[PARTNER] Show ‘Em What Weave Got

Designs of Renee Salud (Photo courtesy of the Philippine Embassy, Rome)

Native Philippine fibers will be the stars of “Fibre Filippine (Piña-Abaca-Banana) Go to Rome” on October 17, 18-20 at the Aranciera di San Sisto, Via Valle delle Camene 11, hosted by the Philippine Embassy in Rome, in cooperation with the European Network of Filipinos in Diaspora (ENFiD).

Filipino designers famous for their creative use of native fibers will showcase the exports’ uniqueness and versatility for the benefit of the European textile market and fashion industry: Anthony Cruz Legarda; Dita Sandico-Ong; Renee Salud and Patis Tesoro as well as Jaki Peñalosa and Twinkle Ferraren. 



Philippine abaca or Manila hemp is extracted from the stalk of the plant scientifically known as Musa Textilis Nee, specifically from the outer covering of the leaf sheath. It is considered the strongest of natural fibers, being three times stronger than cotton and two times stronger than sisal fibers. It is far more resistant to salt water decomposition, making it suitable for rope and cordage manufacture. It can also substitute for wood pulp in the manufacture of a general line of paper products, a usage that could contribute immensely to the conservation of the world’s diminishing forest resources.

Abaca (Photo courtesy of the Philippine Embassy, Rome)


Philippine piña fiber is extracted from the leaves of the pineapple plant, Ananas Comosus (Linn) Merr. The plant, particularly the native or “Red Spanish” variety, has leaves that yield excellent fibers for hand weaving.

Pineapple fiber is considered to be more delicate in texture than any other vegetable fiber. About 60 cm. long, white and creamy and lustrous as silk, it easily takes and retains dyes. It has been processed into paper of remarkable thinness, smoothness and pliability.

Piña was brought to the Philippines by the Spaniards, and with the Franciscan Decree of 1580, piña cloth weaving as well as embroidery was encouraged, honing the natives’ skills and talents.

Piña cloth weaving reached its peak of perfection in the late 18th century when it became one of the most sought after hand-woven materials. It was known for being suitable for the tropical climate. It is unique and offered the most feminine and refined look during the age of elegance and romanticism. 

Piña (Photo courtesy of the Philippine Embassy, Rome)


When the Spaniards arrived in Panay in the 1560s, they found the weaving industry in the island, particularly in Iloilo, already well established. They also observed that the province was producing a great quantity of cotton and other textiles for the local market. The observation was later confirmed by other European travelers, such as the Italian Giovanni Careri and the German Feodor Jagor.

Hablon is derived from the Hiligaynon word habol, meaning to weave and, therefore, refers both to the process and the finished products. 

Iloilo’s hablon industry was concentrated in Jaro, Molo, Arevalo and Mandurriao, but other towns like Miag-ao, Tigbauan, Sta. Barbara and Janiuay were also noted for weaving, especially the patadyong, the common wear of women at the time. Indicative of the remarkable development of the hablon industry was the observation made in 1857 by Nicholas Loney, British vice-consul in Iloilo, of the festive market fairs held at the different towns where native-made clothes were sold in abundance. He also noted the great number of looms in the province at the time, which reached about 60,000.

Sinamay is another word used to identify the industry and is taken from the Hiligaynon term samay, which means to weave by hand. Sinamay products are of hand-woven textile materials, which are expensive because of the long and tedious process.

Sinamay is made of pure piña or mixed with silk imported from China. The coarser fabrics, on the other hand, were woven from cotton, abaca and maguey fibers. The greater part of the piña and mixed piña, silk and cotton fabrics were used for shirts for men and short jackets or blouses for women. 

T'nalak (Photo courtesy of the Philippine Embassy, Rome)


T’nalak (tehnalak) is a purely hand-woven fabric originating from and solely produced by the T’boli mountain tribe. Using the centuries-old traditional backstrap loom weaving method, t’nalak is made from specially processed abaca fibers and tie-dyed with natural coloring agents derived from roots, barks, leaves and fruits. 

Over 100 traditional designs have been conceptualized through dreams and “visitations,” which, according to T’boli legend, render the dreamer speechless and deaf until the design is fully captured. A ten-yard t’nalak takes between 60 to 120 days to process depending on the intricacies of the patterns. 

After the Second World War, t’nalak was made for clothing, dowry/bride price and as special offering to the “earth spirits.” It also serves as both literature and art with the T’boli expressing their dreams, beliefs, myths and even their religion in their woven t’nalak. 


Abaca, banana and other Philippine native fibers including t’nalak will be featured in “Fibre Filippine (Piña-Abaca-Banana) Go to Rome,” October 17, 18-20 at the Aranciera di San Sisto, Via Valle delle Camene, 11, organized by the Philippine Embassy in Rome. 



Fondly called “Mama Renee” by top Filipino models and beauty queens he has mentored, Salud has been on the Philippine fashion scene since 1975. He is known for his ingenious use of indigenous Philippine fabrics such as abaca, jusi and other native weaves. 

Renee Salud (Photo courtesy of the Philippine Embassy, Rome)

He has staged fashion shows all over the world—New York, Paris, Tokyo, Milan, Los Angeles and Sydney—featuring Filipiniana-inspired cocktail dresses, formal wear, wedding gowns and barongs. 

His designs have received top recognition in international pageants, earning him the title of “Philippine Ambassador of Fashion.” 

His recent project was “Renee Salud: In Focus” at the Ramada Plaza Hotel in Newark, New Jersey, where he showcased 50 of his creations for the fundraiser organized by Red Lantern Ventures LLC in cooperation with the Philippine Consulate General in New York.


Beatriz “Patis” Pamintuan Tesoro is famous for her exquisitely embroidered and beaded piña gowns, colorful hand-painted barongs as well as for her creative use of indigenous Filipino materials such as abaca, abel tiniri, Mindanao silk and piña. 

Patis Tesoro (top row, fourth from left) with volunteers at the Philippine International Aid fashion show fundraiser "Holiday Haute Couture XI" (Source: Philippine International Aid, photo by Sampat Photos)

Dubbed the “Grand Dame of Philippine Fashion,” Patis inherited her love for fashion from her mother, Nena Poblador Fabella de Pamintuan who owned a dress shop that catered to family friends. 

During the term of then President Ferdinand E. Marcos, Patis set out to save the piña, a hand-woven fiber derived from dried pineapple leaves. She focused on reviving piña clothing production and began lobbying to local officials in Visayas to set up courses to train the next generation of piña weavers.

Years later, she was tapped to head the Katutubong Filipino Foundation (KFF), which revitalized ethnic arts and craft. She also expanded her business to include designing homes, landscaping and gardening.

Patis Tesoro's designs at the Philippine International Aid fashion show fundraiser "Holiday Haute Couture XI" (Source: Philippine International Aid, photo by Sampat Photos)

In one of her latest projects, a fundraiser for the restoration and development of the Cathedral of St. Paul the First Hermit in San Pablo City, Laguna, she held a two-part show, featuring her beautiful traditional and avant-garde Filipiniana ternos (ball gowns), donned by 65 prominent society women.

“Patis Tesoro’s creations are the perfect embodiments of Filipino elegance, exquisitely blending a touch of antiquity with contemporary design and execution. Her penchant for the use of indigenous materials, particularly of the piña fabric, revives the sense of pride in being a Filipino,” says Rustan’s Commercial Corporation president, Zenaida Tantoco.


Known as the “Wrap Artiste” of the Philippines, Fernandina “Dita” Sandico-Ong started her career with the creative use of inabel from Ilocos Sur and piñalino or pineapple fibers blended with Irish linen. 

Dita Sandico-Ong (Photo courtesy of the Philippine Embassy, Rome)

Later on, her creativity led her to focus on local fibers, particularly, abaca, which is very abundant in the Philippines. Weaver and entrepreneur Virgilio Apanti introduced her to the abaca produced by Tupas ng Baras Multipurpose Cooperative in Baras, Catanduanes. Since then Dita has worked with this cooperative, training them in natural dye extraction and advanced weaving techniques for abaca.

She shaped and reshaped the abaca, until she came up with wraps and drapes that follow the movements of the body. She recycled the scraps by making them into visors, tiny scarves and pouches.

One of Dita Sandico-Ong's famous wraps (Source: Philippine International Aid)

At present, her designs are sold in Takashimaya in Japan, the Banyan Tree Resorts in Thailand and high-end shops in Singapore. 

She also holds fashion shows to promote her wraps, the most recent of which were held in Amsterdam, Paris, Berlin, Abu Dhabi and Dubai.

Her collection includes the Mariposa line (modified wrap around panuelo [kerchief]), mori (the long banaca (banana and abaca) tunic with slit armholes), mira (with pleated fabric) and mira nila (bolero/jacket).


Filipino-American designer and textile technologist Anthony Cruz Legarda made a name in the fashion world for his creative use of authentic hand-woven fabrics and ethnic cloths from the Philippines in American apparel.

Anthony Cruz Legarda (Photo courtesy of the Philippine Embassy, Rome)

Following his design philosophy called “fusion artwear,” he uses local fabrics like piña and Philippine silk, which are woven, embellished and dyed with natural pigments by the hands of local craftsmen from Aklan, Laguna, Abra and Iloilo. 

His recent engagements include: participation in the fundraiser fashion shown “Land of the Morning, Treasures of the Philippines” at the San Francisco Craft and Folk Art Museum, “Various Aspects of Filipino Textile” at the Asian Art Museum of San Francisco, “Estilo Filipiniana Fashion Show” at the Queens Museum of Art in New York and “Danzfabrique Theatre Fashion Show” during the New York Fashion Week Spring-Summer 2011. 

One of Anthony Cruz Legarda's designs (Photo courtesy of the Philippine Embassy, Rome)

He was also applauded for his designs for the top eight finalists of the Miss Earth Pageant held in Manila and for his contribution in the San Francisco Week at the World Expo in Shanghai.

He is currently part of the Katutubong Filipino Foundation and continues to partner with the Philippine Textile Research Institute to develop innovative Philippine fabrics transform into authentic hand-woven works of art.


Ilongga fashion designer Jaki Peñalosa came from a family of weavers of hablon and piña. In the 1970s, her family opened a business called Philippine Handicrafts and Embroideries, which specialized in Philippine handicrafts and shell crafts. In the 1980s they started to export embroidered caftans to Nigeria’s elite families, and some products to the United States.

Jaki Peñalosa (Source: iloilothenextbigthing.blogspot.com)

Jaki, the fourth among seven children, helped the family business as a designer. She convinced her mother to open a ready-to-wear (RTW) line, where she could introduce her own designs. 

Later on, she opened Kayumanggi Embroideries, later renamed Kayumanggi Designs, and hablon became her textile of choice.

She is a founding member of the Designers Guild of Iloilo and runs a showroom of her hablon collections on the ground floor of Robinsons Place Iloilo. 

Designs of Jaki Peñalosa (Photo courtesy of the Philippine Embassy, Rome)


For more information on Fibre Filippine, please contact: 

Vice Consul Margret Malang
The Philippine Embassy, Rome 
Viale delle Medaglie D’Oro 112-114, Rome 00136, Italy 

Tel: +39 06 807 2546
Fax: +39 06 3974 0872