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.

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Ferdz
Ferdz Decena is an award-winning travel photographer, writer and blogger. His works has found print in publications such as Singapore Airlines’s Silver Kris, Philippine Airlines’ Mabuhay, Cebu Pacific’s Smile and Seair InFlight. He has also lent his expertise to various organizations like the Oceana Philippines, Lopez Group Foundation, Save the Children and World Vision, contributing quality images for their marketing materials.