KNOWN for its durability and intricately
woven designs, abel is one of the few surviving traditional crafts in
Dina Bonnevie promotes ‘abel Iloco’
Philippine Daily Inquirer / 09:00 AM September 24, 2014
As a child growing up in his home province of Ilocos Sur, Gov. Deogracias Victor Savellano early on became aware of the beauty of Ilocano tradition and craftsmanship.
Gov. DV, as he’s fondly called, comes from a family of public servants. He had traveled the entire province and developed an interest in crafts, especially when he began collecting antiques in 1977.
When he was elected to Ilocos Sur’s provincial board in 1988, he said he “focused on preserving Ilocano culture, and through cultural mapping, researched on what I call our Living Traditions.”
One of these was abel weaving. The abel cloth is known for being a fabric so strong and beautiful that it was a major export during the Spanish Galleon trade.
It is made from yarns of cotton or sagut sourced from Northern Luzon. After the cotton is harvested, it is prepared into yarns and dyed. The different colored yarns are then arranged in a wooden hand loom to create varied and unique designs.
The process is intricate and labor intensive. Weavers must master synchronizing the movements.
“We used to have weavers in each town of Ilocos, but very few make abel cloths now,” said Savellano.
Wanting to revive this craft, he said he “made a resolution to be able to preserve it and give our weavers and the abel a sense of importance.”
But that was only the beginning. He put up a store in Ilocos to showcase all abel products, provided weavers with a fund for their cotton supply, and then started promoting abel crafts in the Philippines and abroad through programs like the Abel Iloco.
Today, one can see abel products in the Heritage Village in Ilocos, in the Savellano family’s Victorino’s restaurant in Quezon City, and most recently in Kultura Filipino stores.
Savellano’s abel weaving advocacy is supported by his wife, actress Dina Bonnevie.
“One thing that fascinates me about abel products is that it has several facets and weaves,” she said. “There is the Tinumballitian with multi-heddle designs from Mabibila Sur, Stana; Binakul with gradated squares and rectangles in positive/negative hues; and Kantarinis with stripes and plaids from Mindoro, Vigan.”
She is also amazed at “the detail in each piece, showing the diligence and creativity of Ilocanos. We have a lot of crafts in the country, but there is nothing as beautiful and intricate as abel.”
When she started helping and supporting her husband in his advocacy, “I realized that there are so many things that can be done with it, like turning it into something contemporary. Now, we are into the reinvention of abel, both for home and fashion through collaborations with different designers and furniture manufacturers.”
The couple now showcase 100-percent handwoven inabel products to a wider market at Kultura Filipino stores.
“I am happy that Kultura supports locally made products,” said Savellano. “In this way, livelihood is sustained, local crafts and traditions are preserved. We are happy to market our abel Iloco in Kultura stores.”
Added Bonnevie: “We believe in Kultura as it is one of the many companies advocating the promotion of our country’s local arts and crafts. If you want to buy something Filipino, Kultura is the place you would want to visit.”
Abel Iloco products available in Kultura stores include bed covers, blankets, table runners and sofa throws.
The collection is sold at Kultura Filipino stores at SM Aura Premier, SM Makati, SM Megamall and SM Mall of Asia.