Zamboanga: Yakan Weavers of Basilan

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A Yakan weaver doing her magic

A Yakan weaver doing her magic

It’s sad what Basilan had come to in recent days. In truth, there is more to the island than its wars. Basilan is home to the Yakan Tribes, also known as one of the finest weavers in our country. They have also become a victim of war, thus many of them have to move to neighboring areas of the Zamboanga Peninsula and abandon their homes in Basilan.


Doing the hand work

Doing the hand work

The Yakans are a land bound people in contrast to their Badjao counterparts. They live through farming rice, corn and other root crops. Aside from that they are known to weave the most intricate designs in their clothes, purses and other accessories, much like their other Mindano co-tribe the Tboli at Lake Sebu.

Weaving the intricate designs

Weaving the intricate designs

Both the Tbolis and Yakans takes weeks to finish a meter of weaved cloth and skills and knowledge are passed down from one generation to another. The difference here is that the Yakans, when weaving their clothes also incorporate the design along with it. Using both fine abaca strands and pineapple fibers along with herbal extracts and tree barks for dying numerous colors for their designs.

Another yakan weaver

Another yakan weaver

A Yakan weaver must exercise patience especially when working with intricate patterns. A simple square pattern can take a couple of days or so. That’s why a Yakan Weaved cloth are also sought after around the world is due to its fine and durable craftsmanship. I can attest to this inspecting them myself and bought some items like a bag and a small coin purse and found its make to be really tough.

Various yakan weaved designs

Various yakan weaved designs

It’s fortunate the Yakans were able to take with them their culture and art outside their homeland of Basilan. Most of them now live in a Yakan Weaving Village in Zamboanga. Honestly it was a bit tricky finding them, even our local jeepney driver guide wasn’t sure where it was. But through persistence and asking around we found the so called weaving village just a few kilometers passing by the Zamboanga Boulevard. I’m not even sure if this is the real village but they are Yakans alright with several houses there and souvenir shops.

Yakan Weaving being sold

Yakan Weaving being sold

At the village you could actually see how the weaving are being done. And of course several authentic Yakan Souvenir items can be bought there, from table cloths, bags, purses, multi-purpose containers. Prices are a bit high like a weaved shoulder bag for women around 300 above. But I think it’s cheaper than buying at stores here. But coin purses goes around 10pesos to 20 pesos. Very reasonably priced.

47 comments on “Zamboanga: Yakan Weavers of Basilan

  1. lawstude on

    you are right ferdz, i feel really sorry for what most of us perceived about Basilan. I really wanted to go there myself but my friends discourage me to go there, at least at this time. Anyways, nice post – as always.

    Reply
  2. Toe on

    Ang ganda!

    Funny how there are similarities between Cambodia and the Philippines… the weavers here are also marvellous. And I think the designs are quite similar.

    I hope that this tradition continues.

    Reply
  3. rayts on

    ang lufet nung first shot, Ferdz. astig. Weavers are really amazing. Lahat pinapagana nila, creativity, handwork, concentration, etc. It’s fulfilling enough to watch them, how much more to actually see them finish a whole work of art.

    Reply
  4. dodong flores on

    Wow, galing, Ferdz!
    I like most especially the first photo. Napaka-strong ng leading lines… Of course, all photos are good, though…
    Sana makapunta din ako sa mga lugar na ito na napuntahan mo na…

    Reply
  5. barrycade on

    this is another good showcase of Pinoy artistry.

    and thanks to your post because i saw a refreshing side to Basilan beyond all the conflict.

    i wonder: if people in Basilan were to design a pattern based on its current milieu, would it look dark and divergent or vibrant, multihued, and solid, like their very own spirits that refuse to give up despite all of the struggles?

    Reply
  6. verns on

    Hi Ferdz..newbie here.

    Anyway those are really beautiful. I own coin purses similar to that…just don’t know if it’s from there.

    Export is a growing industry. The government should give support to these people.

    Reply
  7. bw on

    very colorful carpets :) I always thought that the smaller fingers one has, the faster the carpet is woven, hence the accusation of child labor re the carpet weavers in the Middle East. Man, the hard manual way of doing it still yields incredible results :)

    Reply
  8. Desire on

    iyakan be iyan..bag mag hinang-hinang asal pina hap iyan..gey siye iyan meghinang bang cincai..maka aseh hadja siye manjari Victim politik duk bonoh..kami kaum iyakan tattap esseb kami bangsa kamihin bisan kami si intag..long life Iyakan!!

    Reply
  9. Sarifa on

    Hi to ALL! Thanks Ferdz for taking the lead to SHOW the magnificent HAND WEAVING craftmanship of OUR TRIBE YAKAN. As i am reading the captions of your pics and passing thru the comments of our fellow filipinos, I am surprise about their impressions on our hand weaving products. Hand weaving is a heirloom passed on from one generetion to another. Honestly speaking, only few of our young generation today knew how to weave. Our Yakan Village in Zamboanga is our only visible hope on the faith of this craftmanship. Same with our hope to those tourists who are supposed to visit our village and buy our handmade products but threatened by their INSURANCE company and Embassy NOT TO GO because of the peace and order situations of the city…. Tourist is our inspiration, we weave finest, intricate, colorful, unpatterned cloth in the hope of bringing our unique ALLAH’s (GOD) given talent to the world, without them, im afraid, that maybe someday the anxiousness of keeping this craftmanship will unnoticely die. I AM A YAKAN, my husband and my family. We know what is this to us. In times of adversity, I know one must stand and take the lead to expand and bring this out of our old context as our local government right now is taking the lead on sending us to participate on trade fairs and expo to bring our local products across the region while I am taking the lead to bring this around the world. To fellow filipinos, you can find these products available at ebay.ph with our store name bidnbuyalot. Or simply visit our site http://www.zambobartergoods.multiply.com…Thanks….LONG LIFE IYAKAN!

    Reply
  10. Alfred on

    This product is an export quality, the government should recognized these unique and reliable products, and should be supported by the DOT. Mabuhay Yakans!!! Wow Basilan!!!

    Reply
  11. thepinaysolobackpacker on

    the 1st photo Ferdz, yan yung nakita ko. :) I’m still in Zambo now kase, gus2 ko puntahan kaso my sakit ako. toinks. mukhang babalikan ko nlng yan. lage kang page 1 sa Google sa mga research ko sa Zambo, Basilan at Tawi-Tawi ah! :)

    Reply
  12. siti on

    Hello I’m a fashion design student and i all be doing a thesis about the yakan. Do u know how to reach the yakan weavers and how to go their?

    Reply

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