Traditional textiles are ties that bind. It links the past to the present and brings together cultures, which, no matter how diverse, has a commonality.
It is in this premise that the Hibla ng Lahing Filipino textile gallery was born in 2012 in two small rooms of the National Museum of the Philippines.
Today, I am filled with pride because from the simple rooms that first housed the textile gallery, Hibla has now gone international.
It all started with a vision to have our own textile gallery in the Philippines, inspired by my travels to neighboring countries in Southeast Asia like Laos, Vietnam, Cambodia, each having their own rich weaving heritage showcased in their museums.
I thought, there is so much to show the world about the indigenous artistry of Filipinos through traditional textiles and I have proven this with the numerous visits I had to various weaving communities around the Philippines. I even go to the remotest barangays if only to see the most skilled weaver of a town or province. No weaver has ever failed to amaze me yet. Their diligence, creativity and passion are truly remarkable.
When I met Director Jeremy Barns and Dr. Ana Labrador, I did not think twice and offered my proposal to establish a textile gallery in the Philippines. The plea did not fall on deaf ears.
In 2012, we opened the Hibla ng Lahing Filipino: The Artistry of Philippine Textiles at the National Museum, the country's first permanent textile gallery. The exhibition was then housed in two small rooms of the National Museum of Fine Arts; but its impact was immense that even Queen Sofia of Spain could not help but say that it was "the best of the best of the best."
The gallery features the raw materials and looms used in weaving, the relevance of textiles in various communities, the different fabrics and styles of weaving, and various traditional textiles from ethno-linguistic communities, including the oldest existing textile in the Philippines, the Banton cloth.
Former Timor Leste President Jose Ramos-Horta, Japan First Lady Akie Abe, American-British entrepreneur Lady Lynn Forester de Rothschild, and Ermenegildo Zegna CEO Paolo Zegna were among the visitors of the gallery who were impressed with the artistry and craftsmanship of our Filipino weavers.
A year after its launch, the National Museum found a bigger place to house the gallery. The Hibla gallery was transferred to the National Museum of Anthropology and it was able to hold more textiles and looms and accommodate more visitors.
Many weekends, I would just walk in and observe the visitors. It is heartwarming to hear their comments and know that they find the gallery interesting and it enriches their knowledge about our weaving heritage and our culture as a whole.
But one gallery is not enough to hold our rich weaving culture and through the Lecture Series and Weaving Demonstrations on Philippine Textiles and Indigenous Knowledge, we are able to showcase the various weaving techniques of different weaving communities in the country. It is an opportunity for the public to interact with our weavers and appreciate the work and love they pour into every textile they weave.
In July 2017, the National Museum launched the first Hibla regional gallery, the Hibla Iloko at the National Museum Ilocos Regional Museum Complex in Vigan, Ilocos Sur. Many more Hibla regional galleries will soon rise, and we hope that someday we will have not only galleries, but one whole Hibla Museum-a vision that I know we can bring into fruition. Because once, the Hibla gallery was a vision; but now it has travelled to London last October; in Lisbon, Portugal last March; in Madrid, Spain last May; in Washington DC in June; in New York in July; and now in Frankfurt.
We launch this travelling exhibition with our piña-seda weavers and embroiderers, who have showcased their passion and exceptional skills during the weaving and embroidery demonstrations.
I would like to thank Alan Tumbokon and Nelda Tumbokon from Kalibo, Aklan, and Lilian Teresita del Valle and Salvador Yasoña and Asuncion Castillo of Lumban, Laguna for sharing their knowledge and skills for this travelling exhibition. These weavers and embroiderers are our culture-bearers. They inspire us to preserve our heritage as they have remained faithful to their culture, they have not turned their backs on their roots, and they have fully embraced their tradition, which is an intangible wealth that they possess.
The Hibla gallery, which has blossomed into many other initiatives, is not only an effort to celebrate indigenous artistry through textiles and provide more Filipinos the opportunity to discover priceless information about our heritage, but an attempt to bring the challenge of nurturing our weaving traditions into the national stage, to a wider audience.
As we open the Hibla ng Lahing Filipino Travelling Exhibition here in Frankfurt, I invite you to take yourself in a journey, explore the similarity and diversity of our traditional textiles, and be fascinated with the traditional skills that gave fruit to such artistic creations.