Three-term Senator, now Deputy Speaker Loren Legarda, has always believed in the potential of our culture, our rituals, and our textile industry, and how certain practices, when given ample support, can transform the livelihood of these communities.
Having served as Chair of the Senate Committee on Finance, Legarda has made sure that government agencies that support our textile industry are given an arsenal of means and strategies to support our weaving communities.
Legarda’s vision to have a permanent textile gallery in the country was inspired by her trips to weaving communities in neighboring countries like Vietnam and Laos. These visits eventually prompted her to partner with the National Museum of the Philippines. Through perseverance, the Hibla ng Lahing Filipino: The Artistry of Philippine Textiles was launched in 2012 as the first permanent textile gallery in the country. It houses the National Museum of the Philippines’s extensive textile collection, which features the Abel Iloko from Vigan; Tingguian blanket from Abra; Ga’dang garments from Ifugao; the oldest banton cloth from Romblon; and Maranao garments from Southern Mindanao, to name a few.
As three-term Senator, Legarda authored Republic Act No. 9242 or the Philippine Tropical Fabrics Law, which promotes the country’s natural fabrics through the use of such materials for official uniforms of government officials and employees.
Legarda is likewise the principal sponsor and co-author of the Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises Law. She focused on providing funds for the MSMEs and the communities at the grassroots. Her visits to the communities made her realize that safeguarding our identity and our beliefs—tangible or intangible—is as important as the economic and political affairs of nations. This has led her to establish weaving and cotton processing centers, as well as cotton farms, nationwide. “One is able to empower these small communities for as long as we give them due importance,” Legarda said.
One of the small communities that Legarda has helped is the family enterprise managed by Librada Donato in Namarabar, a remote town in Penarrubia, Abra. They make blankets, shawls, scarves, and beautifully woven textiles. They would personally thank Legarda, while she was Senator, for all the supplies and threads that she had provided. The enterprise of Donato has been consistently participating in another project of the three-term Senator, in partnership with the Department of Trade and Industry, called the National Arts and Crafts Fair.
Legarda has also assisted Angelina and Sammy Buhle, who run a home-based weaving center in Ifugao that specializes in ikat weaving. Sammy Buhle has been chosen as one of the collaborators for the winning curatorial proposal of the Philippine Pavilion at the 59th Venice Art Biennale, with the exhibition titled “All of us present, This is our gathering (Andi taku e sana, Amungtaku di sana).”
Legarda’s home province of Antique, where she currently serves as Congresswoman, has also gained from her steadfast support. For instance, the BagtasonLoomweavers Association in Bugasong now has its own weaving center that she funded through the Philippine Fiber and Development Authority (PhilFida), while the NCCA provided assistance in establishing their own natural dye center.
Even piña weaving in Tibiao, Antique, which started around 2005 but stopped due to lack of demand, was revived through Legarda’s assistance, bringing to life an industry that would otherwise have been considered gone. Apart from participating in the DTI’s National Arts and Crafts Fair (NACF), the weavers from Tibiao were able to showcase their exceptional skills before an international audience when they went to Geneva in Switzerland and Prague in Czech Republic for the Hibla ng Lahing Filipino Travelling Exhibition.
Legarda has always stressed that empowerment is all that these communities need to make sure that their livelihoods are sustainable, especially during these trying times.