A few weekends ago, the team was given a chance to visit Argao. Although we have been there a few times already and passed by the municipality on the way South, it has been a first time for us to immerse and experience what Argao is all about.
Apart from the three T’s (Torta, Tuba, & Tablea) that Argao is famous for, there is actually a weaving industry that contributes to the rich history of Argao. Many, including a Cebuana like me who has lived in Cebu all my life, are unaware of it.
Hablon originated from the word “habol” which means to cover or wrap oneself from the cold or to protect yourself from mosquito bites. Natives call the woven product “hinablon”, but most of the time, people use the word hablon to refer to the finished product.
Dexter Alazas, a Cebuano fashion designer and social entrepreneur was looking for a certain homegrown fabric way back 2007 when he joined MEGA Young Designers competition in Manila to promote an organic material representing their corresponding province. Alazas wanted to promote more than just the craftsmanship of Cebuanos can do but also the material and components that Cebu has to offer to the global market.
Hablon has always been a present weaving industry all over the Philippines but it was not that popular among Cebuanos. Upon Alazas research, he discovered that some time between 2007 to 2009, the Hablon industry has been shun from the limelight for a long time already.
According to Alazas, Cebu Vice Governor Agnes Magpale was instrumental upon making his connections in Argao. Through Argao Mayor Stanley Caminero who initially talked to Magpale about “Dalaganag Argaoanon” promoting Hablon, he was able to unfold the potential of the industry.
The industry started several centuries ago even before the Spaniards came to the Philippines in 1521. During the colonial period, people described almost all women in the town of Argao as Tejedoras (weavers) or Hiladoras (spinners). The Hinablon is basically a familiar object and apparently a popular trend back then for women to make clothes from.
In making hablon, artisans use different types of fibers such as polyester, abaca, rotex, and tingkal (cotton strands). The skill of weaving is typically passed down from generation to generation, and it is commonly performed in homes.
Weaving hablon is a highly intricate process that demands skills in dexterity, scrutiny, and a great deal of patience, as it is predominantly a manual process. Essentially, a 36-inch hablon is crafted from 900 strands, meticulously woven together.
Maribel Salandron, a Hablon Weaving advocate for more than 20 years has started weaving since she was still 14 years old. According to Salandron, hablon has always been part of her life. It provided her a livelihood and improved her life and her family. She has also shared and passed the skill to her 19 year old daughter.
Through the collaborative ideas coming from the local government unit of Argao, The Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) through its Shared Service Facility (SSF) project was able to fund the weaving industry and provided hablon facility to the women’s weaving community consisting handloom weaving machines at the Cebu Technological University (CTU) Argao campus which paved a way for orders of the hinablon fabric to increase.
According to Alazas, ever since the project has started, the industry has become more progressive. In the past, people used hablon solely for making habol (blankets), labakara (towelettes), and towels. Now, hablon has transformed into a versatile fabric suitable for gifts, decorations, and clothing—a shift that Alazas has actively advocated for.
In fact, he was able to experiment on hablon and made clothes out of it. Alazas strongly believes in supporting local products and giving hablon an opportunity to gain recognition in the global fashion industry originating from Cebu. Therefore, he created the Amano line, a collection of Cebuano-made products, including hablon.
Amano comes from the Spanish term mano meaning done by hand. The fashion line produces ready-to-wear clothing, bags, jewelry, and shoes that originate from Cebu.
Alazas has staged fashion events highlighting Argao’s hablon. These events have attracted orders and increased the awareness of the hablon industry and eventually placed Cebu in the global market as well.
Truly, Hablon has made connections not only through empowering the local women of Argao but also in bringing Cebu forward to the world through fashion and design.
Watch Coach Bong as he explores Argao’s Hablon and learn more about what this intricate industry has to offer in this ConneXion’s 2nd episode: Hablon ConneXions.