by Jonquil Dun

Mac Taug contemporary design of a suit barong and Filipiniana gown using Inaul fabric

Legend has it that the art of weaving patterns of the infamous Philippines textile called Inaul started and was popularized during the reign of Sultan Umping of Maguindanao, when he initiated a contest among his four wives to weave a cloth version of his treasure holder called “karanda” hence the winning pattern was called. The contest was won by the youngest of the four wives. The account may be accurate or not, but the karanda pattern was surely born during this event.

Other than the Karanda, there are several famous patterns of the Inaul which includes Sikukaruwang, Lombayan, Biyaludan, and Sikuandune.

Inaul prints (right to left); Sikuandune, Biyaludan, Karanda, Lombayan, Sikukaruwang (photo from nomadicexperiences.com)

Inaul textiles are woven in the Muslim- majority region of Maguindanao hence becoming a symbol of their rich, royal culture. It is woven using silk and cotton threads which makes it easily recognized for its shiny, luminous characteristics. To note, other tribes in Mindanao such as the Mandaya, T’boli, Yakan, Manuvu, Bagobo, etc are all using abaca fibers derived from the abaca plant. Muslim weavers only uses the cotton and silk. And like most hand- woven fabrics, Inaul too shares the exclusivity of the weaver to its weave because one cannot delegate the unfinished pattern to another as it will not come out the same.

Inaul in the local Maguindanaoan language means “weave”, adopted from the “ikat” (which also means weave) weaving technique from the first settlers of Bahasa- speaking people from Indonesia. We have to keep in mind that there were two influx of migration that came to settle in Mindanao- the Bahasa- speaking people from Indonesia and Amoi- speaking people from Taiwan. Today it is evident where these two proto- languages settled among the regions in Mindanao.

There may be several ikat techniques we see here, but Inaul stands out on its own. Not only of the distinct fine sheer lustre of the silk and rayon looms in it, the patterns have deep meanings to convey. One of which is the “Lombayan”, for example; is a pattern denoting sadness and love. The pattern resembles a silhouette of a woman peering through a window awaiting her lover. The colours used also gives significance to the Inaul as it embodies the status and characteristic of the wearer, such as that white is often associated with mourning or sadness, black for dignity, green for peace, while red symbolizes the Maguindanaon’s bravery. The royalties, reserves the colors of yellow and orange.

Abaya with Inaul accent by Hers Laha; Inaul shoes by Waffletoe
Inaul suit, a look by Hilyah Signorina

According to ARMM Deputy Speaker Sandra Sema “Inaul is synonymous to Maguindanao (the old name of Mindanao). It is a fabric woven by a great race, a symbol of royalty of a great nation that once ruled Mindanao. Today, Inaul does not only represent the rulers of the sultanate of this magnificent land, but it also amplifies the greatness of the people”.

In 2017, Maguindanao officially held its first Inaul Festival to preserve its identity, by holding a fashion show showcasing designs of famous designers from Mindanao. The move has attracted designers from other parts of the Philippines to incorporate native and indigenous textiles such as Inaul in their clothing line. Today, Inaul textiles are not anymore rarely uttered because it is worn and commissioned by famous celebrities wearing outfits made by it.

The truth us, Inaul is not just an embodiment of the Mindanaoan people but of the Philippines as a whole. It signifies the strength of the culture and history of a great civilization, amidst cultural imperialism, it stands firm with pride, dignity and identity.

Crazy Rich Asian star Heart Evangelista- Escudero sporting a Inaul jacket and skirt
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