage of textiles and garments that has been content to remain in the wings. Filip + Inna aims to put the spotlight on these artisans of the present and the past who have devoted their lives to fine craftsmanship and expressive art making. It pays homage to tradition held on by the different indigenous people by drawing all inspiration from their exquisite garments and accessories.

The biggest challenge that Filip + Inna faces is navigating through different belief systems and practices. Filip + Inna has been working with the Tbolis for more than two years and the experience has provided a framework that can be replicated to other indigenous people. Visits to the weavers and embroiderers reveal a glaring reality of poverty. What we take for granted is a daily struggle for them. Their work, employing traditional weaving, beadwork and embroidery has become a means of income generation for the women of the Tboli.

In the end, it is all about building relationships and
accountability. Their dream has become my dream, and as we share creative experiences they begin to see my dream. It is our aim to honor our Philippine legacy through the garments we make. The warp and the weft. Tradition and innovation. The intertwining of dreams. From our hands to yours, we are working earnestly in making that dream a reality.

To learn more, please visit www.filipinna.com.