Daily tradition to high fashion: Weaving the old and new with Maguindanao’s colorful inaul

Once, there was a sultan in Maguindanao who wanted his precious metal case containing his treasured belongings woven into a malong, a cloth usually worn around the waist. He held a weaving contest among his 4 wives, and the youngest won. Thus, the inaul pattern of karanda, named after the precious metal case, was born.

This is how master weaver Noraina “Jho” Abbas Ansing recounts the story behind one of inaul’s traditional patterns. Inaul is Maguindanao’s traditional woven cloth and the word literally means “woven” in the Maguindanaoan language.

Ansing tirelessly weaves all these patterns, out of necessity as much as passion. When her husband died from a heart attack around a decade ago, she was able to raise her six children through her weaving. She later passed on the skill to her daughters, who use the income for their school allowance.

Ansing’s mother had told her when she was still learning weaving: “This is the only wealth I can pass on to you that cannot be taken away.” Ansing said that this statement turned out to be true when she was able to support her children through weaving.

At present, though, Ansing says that inaul weaving is not the necessity it used to be since other work is available, especially for younger Maguindanaoans who get educations and opportunities overseas. Weaving inaul and earning money from it is not as appealing to them now, Ansing says.

To keep the inaul tradition alive, Maguindanao’s local government launched the first annual Inaul Festival two years ago, with street dances and performances using inaul, and even beauty pageants and fashion shows. Fashion designers, including Renee Salud and designers based in Maguindanao and Cotabato City, made inaul gowns and dresses for beauty queens to model in the runway.

INAUL FESTIVAL. Street dancing with inaul fabrics is a staple at the Inaul Festival, which was created to keep the inaul tradition alive in Maguindanao.

FASHION SHOW. Miss Asia Pacific International 2018 Sharifa Akeel modeling an inaul gown at this yearu2019s Inaul Festival last February.


Jearson Demavivas, one of the Maguindanaon designers whose works were modeled in the fashion show, also designed inaul outfits for Miss Universe 2018 Catriona Gray. (LOOK: Catriona Gray's outfits during day 1 of her homecoming )

View this post on Instagram A post shared by Catriona Gray (@catriona_gray) on Feb 19, 2019 at 11:45pm PST

Akmad Kari, a Cotabato City-based designer, says it is only natural for him to design with inaul as he grew up familiar with inaul, seeing it sold and worn around him. He has always thought of inaul as a special weave and something to be proud of. He looks forward to designing more inaul pieces in the future.

INAUL DESIGNER. Designer Akmad Kari (second from the left), with Maguindanao Governor Esmael Mangudadatu to his left, and beauty queens wearing his designs at the Governoru2019s Ball and fashion show at this yearu2019s Inaul Festival.

The festival, Ansing says, also helped drive up the price for inaul closer to its true value. A binaludan malong now, for example, can be sold for at least P2,800. Also, now, new patterns aside from the old traditional patterns are being woven, and these patterns appear in fabrics sold in markets as well as in the clothes designed by fashion designers.

Inaul fabrics from different municipalities are also displayed and sold at the Inaul Expo at the Inaul Festival. Aside from malongs, weavers now also sell shawls, headscarves, bags, purses, laptop bags, among other merchandise which customers can use regularly.

OLD AND NEW. Inaul is now woven using the early traditional and new patterns. These patterns are sold at a booth at the Inaul Expo this year.

DIFFERENT FABRICS AND USES. A tubao (headscarf), shawl (middle), and a malong u2013 all inaul.

INAUL PURSES. Inaul can now also be found in items that can be used regularly like purses and laptop bags.

INAUL STALL. Inaul stalls from different municipalities and organizations can be found at the Inaul Expo.

Inaul weaving contests are also held at the Inaul Festival to encourage more quality weaving. This year, Ansing and her sister-in-law Baikan Ansing won the malong weaving contest, while Ansing’s daughter Hashna Abbas Ansing won the shawl category.

CONTEST WINNERS. Master weaver Noraina Abbas Ansing (rightmost) and her sister-in-law Baikan Ansing (middle) won this yearu2019s inaul malong weaving contest, while the master weaveru2019s daughter Hashna Abbas Ansing (left) won in the shawl category.

WINNING MALONG. Noraina and Baikan Ansingu2019s winning entry at the inaul malong competition. The pattern is the traditional karanda. Norainau2019s finger points to the karanda in the cloth.

To ensure the practice of inaul weaving continues well into the next generations, the local government has organized training programs for women around Maguindanao to learn the craft. Ansing herself has trained women as young as 17 in her hometown Sultan Kudarat. Ansing, together with other women, also formed a local weavers’ association and received financial support from the government to buy threads for weaving. There are still challenges, though, as they do not have enough to buy looms for those who were trained and want to weave regularly. Ansing says the young women are eager to weave but do not have the means to buy a loom.

Nevertheless, Ansing remains hopeful for inaul’s future in Maguindanao. Even now, inaul keeps her and her family alive. She also tells of fellow inaul weavers whose experience is similar, and who keep receiving orders, some from overseas. Inaul has become really well-known, Ansing says with pride.

MODERN DESIGN. One of Ansingu2019s latest weaves commissioned by a Manila-based fashion designer.

Photo courtesy of Noraina Ansing

– Rappler.com


Claire Madarang is a writer, researcher, and documenter whose work and wanderlust takes her to adventures like backpacking for seven weeks and exploring remote islands and bustling cities alike. Follow her adventures, travel tips, and epiphanies on her blog Traveling Light and on her Instagram.