Nabunturan, the capital of Compostela Valley, is recognized for its high-quality handicrafts made from woven abaca fabric. Because of its popularity, the province established the Cooperative Handicraft Industry of Nabunturan (CHAIN) to institutionalize the abaca handicraft industry.
Today, there are only four weavers left and Chad Arellano, an artist and designer, is hoping to revive this industry.
Weaving the past with the future
Arellano’s interest in the arts started when he was young and he saw the beautifully-crafted mini houses displayed during the Simballay Festival. His barangay showcased the weaves of CHAIN.
Later, when he was a Computer Science student at Saint Mary’s College of Tagum, he had an elective on e-commerce. He said, “we were tasked to create our own e-commerce site. I suggested to a groupmate that [we] highlight [CHAIN] products on our e-commerce site.”
His interest in the weaving culture did not end there. Six months after graduating, he volunteered as a weaver at CHAIN after not getting any responses from the companies he sent his resume to. Arellano called it a humbling experience, as it allowed him to “become a student again, learning baby steps. I was taught what pedals to step on, how to align threads, and how to braid.”
He added, “volunteering taught me patience. Weaving is a painstaking creative process that allows me to contemplate things, [like] that there is beauty in listening to one’s story [and] that beauty can be created with a series of pushes and pulls.”
Following his success as a volunteer, Arellano joined the British Council’s bespoke social enterprise leadership program called Active Citizens: Leaders for Social Impact. He pitched the idea of creating shoes out of abaca. There, he met people who shared the same passion for contributing to nation-building by providing opportunities to communities.
“I started the Pxtch Project with the same idea of reviving the culture of weaving in Nabunturan, which CHAIN pioneered. The cottage industry has always been a home to me since I started learning the weaving process. I think it’s time that I strongly advocate for its revival, by producing items that could easily carry the message that I’m trying to send across,” Arellano shared.
He started The Pxtch Project, a line of clothing that proudly displays the weaving culture of Nabunturan. According to Arellano, it’s “our own way of introducing the CHAIN weaves to the public.”
The brand features t-shirts, polo shirts, and hoodies, all featuring Nabunturan weaves. What makes them even more special is that the pieces come from Arellano’s heart.
“Whenever I got a call for a job interview, one of my staple [outfits] would be a pair of jeans and a plain colored polo shirt. I know, it is not the ‘power dressing’ we were taught at school, but I love how polo shirts give you this humility when facing interviewers,” he shares.
Additionally, the hoodie is a metaphor for his journey as a CHAIN volunteer.
He says, “Volunteering at CHAIN gave me the coziness that a cardigan, a jacket, or a hoodie gives during a rainy day. CHAIN gave me warmth as I traverse around the deep dark thoughts of being unemployed. CHAIN gave me comfort, and what I want to achieve for this collection is to replicate the warmth I felt during the start of my volunteering days, to the future wearer of these hoodies.”
Onward and upward
The dwindling number of local Nabunturanons involved in abaca weaving is alarming. This is especially true when you consider that abaca is considered a vital crop to the Philippine economy.
Arellano thinks that it is because of the laborious and monotonous process. He counters, “younger ones should be able to understand that growth takes a longer time. It [is] more rewarding to immerse oneself in weaving an entire piece [manually].”
This also opens the door to more jobs. Arellano says, “the next generation should take note that supporting local means supporting your own city or municipality. If a thriving community is seen in a certain place, then opportunities will open.”
In order to do this, Arellano advocates for making weaves more accessible to the public. According to him, “fashion has been a commanding force. Fashion should also be a beacon of sustainability. Woven pieces should not be considered statement pieces but rather they should be staple pieces. Weaving is a way of life. To weave is to support life.”
The Pxtch Project
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