Ilocana living treasure upholds the abel-weaving tradition

By Rey T. Arcangel, Jr., PGIN-CMO


LAOAG CITY – After being honored as a National Living Treasure (Gawad sa Manlilikha ng Bayan) by the National Commision for Culture and the Arts (NCCA) in 2012, Magdalena Galinato Gamayo of Lumbaan Pinili, Ilocos Norte continues maintaining the abel-weaving tradition in the country alive.

At the age of 88, Gamayo is eager to pass the tradition to the younger generation through holding lectures and tutorials of abel-weaving at her home.

According to her, patience is the most important trait that one should possess when entering this job, as  abel-weaving undergoes complicated procedures and techniques.

“Anus talaga iti kasapulan ta narigat met talaga iti panagabel nga trabaho (Patience is needed in this job, because abel-weaving is really hard),” she said.

Currently, she is teaching five students that include her cousin’s daughter-in-law, sister-in-law, and her neighbours who revealed that Gamayo’s techniques are really difficult to follow.

“Narigat a masurotan, aglalo tay “inubon a sabong” ken “inpalagto” ta bassit laeng a kamalim ket maperdi tay disenionan. (It is hard to follow, especially ‘Inpalagto” and “Inubon a Sabong” because just one mistake would result to a flawed design),” said the 45 year-old Erlinda Gampong, one of Gamayo’s students.

Gamayo also added that she only starts teaching her students with other special designs when she is satisfied with the quality of their triple-toned warp Binakol, which is the first test of her lesson.

Aside from her relatives and neighbours, there are also other Ilocano weavers who want to learn the techniques and method of abel-weaving that only Magdalena Gamayo can teach.

Gamayo started to learn the art of weaving when she was still 16 years old through observing and copying the strategy of her aunt who used to weave abel during the World War II.

She also revealed that during those times, they used to have informal competition with her cousins and friends as to who could weave the finest.

“Aglilinumba ken aglalabankami pay idi no sino ti kapipintasan iti maaramidna nga abel (We used to compete before to know who would make the finest abel),” she said.

Through the years, Gamayo’s abel fabrics are recognized with its high quality and unique designs where she actually taught herself to recreate patterns such as the kusikos (spiral forms similar to oranges), inuritan (geometric design), and the most challenging sinan-sabong (flowers).

To further promote and retain this Ilocano culture and tradition, Governor Imee R. Marcos is putting up an Abel museum in Paoay, Ilocos Norte where all the unique and original abel masterpieces will be exhibited and displayed to the public.

Governor Marcos has been trying to revive and improve the Ilocano heritage crafts particularly the inabel by making them innovative and sellable such as the “Carry All Bag” a top-quality bag made of canvas and nylon-lining.

On January 28, 2014, Governor Imee also distributed P10,000 loan to 15 abel weavers of Paoay so that they can buy raw materials and produce more abel fabrics.

Meanwhile, Magdalena Gamayo is encouraging everyone particularly the youth to continue this tradition until the next generation.

“Tuloy-tuloy koma apo daytoy nga obra ta uray bassit man maalatayo ket napintas daytoy a mangipakita iti kinabaknangtayo nga Ilokano (This tradition should continue because even if we get a small amount of money, we can still showcase the rich culture of Ilocanos,”  she said.

She fears losing this tradition, hence wishes to have more years of living so she could teach more about abel-weaving.

“Idawdawatko ken apo Dios a manayonan koma pay ti biagko, ta no mapukawnak ditoy lubongen ket baka agawan met daytoy a pagsapulanen (I pray to God to  have more years of living because when I am gone, abel-weaving tradition might also be lost),” said Gamayo.#