All female foundation promotes Bagobo tribe’s ‘inabal’ fabric
Davao del Sur’s Bagobo tribe was given a well-deserved push at January’s “Habiness!” textile fair, with the inclusion of their traditional inabal weave among a wide array of products at the Yuchengco Museum in Makati City.
Thanks to the effort The Great Women brand, the inabal stood out in an exhibit comprised of other locally woven fabrics, fashion accessories and home décors from around the Philippines. More importantly, the Bagobo tribe realized that their handiwork is both marketable and profitable in the fashion industry, and thus a potent source of income for the indigenous group.
The Great Women brand is founded by the ECHOsi Foundation, which stands for “Enabling Communities with Hope and Opportunities through Sustainable Initiatives,” in collaboration with the Philippine Commission on Women (PCW). According to ECHOsi president Jeannie Javelosa, these two organizations aim “to elevate the quality of goods produced by women micro-entrepreneurs from different regions of the country.”
Before the textile fair, this private-public-partnership scoured six different parts of the Philippines, namely Iloilo, Quezon, Leyte, Bohol, Naga and Davao, for the best tribal weaves.
“We wanted to see the different weaves different provinces produced, and we started with those we thought were marketable by helping [the women]improve and develop their products,” Imelda Canuel, marketing officer for The Great Women brand related to The Manila Times.
“We then launched a market test for these products to see their potential. The biggest challenge we came across, however, was production capacity, which is what we are working on to improve right now,” she added.
Zooming in on the inabal for Habiness!, The Great Women brand commissioned established names in fashion, such as Len Cabili to design wearable pieces for the tribal weave. Working with the Bagobo tribe in Davao del Sur, the chosen designers worked closely with the Bagobo women to come up with bags and other stylish accessories to suit fashionistas in Manila and beyond.
Besides the inabal, tepiña shawls and blouses from Palawan, and inabel blankets and fabrics from Ilocos also caught the eye of fashion designers and style denizens.
“Each [tribal]product is unique; you cannot find two or three of the same kind,” Camuel declared, obviously impressed by the work of the country’s indigenous groups. She even noted how the women weavers prayed and meditated before beginning their work each day, with nature and their everyday lives serving as inspiration.
With the success of Habiness!, The Great Women brand is eager to build the supply chain for the Bagobo women, strengthen their production capacities, and slowly lead them into becoming social entrepreneurs.
“This is only the beginning,” Canuel promised.