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Insights from a Crash Course on the Philippine Textile Industry

September 25, 2012
Department of Clothing, Textile, and Interior Design — College of Home Economics
University of the Philippines, Diliman

Not very many people know much about the Philippine Textile Industry, primarily because 1) it’s not within their field and therefore don’t really seek to know more about it, or 2) it IS within their field but it seems too work-intensive/costly to get into. However, I believe that the status of the Philippine Textile Industry should be a concern for every Filipino.

Thanks to my good friend Kitty, who teaches Clothing Technology at UP, and knows of my interest in the subject (see my posts on weaving/textile) and my desire to really generating more awareness of our textile traditions after my visit to Ock Pop Tok in Laos, I had the privilege of attending the Scanning Philippine Indigenous Textiles forum. For me, it only further validated my belief that every Filipino should know more about it.

Let me share some of the highlights.

UP CTID Dept. Chair Moca Rayala, Mrs. Cecilia Soriano (Fiber Industry Development Authority — FIDA), Ms. Rita Delfin (Philippines Textile Research Institute — PTRI), Ms. Celia Elumba (Garments & Textile Industry Development Office — GTIDO), Mr. Chuck Lazaro (Asia Textile Mills, Inc.), Ms. Lenora Luisa Cabili (Filip + Inna), Ms. Anna Rosario R. Abadesco (Piñagayon: Flora Integrated Farms, Inc., and BS Clothing Tech Faculty and dear friend, Kitty Caragay 🙂

Mrs. Cecilia Soriano, administrator at FIDA, a branch of the DOA that handles all Philippine fibers except cotton, urged guests and students to use materials which are abundant within the country (i.e. abaca – the largest grown AND endemic fiber of the Philippines, whose seeds were stolen and are thus unfortunately being grown elsewhere as well…but we still remain the largest source of this at 80+% — ramie, piña, maguey, kapok, etc.), support local weaving communities, and really integrate the use of Philippine textiles, and therefore, Philippine fibers into everyday wear vs. resorting to foreign RTWs (yes, like Forever 21, Uniqlo and Cotton On).

Ms. Rita Delfin (I’m sorry I didn’t have a picture with your eyes open), supervising science research specialist at PTRI, the lead agency on textile research & development for the DOST, discussed the different technologies on indigenous textiles and encouraged attendees, particularly the Clothing Technology students to research and experiment with the use of sustainable materials to make textiles that are easier to handle.

Ms. Celia Elumba, project manager at the GTIDO, shed some light on the economic perspective of the industry. But the bit of information that stuck with me the most is that while we’re doing “okay” in the garments market, we usually import our textiles for production, therefore losing some potential income by not producing or sourcing our textiles locally instead. She then challenged students and guests to consider the supply chain in the production of garments.

Mr. Chuck Lazaro, vice-president of AsiaTex, one of the few remaining textile mills in the country, enlightened us on the possibilities of textile production in the country. As an OEKOTEX-certified mill, their fabric has been checked for its quality (or consistency), freedom from harmful substances, and production in an eco-friendly environment. They are also able to produce “smart fabric”(UV-protected, fireproof, etc.), though I wonder about the environmental impact of those types of fabric treatment/finishing.

Last to speak were two Clothing Technology graduates, Ms. Lenora Cabili, designer and founder of Filip+Inna, and Ms. Anna Rosario R. Abadesco, designer of Piñagayon, who shared their artistic and nationalistic inspirations for doing the work they do.

After “soul-searching” around Asia from July to September and coming home with the feeling that, while I enjoyed my travels abroad, there is SO MUCH for me learn, discover and share here in the Philippines (which is why I’m taking it up as a personal mission to do extensive local travel next year), I felt like Lenora’s words could not have summed up my feelings better.

“You are in the right country. You have the right nationality. You don’t have to go abroad to find inspiration.”

The forum painted a bright and holistic picture of the potential of improving the Philippine textile industry, and I feel that the UP CHE students were truly privileged to have had such an event organized by their department chair.

And again, the challenge is really not just on manufacturers and designers, but also upon consumers to continuously support the Philippine textile industry by increasing demand for 100% Filipino garments and textiles.

I feel truly fortunate to have attended the forum, since I currently have nothing to do with Philippine textile industry, but feel really strongly about supporting it. Wait for it, people. Kitty and I are coming. 😉

Weaving nationalism,

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