Tourism Promotions Board of the Philippines Conducts Community Based Tourism Workshop for Weavers in Ilocos Norte


Unbeknownst to many, the Tourism Promotions Board of the Philippines (TPB), the marketing arm of the Department of Tourism (DOT), has been conducting workshops on marketing enhancement with community-based tourism (CBT) stakeholders from several communities nationwide.

Some of the CBT participants with TPB's Alberto Gadia Jr.

The most recent CBT training took place in San Nicolas, Ilocos Norte, on October 11–12, just prior to the 12th Annual Regional Travel Fair held at Robinsons Place in the same municipality. The Sola Hotel served as the venue for the two-day workshop that brought together weavers from all across Ilocos Norte.

Apple Allison conducting the two-day TPB CBT workshop

The discussion included a variety of subjects designed to teach stakeholders from local weaving communities how to broaden the reach of their creations in order for active weavers to enhance their revenue while also conserving their tradition.

Dara Roa
Members of the media covering the CBT workshop expressing amazement at the Inabel creations of the weavers from Ilocos Norte

Aside from holding workshops, such as this one for inabel weavers, where valuable information about branding, marketing, product development, social media presence, pricing, and more was shared, the TPB always donated livelihood starter kits to each community so that they can quickly ramp up production and apply their new knowledge gained from the workshop.

Intricate patterns and colorful appearance of the Inabel

Apple Allison, a brand builder and idea accelerator who was one of three speakers invited by TPB to lead the workshop, believes the two-day gathering succeeded in providing a good opportunity for the weavers to learn how to price their creations strategically, so that their handcrafted products can be valued more for their skill and creativity than for the traditional labor fee based on yard/per output or the minimum daily wage.

A weaver from one of the weaving communities we visited

Allison also expressed amazement at the Inabel woven creations, that if provided with a sound marketing plan, it will surely attract a wider market not only in the Philippines but those from foreign markets. “They can weave intricate patterns even without seeing the front side of the textile”, she said. “This is the first time I've seen that kind of weaving process na nakabaliktad un latag, kung baga un likod na part ang nakikita ng weaver  at hindi un front yet they can still weave the pattern on point, hindi nagkakamali. For me, grabe un brain energy”, Allison added.

A sample of a product packaging from one of the weaving communities

Inabel is derived from the Ilocano word "Abel," which means "weave”. The Inabel fabric, which is uniquely Ilocano in origin, is made of cotton and can be plain or patterned. The softness, exquisite patterning, and strength of abel fabric are well known and much liked.

Mech display at the RTF Ilocos from the Lumbaan Weavers

Ilocos weavers use a range of pattern types to weave on hardwood pedal looms. Designs are developed for a variety of purposes, one of the most prominent being Kusikok / Kusikos, which is made up of swirling and whirlwind shapes, is customarily believed to protect the wearer from evil spirits.

TPB’s Nationwide CBT Programs

This writer has personally witnessed the Tourism Promotions Board of the Philippines’ CBT endeavors in several places already. Some examples include the marketing and proper management of five ecotourism sites in Sagay, Negros Occidental, another series of marketing enhancements workshops for different communities in Buhi, Camarines Sur, Iloilo City and Capiz, just to name a few.

During a break in the workshop

This latest CBT stop in Ilocos Norte will not only help promote the fine art of inabel weaving, but it will also help weaving communities take more control of their creations by properly marketing, pricing, and developing their products, such as bridging traditional designs to modern uses, such as incorporating inabel cloth into fashion clothes, accessories, shoes, and more, rather than just focusing on common items like table runner, tablecloth and curtains.

Showroom of Abel Paoay

“I love witnessing the spark of joy and excitement in their eyes with renewed fire in their heart for the craft that they do while learning new things — especially after doing the interactive activities as part of the CBT workshop” Allison said.

Radine Brito
You can find GAMABA awardee Lola Magdalena here

After the two-day workshop, the 12th Regional Travel Fair started in nearby Robinsons Mall where the weavers were given a prime space for them to showcase their creations. According to some of the weavers we talked to, the showcase was a success as countless mall goers were able to buy many of their displayed creations while others ordered customized inabel cloth of several sizes and varying designs.

Meeting a National Living Treasure

It is quite rare to be graced by the presence of a National Living Treasure. The following day of the program, this writer accompanied other media writers on a tour of actual weaving centers in several communities in Ilocos Norte. One of them is located in the town of Pinili. We met Lola Magdalena Gamayo, who, at 99 years old, is still carrying on the legacy of inabel weaving while also passing it on to the next generation.

GAMABA awardee Lola Magdalena Gamayo

Lola Magdalena, a GAMABA (Gawad sa Manlilikha ng Bayan) awardee since 2012, is one of only 16 Filipino artisans to receive this recognition. Lola Magdalena, who is looking to become the first centenarian National Living Treasure next August, is passing on the inabel heritage to younger weavers by participating in a series of workshops here at the Pinili Inabel Center in Nueva Era, Ilocos Norte.

Marky Ramone Go
Selfie with Lola Magdalena

As Lola Magdalena approaches her 100th birthday, the craft of inabel weaving looks forward to another century of being a major part of the Ilocos region's arts and cultural scene — and with the public's support, it will undoubtedly be.

Photos 2, 3 & 4 courtesy of Uno Adventures