Ralfh Andrew D. Dacutin
Along the roads of Sarangani, rise the humble workshop of fine clothing and tapestry. The fine strings of thread woven together to create such beautiful art of rich culture and history. The malong weavers of Malapatan, the Balungis Women, were the creators of this handmade beauty.
With their gentle hands, they wove together the strings of the past creating an heirloom, the memory of their ancestors, Muhnato, the first people of Sarangani.
They have been making malong for as long as they have remembered, it was only in 2009 that the Balungis Women Association was built through the help of the Act for Peace project of the national government, the Department of Labor, Alcantara Foundation, Malapatan Councilor Nassir Suet and USAAID.
They started with only 8 members when the workshop was first built, with an initial capital of 4,000 pesos and 1,000 coils of thread with several Tanunay, the machine used in weaving. Little by little, they started their livelihood as a community. Now with 18 official members, they continue to help other natives to make a living in weaving and to preserving their culture.
They weave malong, shawl, and other textiles. There products have already reached the different countries in the world. They export their product in London, Alaska, Japan, and USA.
Janaria Magangcong, the officiating director of the foundation said that ever since the association was built, their livelihood had improved, they’ve been given a stable source of income and a way to continue their legacy.
“Gikuha kami sa mga taga munisipyo nga para mag weave didto sa Maradiyan Festival,” said Janaria as she tells us the story of the beginning of their association.
“Para lang makatabang sa mga babayi nga walay trabaho, sama sa mga nanay nga sige lag tsismis, dapat diri na lang sila para makatuon pud ang ilahang mga anak, para matudlo pud namon ini sa among mga anak para kung mag retire na mi, naa pud magsunod sa amua,” said Jaraniya as she tells us the goal of their association. They aim for the women of Balungis to share the same objectives to preserving their weaving tradition and pass it on to their children for future generations.
There were also young weavers in the workshop. At a very young age, they were exposed to the tradition of weaving. One of them is Aira Uday, a twelve-year-old girl. At an early age of 7, she started learning the art of weaving through observing her mother as she works. When ask on what was her impression on weaving she said, “Mura lag kog ga dula samtang ga habi ug malong”. Such an honest answer from an innocent child. For her the workshop was her playground. Immersing herself in the rich culture of her ancestors.
The malong is an important garment in the Maguindanaoan culture. It is used in different occasions like weddings and different festivities. When Jaraniya was asked why they pursue weaving, she said that malong weaving is one way to preserve the cultural identity of the Maguindanaoans.
“Amoa na ning panginabuhi ug gikadakan napud namo ni, gusto namon ipadayun hangtud sa mga musunod nga henerasyon,” said Jaraniya.
Like the weaving of malong, every thread is a contribution of each generation, altogether, they are woven to form the garment of their culture, stitched to it the stories of their tradition and lives.