Off the southern part of Vigan City lies the town of Caoayan. Here, we witnessed how locals turn colorful strands of cloth into something beautiful. Painstakingly, they weave these by hand, turning simple yarns into something intricately beautiful; to an abel, Ilocos province’s traditional woven product.
Every Ilocano worth his salt has an abel somewhere in his house; the fabric being an intrinsic part of their lives. From birth, they are wrapped in abel blanket. During their weddings, they wear dresses made from abel. Even in death, they are again wrapped in a blanket made of the same material.
Loom weaving is not unique in the Ilocos Region, but what separates it from the rest of the country is the nature of material they use in producing it. The yarns are made from cotton and dyed from the sap of a plum called sagut. These are abundant on the lands north of Luzon.
Vigan City is one of the few places where abel weaving is still being practiced. The areas of Barangay Camangaan, Mindoro and San Pedro still have loom weavers that still make this traditional fabric, selling them mostly as souvenirs for tourists at Calle Crisologo and at the public Market.
The abel, however, goes back to the Pre-Colonial Era where ladies were once required to know how to weave looms. Believe it or not, these products were even bartered for gold and are sometimes used to pay for taxes. Its quality was so good, it managed to threaten Spain’s textile industry.
So what were we doing in Caoayan instead of Vigan? Well, it just so happens that the loom weaving house in the area was quite near to where we were gonna have our lunch, so why not check them out too.
To get to the A. Quitoriano Loom Weaving, we wended through narrow alleys, dodging dogs and chickens, before arriving at a humble weaving quarters.
The place is packed with wooden weaving apparatuses click-clacking through strands of abel materials; their pedal-frame looms all looking rough and hand-made. It was heartening to see that the craft is not limited to old folks; I can also see young weavers clacking their way through throngs of colorful strands.
Unlike the patadyong weaving industry in Antique, their process in making an abel somewhat differs. It starts by starching the threads, and then you spool, warp and beam the them before heddling and weft winding. The only one we were able to witness is the last part which is the actual weaving. One can just imagine the amount of manual labor that goes to every square inch of an abel fabric.
And the surprising part is, even with such intricate process, their prices are amazingly affordable.
Before going, everyone bought something from their store. A face towel cost a mere Php15.00, a floor mat Php40.00. A full abel blanket only goes for Php400.00. It might be that these are warehouse prices, but still, I was almost tempted to give a few more pesos, knowing how hard and how long each inch of that fabric takes to produce.
A. Quitoriano Loom Weaving
Address: Near Flores St., Naguilian, Caoayan, Ilocos Sur
Contact Number: (077) 722 6210
Open Hours: 9:00am to 5:00pm
Entrance Fee: Free
GPS Coordinates Map: 17°33'16.2"N 120°23'37.5"E