CULTURE is the way of life of a group of people. Long before 1571, the inhabitants of the Philippines already had their own distinctive culture and identity, as seen from their clothing and manner of dressing. The Ilocanos had their Abel, Balindang, and Binancal; the Pangasinenses their Sapuey, Salampoy, and Carranglan; the Tagalogs their Hilis-calamay, Barong Tagalog, and Baro’t Saya; the Bicolanos their Hablon nin Dauani, Patadyong, Quinansignao, and Bangcodo; the Visayans their Jusi and Piña cloths; the Moros their Malong; the Bagobos their Dagmay; the Bilaans their Tinadyon; the T’nalak, their Tapis, saya-saya, etc. These are the many names of attire used by the various groups of inhabitants in the country. These attire vested each of them a distinctive identity. Their native names reveal that Philippine dresses and attires were distinctly indigenous to the country.
Philippine native cloths have many distinctive features. First are their motifs. They are mnemonic signs whose meanings are known only to the wearer and to his community. Among the Igorots, the number of stripes in his blanket indicate his status in the community; the more stripes, the richer and more influential the person. Among the Tausugs, a man’s pis (headgear), is woven by the man himself. No two pis are alike. The blanket has many meanings. It could serve as a source of security for the children, symbolizes the mother’s womb, or is a widow’s cloth to comfort her in her sorrow. The colors of the native dresses indicate the social status of the wearer. In pre-colonial times, only the Maguinoo or noble class wore multicolored and richly decorated dresses. Nobody could wear a red cloth as headdress – only a warrior. And white cloth was used to cover the corpse of a dead person.
Philippine dresses and attire display the many faces of Philippine life and society. Their varied names, motifs, meanings, and uses reveal not just the rich tapestry of our people’s lives but also their histories and traditions.
We celebrate “Linggo ng Kasuotang Pilipino” every second week of the month of September to make our people aware of the meanings and significances of their attire which date back to their forebears. This aspect of their culture is an important feature of their nation’s identity.
Let us preserve our indigenous textile and clothing industry. They are the few remaining vestiges of our native life. They are not only the mirrors of our people’s life but are also the living records of our national history and culture.
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