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Loren Legarda’s Hibla and Baybayin

FROM THE STANDS - Domini M. Torrevillas (The Philippine Star) - October 29, 2013 - 12:00am

Thanks to Sen. Loren Legarda, the public will be able to appreciate watching dazzling ethnic costumes and textiles, which women from indigenous communities weave for hours on end and wear with flair. These are on display at the Hibla ng Lahing Filipino: The Artistry of Philippine Textiles, the country’s first permanent textile gallery housed at the Museum of the Filipino People at the old Finance building in Rizal Park. It’s where you should bring yourself and your tourist friends for a rewarding pleasurable afternoon of admiring ethnic weaves and fabrics superbly mounted by museum exhibit specialists.

Only Loren, I think, can think of a lasting monument to indigenous people’s fashion sense. She said at the launch of the gallery, “The National Museum has a vast collection of indigenous textiles and we want these items to be on display for Filipinos, and even foreign tourists to appreciate. This exhibition reveals more about our rich weaving culture.”  Traditional garments and looms from Loren’s personal collection, as well as those from various local government units, are included in the exhibit.

The exhibit shows tapestries and costumes for celebrations and daily wear of different IPs. The embroidery, beadwork and belts made by T’bolis of Lake Sebu, South Cotabato, she said, are important traditional works. So are the Ga’dang cloths woven by Ga’dang elders of Paracelis, Mountain Province. The Panay Bukidnon community in Calinog, Iloilo, employs intricate handiwork and a unique dyeing system in the creation of their traditional wear, while the Hanunuo Mangyan community in Bulalacao, Oriental Mindoro, continues to practice burungan to produce thread from cotton, which they use to weave ramit that they wear as skirt.

Some pieces are mounted and glass encased for protection, and some have been slipped into mannequins. Adding  thrill to the exhibit are the gowns of pina made by some of the country’s top fashion designers Frederick Peralta, Barge Ramos, Ceasar Gaupo, Jojie Lloren, and Ms. Milka Quin. Gowns from the senator’s personal collection are made of pinukpok abaka with embroidery and beads, and   sinamay abaca with beads.

Glass encased are the Pinangulawan Bontok death shroud and the Kinitian Isinay death blanket, and  the Banton death shroud made of abaca and natural dye found in Banton Island, Romblon. The Banton shroud is the oldest existing textile in the Philippines, found in wooden coffins in caves.

Launched at the same time, as the Hibla Gallery is the Baybayin Gallery, another Legarda initiative, which features and promotes awareness of the writing systems used by ancient Filipinos. It also highlights the continuing tradition of script writing among a few remaining indigenous communities in Mindoro and Palawan, particularly among the Hanunoo, Buhid and Tagbanua peoples.

The Baybayin Gallery, also a permanent exhibit at the National Museum, features pieces from the museum’s collection of artifacts, and ancient scripts such as the Laguna Copperplate, the Calatagan Pot, the Intramuros Potsherd, and the Monreal Stones.

Coinciding with the launch of the two galleries was the formal turnover of Mother Tongue-Based materials by the Summer Institute of Linguistics to the National Museum. According to the SIL, there are 181 known languages in the Philippines, 177 of which are currently spoken, while four are already extinct.  The event highlighted  the relationship between the promotion of mother tongue languages and the preservation of indigenous practices.

The Hibla and Baybayin Galleries, and the SIL materials, are among the ways, which we can bring our culture closer to Filipinos, Loren said. “Cultural and heritage galleries tell stories of our ancestors and our nation in different periods of time. These galleries can ignite the interest of our citizens to know beyond what we have shown them.”

Many other museums have featured Philippine indigenous items, Loren said. Unknown to most Filipinos, Dr. Jose Rizal had a passion for indigenous textiles as proven by his collection of pina and abaca; these are exhibited now at the Ethnological Museum in Berlin. The   Quai Branly Museum in Paris featured Philippine pre-colonial artwork and artifacts through the exhibition “Philippines: An Archipelago of Exchange’” from April 9 to July 14, this year.

Following the inauguration of the Hibla and Baybayin galleries, Loren said she has lined up more programs aimed at promoting and protecting the unique and diverse Filipino culture through proposed measures she has filed in the Senate. There are regular lectures on indigenous culture and textiles in the museum as part of her advocacy program.

Prior to its inauguration, the Hibla gallery was based only in a room at the national museum. (It now occupies a whole floor.) Even with the few costumes on exhibit, the Queen of Spain, Sophia, who visited the gallery, said, “This is the best of the best of the best.” She should see the exhibit now.

During the launch of the galleries, through the encouragement of National Commission on Culture and the Arts (NCAA) chair Felipe de Leon Jr., the senator committed to file a measure that will mandate government offices, departments and agencies to use Baybayin in their official logos.

The Baybayin, she said, “is something that we can be very proud of, because all over Asia they have their own scripts. It will be good if we can promote Baybayin in our calling cards, in the logos of the different agencies.

National Museum director Jeremy Barns thanked her for her “vision, determination and strong support for the work of the national museum and the role of this institution in our national life.”

The senator has already filed several bills in the Senate to create the Department of Culture, to preserve the country’s traditional folk arts through the regional museums of the National Museum, to safeguard the traditional property rights of Indigenous Peoples, ensure equal employment opportunities to members of the Indigenous Cultural Committee, to include ethnic origin in the national survey conducted by the National Statistics Office (NSO),

And prohibit profiling, violence and all forms of intolerance against persons based on ethnicity, race, religion or belief, language, disability or other status.

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The Upsilonians na Pumapalo recently staged its 23rd Romeo M. Liamzon Memorial Golf Tournament at the Valley Golf and Country Club. The tournament is held every October  on the 10th leg of the fraternity’s year-long monthly golf competition, to coincide with the birth of the honoree.

Romy Liamzon was a Batch ’54 member of the Upsilon Sigma Phi Fraternity of the University of the Philippines, oldest  fraternity in the Philippines and Asia.

Romy served in 1957 as the fraternity’s Illustrious Fellow. He graduated from the UP College of Law in 1958 and established Life Savings Bank, went into real estate development, building residential and commercial projects. The fraternity honored him with its highest accolade, the Upsilonian Noble and Outstanding Award for his exemplary accomplishments.

Romy’s own sons, Thad, Mike, Bobby, Don and Rod, and grandson Roby, are all Upsilonians .

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 Email: dominitorrevillas@gmail.com 

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AN ARCHIPELAGO OF EXCHANGE ARTISTRY OF PHILIPPINE TEXTILES BANTON BAYBAYIN BAYBAYIN GALLERY INDIGENOUS MUSEUM NATIONAL NATIONAL MUSEUM
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