Wear it with pride. Filipino textiles are on the rise.
Philippine textiles and century-old traditional embroidery techniques are experiencing a resurgence following the rise in popularity of local designers incorporating them from shirts, gowns, skirts, and even bags.
Knowing that these age-old traditions continue to be passed on, and seeing a new generation of Filipinos wearing our heritage with pride, one cannot help but feel nationalistic and maybe even hopeful.
Balik Batik, a store based in Liloan, Cebu, has carved a steady following among netizen for their pieces that incorporates handwoven Filpino fabrics like the “Birey-Birey” and the “Tennun” from the Yakan ethnic group of Basilan, Hablon de Argao of Cebu, “Ramit” by the Mangyan tribe in Mindoro.
“Through our clothing line, we like to educate people on slow fashion, sustainable, and responsible consumerism,” said Balik Batik’s proprietor Veronica Baguio.
Born and raised in Cebu, Baguio said that she learned about these fabrics during her time as an AB Psychology student in Ateneo de Manila. She said she always wanted to purchase these fabrics from local brands but these were out of her budget.
“But masabtan ra nako (But I understand them) since these designs and fabric takes time to create and the people put a lot of effort into it,” she said in a phone interview with CDN Digital.
It was not until early this year, around March, in one of her trips during work, when she came across a batik blazer and other traditional Filipino textile items.
“Nag tweet ra ko (I tweeted) asking my friends if they were interested, then it somehow went viral, and realized that there are actually many Filipinos, mostly mga (those) young once who are interested in these local fabrics,” She said.
“This allowed me to share modern clothing that incorporates traditional fabric,” she added.
Fabrics colorful as life
Like the many tribes in the country, Baguio said that these fabrics shares a colorful meaning that reflects their tradition and their way of life.
The Yakan tribe’s designs are inspired by the natural landscape that surrounds the Lamitan, Basilan. These fabrics can be easily distinguished from their geometric patterns and the bold choice of hues that are mostly made from pineapple and abaca fibers.
Their T’Boli hand-embroidered blazers showcase wave-like patterns that narrate the story of the tribe’s relationship between nature and spirits.
Their Binakul pieces, made by weavers in Abra, consists of lines that are woven to create the illusion of curves and volumes— depicting a sense of motion.
These fabrics only prove they (our ancestors) have a very colorful way of life and we like to share a piece of their traditions through our pieces.
And while marrying modern cut with traditional embroidery may seem like a challenge, Baguio is grateful to her pool of designers and weavers who are always supportive of her mission to educate Filipinos about our culture and heritage through Balik-Batik.
Paring them up
Part of Balik Batik’s mission besides spreading awareness on traditional Philippine embroidery is to eliminate the stigma that “Traditional Philippine Clothing” can only be worn during special events like weddings or on prestigious gatherings.
Their Ilusyon Blazer Pieces— made with circular or linear designs in colors Black and Blue, can be worn with any semi-fitted jeans and a plain colored shirt.
For the shoes, men opt for sneakers while the ladies can go for heals for a more classy and modern look.
Balik Batik’s “Makinang” collection, available in midnight blue and deep pink, can be worn as formal wear for work or as a casual ensemble when you’re drinking with your gals.
Girls who wear matching tops and bottoms can match this sleek tailored blazer. Midnight blue and deep pink is neutral enough to pair it with any color with your inners. For a softer look, try pairing them with a long floral skirt.
The “Dagmay” collection, on the other hand, is a suit made with intricate symmetrical patterns that depict the beliefs of the Mandaya Ethic Group in Davao Oriental.
Make this your smart casual look by wearing a plain white shirt as your inner and pair with slacks or semi-fitted jeans to complete your office look. A watch and a shade can also be worn for a touch of class.
They also have a custom made Pencil Skirt made from Yakan handwoven fabric that you can pair with something lacy or ruffled or a sheer top to complete your look.
Drawing the line
In the spirit of supporting local fashion responsibly, one challenge Baguio experiences is where to draw the line between cultural appreciation and cultural appropriation.
While millennials are quick to post on social media things that pique their interest, the use of Philippine textiles is intricate and has a rich heritage that goes beyond tradition.
“While incorporating them in modern cuts in fashion is one way of promoting our culture, we always have to remember that dili tanan (not all) designs magamit (can be used) for commercial purposes and that is our challenge,” said Bagiuo.
Apart from doing their research, one other way to avoid this is to consult the community on which patterns are and are not sacred.
“Whenever we have design concepts, we always consult the community to avoid misinterpretation. That way we establish good relationships with one another,” she said.
Baguio’s nationalism also brought her to support certain causes that affect people’s day-to-day lives, and she does not hesitate on supporting and voice-out these causes through her brand.
Last June, Balik Batik created a #Pride Line using Kantarines, a type of indigenous textile from Abra to bring the PRIDE colors alive. All proceeds from the line were donated to the Home of the Golden Gays, a non-profit organization that takes care of LGBTQ+ Lolas and Lolo who have no families to look after them.
“There is so much diversity in our fabrics, and we need to showcase them in any way we can,” she said.
“Through our pieces, I want to focus on educating people about the past that there is something in history that we can come back too— Balik Balik in Cebuano, Balik Batik our brand,” said Baguio.