WEAVING HISTORY: The Women Weavers of Datu Danwata
Ask Mindanao anthropologists, weaving or cloth-making is a huge part of the culture of many of our indigenous people. It is an art, an expression of history and dreams translated int a tapestry of thread and colors.
In Davao City, the Bagobo subgroups – Klata and Tagabawa- vied over who can make the most colorful clothing and accessories thus starting the fashions wars of pre-Spanish Davao City.
Few hours away from the city, to the tiny town of Malita in the Province of Davao Occidental, live the Tagakaolos, who have recently made headlines for their unique designs and intricate beading.
The women of the Datu Danwata Weavers Association have skills in weaving, embroidery and beadwork that have been passed on for generations.
“We could not remember who started it but it has been our tradition long before. We have inherited it from our ancestors,” Bae Lita Danwata Labis, one of the leaders and descendant of the tribal chieftain after whom their community is named, said in Bisaya.
Bae Lita explained that their designs are based on their surroundings as well as things that the tribe have experienced.
The tradition of weaving is kept alive because of the Tagakaolos’ belief that preserving it and bringing it into the modern age will bring them abundance.
“Habit na namo, nadala namo, naay history, naay butang nga gikan sa ila (ancestors) , daghan grasya, maghatag ug swerte (Its has been our habit which we’ve gotten used to, it has history and materials from our ancestors),” Bae Lita said adding that it is also her personal experience.
The women weavers recently joined “One Thread, One Color, One Vision – A Davao Design World Premiere” for Davao Icon 2019, organized by the Davao Fashion Design Council. With the vigorous support Malita First Lady Jean Seekins Bautista, they also collaborated with top designers Dodjie Batu and Aztec Barba for their collection displayed during the fashion show.
Bae Lita said that garments and accessories shown during the exhibit were authentic and inherited and were therefore priceless.
“Dili gyud namo to ibaligya. Swerte to siya sa amo ang namana nga gamit (We will never sell those. Those heirlooms bring us luck),” she said.
Currently, the Datu Danwata Weavers Association are training a group of young men and women in the art of loom.
Bae Lita said there is a deep sense of respect for the artisans in their tribe.
“Ang mga tigulang, dili pwede agian. Mga biya, talented women, commands respect. Ilang kahibalo, sila ra naa. (The elders are being given respect. They are noble talented women who holds knowledge)” she said.
Through their art, the weavers hope to connect not only with their own people but with those outside their communities.
“Unta mutangkilik sa binuhat sa tribong Tagakaolo. Maila pa ni ug mapadayon.”
(We hope they patronize our products and that the art of the Tagakaolos will be known and will be carried on.”)