Traditional loom weaving brings livelihood, prestige to Ilocana weave master

SAN NICOLAS, Ilocos Norte, November 18 (PIA) – Traditional loom weaving has brought livelihood and prestige for an Ilocana weave master.

At 92, master weaver Magdalena Gamayo, who hails from the outskirt Barangay Lumbaan, Pinili, Ilocos Norte, is still active while rallying her best in the later stage of her life for the successful transfer of her traditional handwoven skills to the young generation in the Ilocos.

At present, Gamayo trains her granddaughters, the youngest of whom is 12 years old, to master the skill of the traditional Ilocano loom weaving as she aims to continuously uphold and preserve it through the use of pagablan (manual loom weaving machine).

“Loom weaving is my way of life and my passion because it brings me a hobby and at the same a source of livelihood,” she said.

She said that her interest in the art of weaving started when she was 16 years old through an influence of her aunt, who used to weave abel-Iluko (Ilokanohandwoven cloth) during the World War II.

“My constant practice and patience through the years helped me to hone my skill until I make unique designs and patterns such as the kusikos (spiral forms similar to oranges), the inuritan (geometric design), and the most challenging sinan-sabong (flowers),” said Gamayo.

In 2012, her patience and perseverance of making attractive loom weaved cloth elevated him as recipient of the most coveted GawadsaManlilikhang Bayan (GAMABA) award or the National Living Treasure award being officiated by the National Commission for Culture and the Arts (NCCA).

Dr. Edwin V. Antonio, the head of the national committee on Northern cultural communities, said the GAMABA is equivalent to the other national awards such as Order of Lakandula, National Scientist Award, and National Artist Award.

“The GAMABA is the highest award given to the finest traditional artists in the country that was institutionalized in 1992 through Republic Act No. 7355; among the incentives to be given to the awardees are a gold medallion, the initial grant of Php 100,000, and lifetime monthly stipend of Php 10,000, Antonio revealed.

In consonance with the provision of Republic Act No. 7355, which states that “the monetary grant may be increased whenever circumstances so warrant,” the NCCA board approved the following:  additional monthly personal allowance of Php 14,000 for the awardees; and a  maximum cumulative amount of Php 750,000 medical and hospitalization benefits annually. These incentives are similar to that received by the National Artists of the Philippines, and funeral assistance/tribute fit for a National Living Treasure.

Today, Gamayo is one of the 13 recipients of the GAMABA. “I wish to encourage the young generation to try engaging in the traditional loom weaving as this tradition in Ilocos remains strong, and there are no better artists who exemplify the best of Filipino weaving tradition but the Ilocana (Ilocano women),” said Gamayo during the opening of the exhibit of portraits of the national living treasures in Robinsons Place, San Nicolas, Ilocos Norte on November 4.

The exhibit was another successful partnership of the NCCA, the Philippine Information Agency (PIA), and the local government unit (LGU) of San Nicolas in promoting culture and the arts in the region. (Freddie G. Lazaro/PIA -1)