The Department of Science and Technology (DOST) through the Philippine Textile Research Institute (PTRI) introduced technology innovations that aim to garb the textile industry with more life and color, and give more market opportunities to indigenous folks.

At the hem of a two-year program of developing new and green textile technologies, DOST-PTRI espouses the use of natural dyes from indigenous plants like guava, yellow ginger and “talisay” leaves to draw out the natural beauty of Filipino fabrics woven from abaca, pineapple, and those from combinations of cotton or silk.

Coincidentally, a day prior to the celebration of Philippine Independence, the intricately designed “neo-ethnic” textiles were freely showcased during the “2013 Neo-ethnic Philippine Textile Conference” held on June 11, 2013 at the Heritage Hotel in Manila.

Neo-ethnic textiles, according to Julius L. Leaño, Jr., project leader and chief of the Chemicals, Dyes, Auxiliaries and By-product Utilization Section of PTRI, are “natural and/or indigenous material, sourced and/or produced in the Philippines using updated, relevant and green scientific and technological approaches and innovations by spinners, dyers, weavers and artisans.”

Though technology intervention is applied, traditional patterns and designs are retained and even enhanced, said Leaño. He also revealed how his research team respected traditions in the communities in order to protect the culture embedded in the ethnic textiles and designs.

What used to be a no-economic activity has become a revitalized livelihood opportunity, creating jobs and a niche market that is seen to benefit the local textile industry, Leaño said.

The fabrics presented during the conference were the pineapple fabrics from Kalibo, Aklan; saluyot fibers; the inabel of Paoay, Ilocos Norte; the tiniri from Abra; the hablon from Oton, Iloilo; the T’nalak from Lake Sebu, South Cotabato; the hinabol from Impasug-ong, Bukidnon; the inaul from Maguindanao; and the pineapple knitwear from the National Capital Region.

The conference tackled the history of Filipino fabric making, defined neo-ethnic textile, and explained the role of DOST-PTRI in advancing the local textile industry. Also discussed were marketing and branding of neo-ethnic textile, current issues plaguing the textile industry and the opportunities for Philippine-made clothes and accessories using neo-ethnic fabrics. One of the conference highlights was the testimonial from partner organizations that were assisted by DOST-PTRI.

In his talk, Leaño stressed that the new dyeing technologies enhanced the beauty of the hinabol fabric when introduced to ethnic communities like the Bukidnon’s Kalandang Weavers and Sunflower Weavers.

“We introduced the use of natural dyes and we shortened the dyeing process as part of our intervention… with top dyeing we put one color on top of the other to create variations in color, like using indigo as the first dye and top dyeing with yellow to produce a different shade of green,” Leano added.

Aside from improving the quality of indigenous fabrics, the innovations introduced by PTRI resulted in positive impact on the income of the communities who produce them. During the testimonial portion of the conference, Myla Carcasona, president of Kalandang Weavers shared her experience as to how the new technologies from PTRI uplifted their plight. Translated from her native dialect called Binukid, Carcasona said, “We are very grateful to PTRI and to Sir Julius for teaching us to use natural dyes that help us improve our products. Before, we sell them at P30 per meter but now we can sell the fabrics as high as P150 per meter.”

Finally, the conference ended with a bang through a fashion show of glitz and glamour participated in by budding designers from the University of the Philippines Diliman College of Home Economics Clothing Technology and established fashion designers like Anthony Cruz Legarda, Curitthy Manzanero, Pau Geronimo, Kitty Caragay, and Monica Escano-Rayala.

Neo-ethnic textile developed by the Department of Science and Technology - Philippine Textile Research Institute are designed into wearable casuals and chic accessories. Technology enhanced the features of the local fibers even as it preserved the culture attached in weaving them, resulting in a unique Filipino brand that is finding a niche in the market and creating opportunities to indigenous weavers. (Photo by Henry de Leon/Text by Framelia Anonas, S&T Media Service)

The neo-textile designers (front row) led by Anthony Cruz Legarda (fourth from right). (Photo by Framelia V. Anonas, S&T Media Service)

Who says that neo-ethnic textiles are only for the seasoned ones who had developed taste for fine Filipino fibers? With technology intervention, neo-ethnic fibers can be designed into cool gears for kids who, by the way, have the most discriminating taste in clothes. They always go for the most eye-catching and comfortable. (Photo by Henry A. de Leon/Text by Framelia V. Anonas, S&T Media Service)

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