In the name of Inaul

For four years, Maguindanaons observed the Sagayan Festival, a celebration of the legendary dance of gallant combating warriors. However, in 2017, the vibrant province shifted the focus of its celebration to a more meaningful cultural icon that weaves the entire region into one unified tapestry and justly depicts the current state of this historic area in Muslim Mindanao with the Inaul Festival.


The inaul, a Maguindanaon term that literally means “weaved”, has never been honored this much in this year’s celebration. Aside from the festival parade, where Maguindanaons wore their inaul fabric with pride, the province is also holding a series of inaul-related events, including the Kapaginaul weaving competition, an inaul gown exhibit, search of the oldest inaul contest, and the annual Inaul Trade Expo this year.

“Before, the word ‘inaul’ was alternately used to refer to the malong (traditional tubular skirt). We resolved to use the word “inaul’ instead to refer to the fabric since malong is just one of its many uses. We want to change people’s perception because there’s more to malong in the inaul,” said Inaul Festival Director Nulfarid “Datu Paul” Ampatuan.


Ampatuan is also tasked by Provincial Governor Esmael “Toto” Mangudadatu to take advantage of the festival to highlight the province’s fabric of pride.



Last year, the province trained trained 180 women on inaul weaving.
“Among the participants, 20% belong to age 20 to 25, with our youngest at age 18. We intentionally want to bring in more young weavers because we want to transfer the technology and appreciation to them. Also, we want to teach them the original design of the inaul since some weavers today have started to adopt their own touches and influences from other fabrics,” he said.




After the training, looming machines and rolls of threads that can produce 10 malongs were given through women organizations in order for the novice weavers to hone their new found skill. The training produced 40 expert weavers across 4 municipalities in Maguindanao with most of them residing in Datu Odin Sinsuat and Sultan Kudarat because of the areas‘proximity to Rio Grande de Mindanao, the second largest river system in the country.
“Through our research, we have identified Barangay Katidtuan in Sultan Kudarat as the possible birthplace of the inaul. We found out that the old people in that area actually knows how to weave inaul. We learned that through the years they navigated the Rio Grande and made it as their highway to reach nearby riverside communities where they taught inaul weaving to the women,” Ampatuan revealed.
In the search for the oldest existing inaul competition, the organizers were able to gather almost a hundred entries, mostly heirloom pieces being loaned to them by some of Maguindanao’s prominent families.
“Based on their synopsis, the oldest inaul that we received so far dates back to the early 1920s. As you can see, it still looks and feel brand new because of the quality of threads that they used during those days,” shared Ampatuan.

The entries will still undergo a process to find out the actual age of the fabrics. “The real objective of this event is really to bring back the original designs of the inaul,” he added,
There are around 20 known original designs of the fabric, including the more popular ones such as the “binaludto” (rainbow), “makabimban” (stripes), “panigabi” (taro), “sinodengan”, “matampuhay-seko”, “kawang” and “sinukipan” and “binaludan” (wave-like).
While inaul is made into other products today, there still restrictions in the use of the fabric depending on its design and traditional role.
“For one, you can’t make them into intimate underwear. It is considered a sacrilege to the fabric and the weavers who made them,” said Ampatuan.

Colors of the threads also play a role in weaving with its respective symbolism. The colors of yellow and orange signify royalty while maroon denotes bravery and green symbolizes peace and tranquillity. White, the color of purity, spoke of sadness and mourning while black shows dignity.
However, a detail that got the organizers by surprise this year was the fact the common color of the early inaul that they gathered was neither yellow, black nor maroon but violet, which was the original color of royalty. Inaul, considered a “bara-bangsa” – a term synonymous to royalty, pride and dignity, was only worn then by those who belong the ruling class, which made the wearing of the fabric a status symbol.
The promotion of inaul last year also got the attention of designers and fashion houses. Aside from the much talked-about fashion show of the Miss Universe 2016 candidates, a Manila-based company also took notice and initially created fashionable bags with elements of inaul.
“Banwa Creations, owned by a US-based Filipina, sold them in the US and got very encouraging feedback. That is why we are boosting our training and have sought the assistance of national agencies to hook us up with big companies that can afford continuous procurement of the fabric. We are confident that we can sustain the production because we have sufficient inaul weavers. We also want to reintroduce inaul to the new generation,” Amputuan further said.
However, they want to limit the creation of the inaul to weaving, absolutely not succumbing to commercial printing of its designs, like those malongs made in Indonesia.
“Besides killing the industry, the fabric will also lose its authenticity. We can not afford to lose the very soul of this Maguindanaon heritage,“ he quipped.
In the malong weaving contest, 10 municipalities joined with their participants housed at the Women’s Center in Buluan where they are currently creating their malong for 3 days. Aside from malong, a tubaw and shawl weaving contest will also be held in the same venue but will be made by other represenatives.
Today, the price of a 2 feet x 4meter inual malong, pegged at P1,000 to P1,800–deemed by some as a bit steep–is actually underselling the fabric, according to Ampatuan

“It is actually cheap – we haven’t taken in yet the materials used, the time element, and the painstaking labor of our weavers. We will certainly fix the pricing that will be beneficial to both the weaver and the value of the fabric. We may go commercial but the weaving will remain as it is still our traditional art,” Ampatuan added.
The Inaul Festival, which started last February 8, will have its closing ceremony this Wednesday, February 14, in the municipality of Buluan in Maguindanao.

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