The Hablon handloom-weaving industry is making a comeback in Miagao, Iloilo. Hablon refers to the hand woven textile, made of jusi (banana fiber), piña (pineapple fiber), locally grown silk threads, cotton, rayon and other indigenous materials that creates an attractive textile of emerald, lavender, pink, tangerine, and crimson colors. Traditionally known for products such as the multi-colored, checkered patadyong skirt, bandanas, and household items (mosquito nets, blankets, table runners, etc.), Hablon fabric is emerging into a versatile and unique textile, currently making waves in the Philippine and international haute couture.
Hablon also shows great potentials in the global market for textiles, next to the old-time favorite, piña and jusi. The weaving industry in Miagao boasts of a long history that date back to the later part of the Spanish era, and was formerly known as “habol” or “hinabol” made only of fibrous natural materials.
The weavers made innovations by combining them with man-made fibers, introduced in the early 1920’s, and started to produced colorful textiles that became to be known as, “Hablon”. Hablon has evolved to become a major player in the Philippine textile industry, with its heyday in the 1950’s up to the 1970’s. It suffered a decline in 1980’s due to the predominance in the world market of less-labor intensive, machine-woven textiles. This also brought about a dramatic decline in the number of weavers, who started to look for better livelihood opportunities, and lack of interest among the younger generation to take up this weaving trade.
Although efforts were made by the Department of Tourism to revive this Iloilo heritage in the early 1990’s, it was in 2001 that brought Hablon back to the limelight, when Atty. Gerardo Flores assumed as Mayor of Miagao, and made the revival of Hablon Industry, one of his priorities.
Mayor Flores enlisted the assistance of Mr. Nono Palmos, a Miagaowanon international fashion designer, who staged a very successful Hablon fashion show at the Miagao Public Plaza on Feb. 8, 2003, during the celebration of the town’s foundation anniversary. This was followed by an exhibition of Mr. Palmos’ hablon creations in WOW Philippines’, “Pasundayag san Western Visayas” held in Intramuros in October 2003.
The revival of Hablon caught the attention of local fashion designers, who have developed a distinct couture out of Hablon, that has made its way into several fashion houses in the United States, Singapore, Hongkong, and the United Kingdom. Later in 2003, a financial grant from the British Embassy was approved for the Hablon weaving development project, thru the endorsement by Senator Loren Legarda, an avid Hablon patroness.
These events reawakened the Miagaowanons’ interest on their nearly- abandoned local heritage and once again, the sales of Hablon products have increased impressively, benefiting more families who started to depend on weaving for their basic needs. The Hablon will make its appearance this year in the most upscale and trendy part of Tokyo, the Omote-sando district. This fabric will be shown to an international audience transformed to Filipiniana dress in different periods of the Philippine History. The Moda and Kultura Fashion show will feature hablon Filipinianas during the Spanish period (1521-1898), the American Period (1898-1946) and modern times. The humble hablon like its country of origin indeed has come a long way.