A sharing of gifts

An Ata Manobo artisan in Davao City.

While manufacturing and technology are experiencing advancement and rapid development, old, traditional arts and crafts — such as textile and mat weaving by hand, basket making, embroidery, ornament making — endure, especially in indigenous communities.

An increasingly competitive and globalized economy and the changing landscape, however, are pushing traditional artists, artisans and other culture bearers as well as their arts, crafts and livelihoods to the margin.

They are struggling to sustain themselves and their crafts — else they vanish in a few years.

Colorful Maguindanao mats made in Kumalarang, Zamboanga del Sur.

They must, of course, be kept alive as indigenous and traditional practices and creative expressions are the wellspring and bedrock of Philippine heritage, culture and the arts.

They are manifestations of the Philippines’ cultural diversity — an invaluable resource, a source of inspiration and progenitor of national identity with which we forge the future powered by our own creativity.

As support for and advancement of the creative industries in the country, traditional arts and crafts should not be neglected as creative industries today trace their roots to them.

Newest program aims for sustainability

The state agency National Commission for Culture and the Arts (NCCA) has created programs and has been working with different cultural communities and ethnic groups across the country to safeguard, foster deeper appreciation for, develop and promote traditional cultures.

PIñA weaver Raquel Eliserio from Balete, Aklan, with weaving learners.

A flagship program is the School of Living Traditions (SLT) in which younger members of a community are encouraged to learn their traditional arts, crafts, resources of knowledge and lore and practices under the guidance of a cultural master.

Another is the Gawad sa Manlilikha ng Bayan or the National Living Treasures Award, which bestows the highest honors to outstanding artisans and folk artists, as well as develops projects to ensure the continuance of their crafts and legacies.

Relatively newer is the Assistance for Filipino Artisans (AFA).

Panay Bukidnon youths perform tradtional dance and wear attire with traditional embroidery, panubok. / Photographs courtesy of NCCA

AFA reaches out to different cultural communities to help them continue making traditional crafts and sustain their livelihoods, as well as promote traditional craftsmanship by offering financial and technical support to these craftsmen and folk artists.

AFA traces its roots to the One Loom, One Family Project implemented by the NCCA, the Office of Senator Loren Legarda and the Non-Timber Forest Philippines Inc. Exchange Program from 2015 to 2016. This project was able to help 67 traditional weaving communities in different parts of the country, providing assistance for tools and materials. One Loom, One Family Project led to an expanded program in 2016, supporting more communities and more artisans engaged in other crafts. So far, AFA lists more than a hundred beneficiaries.

A community center in Palawan where young people are taught traditional crafts such as basket-weaving and perfromances.

To promote the work of AFA and traditional crafts, the NCCA, in partnership with Romblon-based cultural and environmental organization Bayay Sibuyanon and the Office of Deputy Speaker Legarda, are holding a series of online exhibits, which can be viewed on its website, Assistancetoartisans.com.ph.

Launched through an online program on 29 April in NCCA’s and AFA’s Facebook pages, the first exhibit, “Kaloob,” is curated by Dr. Patrick B. Flores, one of the Philippines’ leading cultural scholars and curators. Flores documents the journey of the program from earlier projects, as well as the mandates, objectives and framework that gave birth to AFA.

Through videos, pictures and words, it lets viewers vicariously travel to different parts of the country and see other cultures, providing glimpses of the different traditional arts and crafts that AFA is supporting. It also introduces viewers to artisans, particularly the late Manlilikha ng Bayan, Lang Dulay, the T’boli weaver of the t’nalak from Lake Sebu, South Cotabato; and Raquel Eliserio, weaver of the fine piña textile from Balete, Aklan.

Young Subanen learn beadworks in a School of Living Traditions in Lakewood, Zamboanga del Sur. / PHOTOGRAPHS COURTESY OF NCCA

“And, finally, it brings to the fore so many opportunities that local artisans and their communities have harnessed in light of the abiding advocacy of AFA for the Filipino artisans, who toil for their customs and their country, their worldviews and values and the instinct to create and adorn the world with what is good and what is done well,” Flores said.

He explained: “The economic resources that the AFA program aims to provide hopefully afford the artisans the opportunity to meet the expenses and needs brought about by living in the present while still having the freedom to carry out their life ways shaped by tradition and historical change in an always evolving ecology.”

The name of the exhibit means “gift,” “blessing” or something given from the heart or “loob.” It can also mean something bequeathed, a legacy, an apt term for traditional crafts that have been handed down through generations, gifts from the ancestors, gifts from the gods as some cultures may regard them, like fire in ancient Greek mythology, which sparked culture and civilization. As much as it features the gift of support from AFA, the exhibit also aims to highlight the gifts shared to the Filipino people from the artisans.

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Credit belongs to : www.tribune.net.ph

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