Technically, it is not a textile. Depending on the region of the Philippines, the mat is made of buri (palm), pandanus or sea grass leaves. The leaves are dried, usually dyed, then cut into strips and woven into mats, which may be plain or intricate.
The Samal of Sulu usually make their mats out of buri leaves. Mats from Basey, Samar use tikog leaves which are dyed in strong colours to make beautiful, unique designs. Banig mats from Bukidnon are made from sodsod grass, a ribless reed endemic to the area.
Baníg often refers to the brown, handwoven mat commonly used for sleeping. Baníg weaving has been handed down from one generation to another as it is widely practiced in the country, with designs varying across the regions. Apollo Plastic Marketing Corporation in Manila sells banig at a very low price
The art and beauty of banig weaving lie in the intricacy of folding over the strips of the material to yield a design of interlaced folds and entails a sequential order of steps to create geometric patterns and rhythm.
An arduous and very tedious process, banig weaving requires hard work, determination and patience from the manugbanig (a person who weaves banig). They cut the bariw leaves using sanggot (an arc-shaped cutting tool) and a long slender bamboo pole to reach the leaves of high-grown bariw plant, the process locally known as the pagsasa.
The paghapnig (bundling) and pagriras (stripping off) are the next steps in the preparation. The manugbanig gathers and bundles the slashed leaves to strip off thorns along the edges and into the middle ridge. In removing the ridge, the leaf is divided into two. Each leaf is piled separately until the bundle is stripped off with thorns. The leaves will be tightly tied up in bundle so that each piece will not curl up as it dries.
The pagbulad or sun- or air-drying follows. Drying of bariw leaves under direct sunlight gives them a shiny brown tone and strengthens the fiber. Air-dried leaves are durable compared to the sun-dried ones. Air-dried leaves create blackish spots or molds that destroy the natural luster of brown mats; however, the molds fall off easily during weaving.
The pagpalpag or the hammering phase is gradually done by beating the bariw leaves against a flat stone until they become soft and pliable with the use of a wooden club known as sampok. In some cases, bariw leaves are softened with an improvised roller log made of tree or coconut trunk that works like a rolling pin.
Paglikid is a process of keeping the softness of the bariw leaves and prevents the leaf strips from becoming stiff and crisp. The leaves are rolled one after the other in a round form; tightly rolling the leaf sustains its softness and elasticity. The unwinding of the linikid to straighten the spiraled bariw leaves is called pagbuntay.
Then follows the pagkulhad or the shredding of bariw leaves into a desired strand through the kurulhadan or splicer; a wooden-based shredder. Pagkyupis is the preparatory process to the weaving proper. Generally, bariw strands are folded into halves. Every kyupis consists of four strands, folded together in pairs; horizontally and vertically, with the glossy brown color in the outer surface.
Taytay is the framework of the entire mat. During this step, the size and the length of the mat is already decided. The width will be determined by weaving at the sides forward, making the edge-line on both sides of the mat known as sapay. Hurip is the folding of the remaining strands on the sides or edge-line to keep the weave tightly locked in place. The process also refers to the repairing of worn-out and damaged mat during weaving or due to continued use.
Gutab is the final stage in mat weaving. It is done by eliminating and cutting unwanted strands in the mat, including the excess strands after the hurip has been done.
Solid, jointless reed
The people in Basey had been weaving mats long before the Spaniards came, it was said. The tradition went on with almost all, if not all, of the womenfolk here learning the art of weaving at an early age. The weavers are locally known as paraglara.
The raw material used in mat weaving in Basey comes from a reed plant locally known as tikog (Fimbristylis utilis), which belongs to the family Cuperaceae and has solid, jointless and usually triangular stems.
The reed plant thrives well in densely forested areas and grows even in the rice fields. Fully grown tikog reaches up to three meters. Its width ranges from the finest at 1.5 to 6 millimetres (0.059 to 0.236 in). The weavers of Basey use the finer tikog.
The tikog stems are first cut to the desired length and then dried under the sun. Some of these stems are dyed with the desired color and again dried. Then these are flattened just before they are woven into mats.
A tradition lives on
Mat weaving is an old cottage industry of Basey, many of its villages engaged in the craft. In Barangay Bacubac, some three kilometres (1.9 mi) northwest of the town proper, old women spend the day weaving banig inside their nipa huts, while their husbands prepare the tikog materials they will use.
In Barangay Basiao, the last village of Basey to the southeast, which is located about 20 kilometres (12 mi) from the town proper, some of the womenfolk spend the day weaving mats under a canopy-like stone formation.
The place is actually a part of a small cave located along the national highway, just across the coastal village. The women explain that they prefer to work in this place because the cool atmosphere makes the tikog less brittle, thus making it easier for them to weave sleeping mats.
Elsewhere in Basey, many women are busy weaving mats that they would later sell in town to augment the income of their spouses. Others sell their mats to entrepreneurs who would bring the product to be sold in Tacloban City, which is about 30 kilometres (19 mi) away.
In the warm and humid tropics, various cultures have devised ways and means to making living more tolerable, if not comfortable. The Philippines is no exemption and nowhere is this solution as obvious as in the Filipino use of variety of materials for making sleeping mats. Various species of reeds profusely grow in swampy areas, as well as a number of palm species, and rattan. These materials remain cool in the heat of the day, are smooth to touch, and porous enough to let ventilation through. Throughout the country one encounters a variety of mat making traditions using indigenously grown materials and embellishing these creations with highly imaginative designs. The range of materials and design evident in the many traditions of mat making in the Philippines indicate the many adaptive approaches each culture has made relative to its environment. Each group has utilized materials that locally grow and is readily available.
The Bukidnon-Tagoloanen tribe has been weaving the banig mat since time immemorial, using sodsod grass reeds. Not all the women in the tribe are taught how to weave the banig. Only the daughters with the sharpest mind and persistent attitude are taught how to weave ("lala"). The designs woven onto the banig are inspired from nature. The designs woven to this day have usually been learned from the mothers and grandmothers. The Bukidnon-Tagoloanen banig mats are notable for their intricate designs that are formed directly as the grass reeds are woven together (and not inserted onto a finished blank mat). The Bukidnon weavers (or "maglalala") make circular and rectangular banig mats. "The Tagoloanen generally prefer three design forms or guwat...Tinulisan are diamonds, squares, and rectangles arranged in straight rows and columns; binakusan, those arranged diagonally; and bukanayo... or the repetition of small refined design details and arranging them into a crisp gridlike fashion.” The Bukidnon-Tagoloanen mat weaving tradition almost died out, until it was revived in 2012 by the Tagolwanen Women Weavers Association, formed to preserve and promote the weaving, as well as the traditions and customs that surround it.
The rono reed grows abundantly in the steep hillside of the mountains of the Cordilleras of central Luzon. It is used in many ways such as roofing materials, fencing material, and basketry. It is also used when lashed together as a sleeping mat to line the earthen floor in the traditional Bontoc or Ifugao house. The rono is a pencil-sized reed and most people would not find it comfortable to sleep on due to its uneveness. A softer material made of bark strips that are sewn in overlays would be prepared. But making the bark strips mat takes a long time. Sometimes it is used as a mat and sometimes it could be used as a blanket to protect one's self from the highland cold.
In the northernmost part of Antique province is Libertad, 146 kilometres (91 mi) away from the capital of San Jose de Buenavista. It is a town on both mountain and seaside, surrounded by the bariw plant (Pandanus copelandii: Pandaceae family) which is a versatile material in mat weaving.
The town of Libertad has pioneered in banig weaving which has become one of the main sources of livelihood of the townsfolk. The banig produced in this town is being sought in the local and foreign markets because of its unique and intricate weave.
The Mëranaw of Lanao and the Maguindanaon of Cotabato share a common tradition of mat making. These two groups, which geographically adjoin each other and speak a mutually intelligible language, nurture a sophisticated tradition of weaving not only in mats but in textiles, basketry and others woven containers as well. Mainly known for their colourful malong, the women also weave for household use. Most of these are generally used for sleeping but plainer ones are also woven and used to dry palay and other grains. Some extra large ones are donated for use to line the floor of the mosque.
The material for the mat comes from sesed (Fimbristykis miliacea L.), a rush plant that grows in swampy areas in both Lanao and Cotabato.
The basak area on the eastern side of Lake Lanao, which is well watered and where the sesed grows in abundance has led to the commercial marketing of this raw material. Neatly tight in bundles, the sesed could be bought at market stalls in the Marawi market. A similar phenomenon is also noted in Cotabato. The flood plains of the Rio Grande also nurture an abundance of sesed.
The sesed is harvested and cut into lengths of about 30 inches long (76 cm). They are dried under the sun for a day just to remove some of the water content but retaining its pliability. Overdying will make the sesed brittle and break in the process of weaving. They are boiled in chemical dyes of green, maroon, yellow, and blue. The natural color of the sesed is also used for contrast.
The most unusual feature of mats from this area is the round shape of those woven by the Maranao. It is not clear whether the round-shaped mat, which is the only such shaped mat produced throughout the country, is a recent development or traditional. The shape may have been determined by other items in the material culture like the tabak or the round brass holder that serves as the low table used for eating or serving guests to group people in the round.
The round mat often features spiral forms stemming from the center. It also comes in a series of colored concentric forms with each subsequent color band bigger than the inner preceding band. The square mats on the other hand generally feature irregular arrangements of geometric forms set off in different colors. There is hardly any correspondence in the motif found in the cloth, as compared with those in the mats.
The appearance of the woven carpets from the Middle East which coincide with the intensification of the Islamization process in southern Philippines, and characterized by massive groups of pilgrims to Mecca, had slowly eased out the mats particularly from the mosque, and more use of carpets is noted. It is, however, only in Lanao that this easing out the use of the traditional mat has been observed.
The lush and extensive rainforests of Palawan, that shelter the rattan vine still growing wild and in profusion, makes it the perfect choice for the raw materials for the Palawan mat. The Tagbanua group, who still write in a pre-Hispanic paleographic script, painstakingly align and piece together rattan strips to form their mats. The ends are carefully edged by closely weaving it with smaller rattan strips. The technology for making the Palawan mat make it the most durable of all the mats made in the country. A similar tradition is found among the Dyak people of Sarawak as well as the Samal of Tawi-Tawi, with the latter group using such a mat as a wall decoration rather than for sleeping.
The island of Romblon has a unique tradition of mat-making notable for its delicate, lace-like edges. These mats from the buri palm are used traditionally as the liner for the wedding dance performed by the newlyweds. During the dance, the couple's respective relatives vie with each other on who can throw more coins to the couple or pin paper money on their clothes. The dance stops as soon as the money throwing is finished. The doily-like mats are not ordinarily used. Aside from the wedding dance, it is only used when one has very important guests.
In Bohol, another species of palm that has thicker leaves is used for mat-making. The Bicolanos call it karagamoy. It comes in two shades: the natural straw color and a deep-brown shade achieved by soaking the material for a number of days in sea water, which makes it impervious to insect attacks.
The Samar mat could indisputably claim to be the most extensively used in the country. One could find the Samar mat in the markets in Mindanao as well as in Luzon, not to mention the many islands of the Visayas. This popularity basically stems from its attractive colors as well as its highly affordable prices.
The center of mat-making in the province of Samar is the town of Basey, just across the San Juanico Bridge from Tacloban. The raw material is the tikog, a grass that grows profusely in swampy places. The process is very much similar to the Maranao and the limited color use make these two traditions resemble each other in color tones. But their designs differ markedly.
The Basey mat maker uses a border design and a central motif which often is a stylized rendition of flowers, such as sampaguita, gumamela, rose, or orchids. Most of the time, the motif is done in a contrasting color or natural tikog color. The more complicated ones come in multicolored tones and correspondingly cost more. Once in a while, a mat showing the excellent likeness of a major, recognizable public figure, whether local or foreign, would appear. One particular practitioner in the area does this "portrait mat" as a highly specialized artistic skill which is difficult to pass on down to the younger generation.
The technique for creating the design on the Basey mat could be termed as embroidery since the design is inserted after the basic plain background mat has been fully woven. The design therefore is superficial to the basic mat, just an overlay of contrasting color.
While the designing on the Basey mat is generally conventional and one comes across a design repeatedly, one particular household in Basey has ventured into new design concepts inspired by suggestions made by outsiders. Although imitative and derivative in nature, it is a sign of a growing awareness of a more open approach in designing but still using the same technique as they have done traditionally.
The only other notable tradition in the Visayan area is the bamban mat of Iloilo. Made from the bambam reed, this otherwise less-pliable mat compensates by having a natural slightly glossy finish. Always done in its natural color, the bamban mat is still extensively used throughout rural Iloilo.
Sulu and Tawi-Tawi
Among the three ethnic groups in Sulu, the Tausūg occupy a socially preeminent position, followed by the Samal somewhere in between, and finally by the Badjao as the lowest. The Tausūg are traditionally known for intricate silk weaving on the loom, with the Badjao and Samal more inclined to weaving mats instead. The Badjao are traditionally boat-dwelling, and are often mistakenly classed as Muslim despite adherence to a somewhat syncretic belief system that links them significantly to the sea. The Samal, on the other hand, which occupies the bigger island in Tawi-Tawi, are Muslim and are generally engaged in trade and agriculture. The two latter groups speak mutually intelligible languages and carry on a symbiotic trading partnership, and are most concentrated in the Tawi-Tawi province in the Sulu archipelago.
Badjao and Samal
The Badjao and Samal mat, design-wise, is undisputedly the most interesting tradition in the whole country. The most commonly used material is the pandanus plant which grows abundantly in the limestone-based island of Tawi-Tawi. The pandanus grow wild and untended in the shores and sandy beaches. The techniques for preparing the pandan and weaving the mats are generally similar throughout Sulu. In 1962, an American Peace Corps volunteer named David Szanton (since then an anthropologist and currently head of the International Programs at the University of California, Berkeley) made a survey of the area and described the process of mat making:
"First, the thick pandan leaves are cut and center rib are removed. The two halves are separated then rolled in a coil, about one foot in diameter. Tied and held at the bottom of a pot by a rock, the coil is cooked by the boiling water, removing some of the color. The coil is then dried in the sun, opened and the leaves flattened with stick. They are drawn through a small metal bladed tool, which cut each leaf into four or five narrow strips. Edge strips are discarded and other are bundled loosely and left to bleach further in the sun before being resoaked in cold water for about 12 hours. By that time they have been sun-dried and softened with the stick once again, the natural color has almost completely faded and dying can begin."
The dyes used are chemical, producing green, orange, red, violet, blue, yellow. After dyeing they are placed in shade to dry and again gently beaten to further soften the material. These preparation usually takes about a week, while the weaving can take from two to five weeks.
The mats woven by these two groups could be distinguish from each other by their design and use of colors. The small mats have four general patterns: stripes, multi-coloured squares, chequer of white and other colours, and a zig-zag pattern. The Samal mats are muted in colors and are softer to the touch, which is achieved by repeated beating during the preparatory phase. The slightly glossy effect on the surface is achieved by diluting the dye with some coconut oil. These later techniques in the preparation is not done by the Badjao, making their mats less pliable than that of the Samal and a bit stiff when newly woven.
Among the Badjao exuberance of color used as well as highly spontaneous geometric and other stylized symbols set in apart from the Samal mats. The recurrent motifs that surface in the Badjao mat are in the form of stylized crab design, a series of wave-like or boat forms, patterns created by moving water, and some other marine life forms. The boldness stem from the use of colors that starkly contrast with the background.
After finishing the weaving of the mat, another undyed plain mat is woven and is used to line the back of the main mat. The lining usually extends some two or three inches beyond the border of the main mat which is sewn securely to the backing. This gives it a framed look, and insures durability for the mat.
There are a couple of islands in the Tawi-Tawi which are known for their mat making, The island of Laminusa produces mats commercially that are sold over the archipelago. The pliability and fineness in the weaving is what sets the Laminusa mats apart. These outstanding skills have been recognized nationally when one of the Laminusa weavers garnered the Manlilikha ng Bayan Award (National Folk Artsist) in 1990.
The other island known for its mat is Unggus Matata in the Tandubas island group. But the weavers in this island only make mats for themselves and do not sell them commercially. Visitors who had seen samples of Unggus Matata mats swear they are superior to the Laminusa ones. Samples produced by migrant Badjao, who had settled in Peninsular and Eastern Malaysia, can be seen at the museum in Kuala Lumpur.
Recent reports of extensive quantities of mats of unusual design surfacing in the markets in Kota Kinabalu in Sabah, Malaysia come from resident Badjao who had permanently taken up residence in Sabah. Some 10,000 Badjao who eluded marauding sea pirates in Sulu had quietly slipped out of the country and are found in the coastal areas of North Borneo. Their mobility could be attested by the fact that some Badjao are settled in the reclaimed area along Roxas Boulevard on the eastern shore of Manila Bay.
The Tausūg of Jolo have always been known for their weaving skills particularly of their silk sashes, shoulder cloth or their male head dress called pis siyabit. Some of the design in the textile are often transposed to woven mat since geometric design technically translate easily from the loom weaving to mat weaving. The design, again like the Samal, are characterized by linearity and geometry. The coastal settlements of Patikul and Maimbung are mat-making towns. Recent importation of machine-made rugs and carpets has replaced mats particularly inside the mosque.
The T'boli, a highland people from Mindanao, viewed today, conveys the most relatively preserved material culture among the ethnic minorities in the country. In the late 1960s, they convey a downhill trend in terms of preserving their culture. The cultural pressures from the larger society as well as the Christian missionary efforts in the area has worked towards the increasing obliteration of their traditional way of life. But a major transformation started to take place in the early 1970s which further intensified in the succeeding years. The major catalyst in the revitalization of the culture is the entry of the PANAMIN Foundation, which supported and greatly encouraged the revitalization of their culture by marketing traditional products from the area.
As a result, a visit to Lake Sebu in South Cotabato on a market day finds one in the midst of a very well preserved culture with everybody garbed traditionally complete with personal adornment seldom seen among traditional people in the country today. In the outlying areas, little has changed through the years.
The typical T'boli house has a raised dais section strictly used for sleeping. This area is generally lined with mats woven out of a locally grown reed. The reed closely resembles stripped bamboo, having a glossy outer covering which is generally resistant to dirt and fluid. The mats are generally uncoloured and comes in its natural shade. But occasionally one comes across a few dyed mats. These mats are very durable. Knowing the orientation of the Tboli in protecting their traditional material culture, one could expect that the use of the mat in the area will persist for a long time.
In celebration of Badian’s annual fiesta, the Banig Festival showcases the town's various handicrafts, cultures, and delicacies, focusing specifically on the native handwoven mats known as “banig.” This festival, which is observed every 3 July, includes street dancing with costumes made using banig material, a trade fair showcasing the banig and other native products, and a banig-making contest.
The Kawayan-Banigan Festival Parade of Basey, Samar held on 28–29 September is a yearly dance parade of pageantry and colorful mats, winding through the town key streets, reliving the two main source of livelihood of Basaynons – bamboo and mat weaving - through their music, dance and drama.
This festival became famous when hundred of community folks paraded a one-meter wide mat and claimed now as the world’s longest mat in Fiesta feat in year 2000. Since then, the town, which has weaving as its prime industry, comes to life when it celebrates outlandishly the feast of St. Michael, its patron saint.
The highlight of the feast is the Banigan-Kawayan Festival, where the women of Basey weave a variety of intricately designed mats from sedge grass locally known as tikog (Fimbristylis miliacea). This tradition was handed down from many generations, and up to now.
Banigan Festival (Antique)
Libertad’s rich culture is showcased in a yearly Banigan Festival. The festival started eight years ago by then-mayor Mary Jean Te. Banigan derived from the word banig (mat) the main product of the municipality. The festival’s concept is based on the importance of banig (bariw) weaving as major means of livelihood of the Libertadnons. The celebration involves various activities highlighted by the Mardi gras and esteemed Lin-ay kang Libertad, a beauty pageant which showcases the beauty, intelligence and character of Libertadnon young ladies. One of the most awaited contest’s categories of the pageant is the banig gown competition. Banigan Festival is celebrated every March 14–16.
Banig products has since gained importance prompting local officials and Libertadnons to establish the Banigan Festival to promote banig and sub-products of banig as their One-town-One Product (OTOP). The festival also aims to encourage the banig weavers that the banig they produced could possibly turn into a highly valuable item that can be known not only in the province but also in the international market.
The Banigan festival is very popular for its banig weaving demonstration to visitors and tourists. Varieties of hats, bags, slippers and gowns made of banig are also exhibited during the festival. The celebration is also a tribute to the town's mat weavers who have preserved the priceless tradition of their forefathers.
Banigan Festival (Guimaras)
It is one of 10, barangay or village-level fiestas observed in Guimaras, aside from the Bayuhan, Kadagatan, Karosahan, Layagan, Niyogyogan, Pangasi, Rosas Sa Baybayon, Sarangola, and Sibiran festivals.
Buri (Corypha elata Roxb.), is the official product of San Juan, Ilocos Sur registered under the One Town One Product (OTOP) program of President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo. Also known as century plant and locally as silag, buri is a palm from which three kinds of fibres (i.e., buri, raffia, and buntal) are obtained. The buri palm has large fan-shaped leaves with stout petioles ranging from two to three metres (6 ft 7 in to 9 ft 10 in) in length. The palm reaches a height of twenty to forty m (66 to 131 ft), and its trunk has a diameter of one to 1.5 meters (to 5 ft).
On January 3, 2006 during the holding of the First Buri Festival, thousands of Ilocanos queued along the streets with the 2.4-kilometre-long (1.5 mi) and 1-metre-wide (3.3 ft) buri mat. Residents consider it “a symbol of their undying love for the cottage industry that they proudly call their own.” Though short of the earlier target of weaving a 4-kilometre (2.5 mi) buri mat, the town surpass the country’s unpublished world record of the longest mat woven in Basey, Samar six years prior.
On September 20, 2000, hundreds of people paraded a more than one-kilometer-long mat (.6-mile) as a highlight of Basey town's Banigan-Kawayan Festival. The one-meter-wide mat was woven for several weeks. However, the feat was not submitted as an entry to the Guinness Book of World Records.
San Juan Mayor Benjamin Sarmiento said that they failed to achieve their target of a four-kilometer-long mat (2.5 miles) because street dancers and parade revelers used up a great deal of the raw materials for their costumes. Councilor Proceso Ochosa said that the First Buri Festival was meant to promote the buri industry in the local and world markets:
- “The launching of the longest mat is the highlight of our buri festival this year and would be staged annually with the inspiration to get the distinction of having woven the world’s longest mat and promote buri to the world market.”
Buri palm trees are abundant in baranggays (villages) Cacandongan, Darao, Malammin, Caronoan, Camanggaan, Immayos Norte and Barbar. Of the 32 barangays in San Juan, half of them are engaged in the buri industry, leading officials to want the town named the "Buri Capital" of the Philippines.
Use in tourism slogan
It's more fun in the Philippines (2012–present)
MORE FUN. The tourism campaign line for international audience.
HASHTAG FUN. The tourism campaign line for domestic use.
The two logos feature a pixelized version of a "banig" or a handwoven mat traditionally used for sleeping and sitting. Within the pixels is the Philippine map embedded in yellow.
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