A Soft Spot for Burbur Abel

Bata de Baño

As fabrics have gone high tech, towels and blankets have become more sophisticated. Is there room for burbur in today’s homes?

Burbur is a type of abel that is loom-woven in Paoay. It resembles bath towel fabric, hence the name which is a term you’d describe a furry dog. The designs of burbur are much more simple.


The abel of yesteryears were made of pure cotton. The fabric is course and stiff, but gets softer with time. A burbur blanket is exceptionally heavy when wet, so that in the olden days, the manangs had the whole river to wash blankets and they’d leave them on the rocks to dry.

Most of the abel blankets today are not 100 percent cotton. Custom orders can be made however. The old tradition of spooling natural kapas (cotton) fibers is a tedious process, so loomweavers prefer China threads purchased in Divisoria.

Burbur BlanketsBurbur Blanket

On a random visit to the Pagablan in Paoay, what struck me were the burbur blankets, towels and even bata de baño (bathrobe). My last memory of a burbur bata de baño was on a classmate, during one of those Christmas tableaus. We still have our old sturdy blankets from my nanny. The owner’s name is part of the weave, so each piece is really special.

If you’re used to the texturized feel of burbur, it’s not easy parting with it.

Photographed by Blauearth © Blauearth™ All Rights Reserved 2009-2014

Abel Iloco + Jeffrey Campbell

Manang Biday

The jusi and inabel  baro’t saya I wore to a Filipiniana-themed function are Manang Carning’s. We don’t have the same height, but who would have guessed they were borrowed. If I weren’t pressed for time, I’d still choose the same traditional dress, but probably would have added a tapis. Paired them with my Jeffrey Campbell pseudo bakya. Some things just look good together, like they’re made for each other.

Can’t we bring back Manang Biday?

Wicker and Straw ClogsPseudo Bakya
© Blauearth™ All Rights Reserved 2009-2013

Inabel, Heart and Soul of an Ilocana Weaver

Handed down from generation to generation, the art of inabel weaving is a golden thread entwined in the Ilocano culture. Manually woven through a wooden loom, an abel fabric is made up of pure creativity, imagination, positivity, respect, discipline and keenness.

The Ilocanas of the olden times were taught this textile craft which once bolstered the economy of the Ilocos region during the colonial times, when abel products were largely exported to foreign lands. Spanish galleons sailed the seas with pieces of inabel sailcloth. The abel is certainly a representation of the elegant past of Ilocos.

The various abel weave designs are inspired by natural elements. It maybe land formation patterns, the colors of flowers and vegetation, the ripples of a calm blue ocean, or the sky on a bright night.

There is always an untold story behind each and every piece of inabel, but clearly, the very essence of inabel is the beautiful qualities of an Ilocana.

(I dedicate this post to Manang Cion, the one person who gifted me with all the love while taking care of me since birth up to the time I had my own family. It was she who let me appreciate the joys of simple living. On her days off, she brought me along to Suba, her hometown, to experience bamboo rafting by the Paoay Lake, “sarguelas” and “lomboy” picking around the Nagbacalan forests, native jewelry making with “bugbugayong” and “bitbittaog”, and “karison” rides from Suba to Currimao. Two days from now, I’ll be turning a year older, and I will miss her predictable present, inabel specially customized by the weavers of Nagbacalan, Paoay.)


Location: Aleli Joy’s Inabel/ Masintoc Sand Dunes, Paoay/Laoag Central School

Aleli Joy’s Inabel Barangay Nagbacalan, Paoay, Ilocos Norte, Philippines 639176086478

Photos by Blauearth Copyright © Blauearth™ ALL RIGHTS RESERVED