How to use a malong? Let me count the ways

- Tingting Cojuangco () - July 11, 2004 - 12:00am
The most used garment in Southeast Asia is the sarong or malong. It is called longyi in Burma, pla sin in Thailand and Laos. In Malaysia and Indonesia, it is called kain sarong or kain panjang, sampin and baju kurung for the shorter wrap-around worn over trousers. Tapis is what it is in Tagalog or patadjong in the Visayas and malong in Muslim Mindanao.

This fabric, which runs 61 or 62 inches long and some 70 inches wide, is worn by both men and women. It simply wraps around the body and is known traditionally as the dress for the Maranao, Maguindanao, Samals and many Tausug.

How does one wear a malong? Running from the waist to the ankle as it usually does, it is overlapped at the waist and knotted and the ends tucked into the waist to secure it. It is also sashed it to keep it in place if you happen to feel insecure.

You can also cuddle inside it. It’s said that lovers slip into this tube to hide under it for caressing and sleeping together, which is why they come in a wider tubular shape. Others use it as a blanket snuggling inside it because it can go up till under the chin. The malong is used for modesty’s sake when taking a bath, perhaps if the woman’s residence is in a crowded neighborhood with a common water pump. You can even use it for swimming.

Some women bring an extra malong to market like the Tausug. The women put one part over one shoulder and let the other end drag near their legs. The malong is turned into a handbag or sack when market stuff is put in between the malong’s folds.

The malong is hazardous to those who forget they’re not pinned, so fold left over right at the waist and hold on to it on the left arm like the Moro women do. The reason why the excess fabric is made to rest on a woman’s left arm is because, as a Maguindanao Royal tells me, when Muslims pray they put first their left hand on their bosom then the right hand over it. Similarly, the wearing of the malong is patterned after their prayer habit.

On a hot day that same malong is used over the head to shield the wearer from the sun. Sometimes it is used as a hammock for little weightless babies, or as a bedspread or wall decor.

I wear the malong like many women or men do at home or even at formal dinners. It’s very feminine. No matter how fat or thin a woman is her behind is accentuated in a malong. I like wearing the malong because it identifies me as Asian.
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There are many varieties of malong, each called by a different name depending on its colors and design. In the past, Maguindanao and Maranao malong were distinctive of the location where they were made and it was possible to tell where the wearer came from by the style and design of his malong. Today the best known types of Maranao malong are the following:

The landap, which is distinguished by the horizontal sewing together of nine plain-colored panels of the finest cloth. Only two colors are used for the panels, alternatingly arranged, except that at the ends of the top and bottom panels there are narrow borders of multicolored stripes. Sewn into the malong landap are three brightly colored langkit, marked by a profusion of intricate geometric designs. There are three such langkits: one about six inches wide and sewn vertically, called lakban. There are two three-inch strips sewn horizontally about 18 inches apart called tobiran. The two tobiran girdle and malong intersect with the lakban. The malong landap is worn only on ceremonial occasions.

The andon is now a rare and highly-prized type of malong with white, yellow, green and black geometric figures on a red background. The thread is prepared and woven using the complicated tie-dye process. The tie-dyed pattern is repeated but demarcated by an intensification of the design to form a langkit, which is woven into the malong.

The kosta is a style of malong featuring lines and cross lines of contrasting primary colors along with black and white hues. Malong kosta resembles the color schemes and checkered-plaid designs of Scottish kilts.
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The men? They wrap the malong around the waist and tuck the loose ends twice or once over to secure it on the waist. Some use an elastic belt with little leather, square pouches especially in Tawi-Tawi and Sulu.

or sarong prints come in flowers, striped or with ikat prints that may have a central panel called kepala or senefa.

Check the illustrations for ways to wear a malong.

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