Indigenous abel weaver Magdalena Gamayo was awarded a Gawad sa Manlilikha ng Bayan or National Living Treasures Award in 2012. Torrents of rain poured down from dark skies before we reach her village in Pinili. A tiny structure made of concrete blocks with a signage came into view when I made up my mind to head home to Laoag and visit the weaver some other time.
She had attended Sunday service at a church. Took the opportunity to ask about her from her students and apprentices, including her 11 year-old granddaughter, Arabella. Turning 92 in August, Nana Dalen, as they call her, goes to the center everyday and persists on teaching newer generations everything about the craft she has mastered, against the shriveling popularity of locally handmade textiles.
I had visited various abel loom weaving communities in Ilocos and Abra. Most of Nana Dalen’s designs I’ve never seen before. Inubon a sabong (string of flowers) best illustrates her masterful art. At the age of 16, her skills on the loom were honed by her aunt.
The rains stop. Nana Dalen arrives. The unassuming lady obliges for a photo-op. She smiles as she recalls the days when she fashioned her own fabric into a pandiling (long skirt). She brings out a collection of various antique skirts that look not quite too old.
Her students wish for their own cotton tree farm, a wider space perhaps and more pagablan for others.
More essential than the recognition that was bestowed upon her, she has inspired others to preserve a threatened tradition.
To reach Mrs. Magdalena Gamayo or the Manlilikha ng Bayan Weaving Center, text or call: 0909 7596885.
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