Magdalena Gamayo, 99, from Pinili, Ilocos Norte, is a Manlilikha ng Bayan (National Living Treasure), so honored for her weaving techniques which have enhanced the unique qualities of traditional designs. A self-taught weaver with a modern sensibility, Gamayo has mastered the traditional patterns of these designs, including the challenging string of flowers.
Despite her advanced age and fading eyesight, the artist still takes care of arranging the threads on the loom which, according to those in the know, is the hardest task of all. Work on the designs may entail up to five colors.
In these days of controversy over artificial intelligence, “Magdalena’s calloused hands breathe life into her work, and her masterpieces are testaments to how machines can never hope to equal human art,” declares a spokesperson of the region.
Gamayo’s indigenous textile works inspired the recent “Panaglaga Ti Lagda (Weave Transcending Time)” fashion show of the National Commission for Culture and the Arts (NCCA), held recently at SM Lanang in Davao City.
The event proved to be a fusion of north and south. The National Living Treasure and the culture she represented came from the northern part of Luzon, as did the dancers who opened the program—the Kalinga Budong Dance Troupe. On the other hand, the two fashion designers, Neil Patrick Jimlani and Mark Joseph Sayad, are from Davao, as were all of the models, with the exception of Nicole Cordoves (Binibining Pilipinas Grand International Winner 2016).
“We have focused on the heritage of the cultural communities in the Davao regions and incorporated the textile of Mindanao in our daily wear,” said NCCA Executive Director Oscar Casaysay in his welcome remarks. “And we have brought designs and dancers from the north to show that the culture nationwide is colorful.”
Tradition and innovation
Another Manlilikha ng Bayan, Estelita Bantilan, representing Gamayo, was the guest of honor in the ribbon-cutting ceremony, assisted by officials including humanities professor Felipe de Leon Jr., a known specialist on indigenous culture, Casaysay and Jennifer Romero of the Davao City Tourism Office.
The eye-catching collection of designers Jimlani and Sayad fused tradition with innovation. The Jimlani collection was inspired by the windmills of Bangui, Ilocos Norte. It was resort wear, with contours that highlighted the durable Ilocano fabric (inabel). Jimlani infused the collection with textiles woven by the National Living Treasure, highlighting techniques which brought out the designs, such as cat’s paw (paddek pusa) and the string of flowers (inubon a sabong), which earned for Gamayo the Manlilikha ng Bayan award.
Designer Sayad in his collection paid tribute to the city’s religious landmark, the San Pedro Metropolitan Cathedral; this showed the influence of Roman Catholic iconography on his works. The designer transformed this inspiration into wearable, resilient pieces crafted by using the technical techniques from the north.
The garments worn by the female and male models ranged from formal costumes to casual sportswear. A few of the gowns had plunging necklines. The impact of the collection was, well, tribal chic, you might say, a dash of modernity redolent of the mystique of the indigenous peoples.
The garments were later transferred to the Holy Cross of Davao College, where a forum was held on the Gawad Manlilikha ng Bayan. Main speakers were Casaysay and De Leon.
The fashion exhibition showed that “local textile was becoming world-class,” said Casaysay. “It is a testament to the ever-evolving spirit of our nation while being rooted in our time-honored traditions.” —CONTRIBUTED