A few weeks ago I found a blog by Musamanila where she was sporting what she coined an “Ifugao top”, a cardigan whose bottom edges were uniquely curved, lined with black, red, and white patterns that were distinctly associated with an indigenous cultural group in the Philippines called the Ifugao.
Along with the Ifugao*, near the center of the northernmost Philippine island of Luzon resides a number of different ethnic peoples and cultures collectively known as the Igorot (wiki). Both the Igorot and the Ifugao reside on and around the largest mountain range in the Philippines, a set of 6 provinces called the Cordillera region. The name “Cordillera”, most likely coined by Spanish colonizers, is defined as a chain of mountains (wiki).
The Igorot and Ifugao have been weaving cloth for centuries, keeping them warm in the midst of cool weather experienced in the high altitudes of the region. On top of that, the region is also one of the furthest away from the warmer weather emanating from the equator about 800 miles to the south (World Atlas).
The Spanish colonizers considered the clothing of these cultures immodest so they pushed for “a much more conservative culture and a mode of dress that emphasized modesty” (wiki). A negative perception of indigenous Philippine cultures was made and has remained engrained in contemporary Philippine society (Igorot Blogger). Despite that, I am happy to see much of the weaving traditions still intact and even happier to see young urban Filipinos embracing the beautiful and intricate designs of these timeless cultures and people.
Items like these can be found in local shops in the region (Virtual Tourist), shops who are “weaving the threads of traditions into contemporary elegance” (Narda Shop). In addition to cardigans and wraps, the Igorot and Ifugao also make intricate table cloths and bags. Bags such as the ones below from another Cordillera municipality or town called Sagada.
A few weeks later I fell upon another blog, this time by 20-year-old art student and fashion blogger David Guison, where he posted his “Primitive Revival” collaboration with another blogger. Here he sported two Igorot cardigans layered one on top of the other. Both from a city called Baguio also located in the moderately cool Cordillera region. Cool in more ways than one!
I soon clicked further and found out that David, along with other young fashion bloggers, collaborated with Aivan Magno who coined the term “Primitive Revival,” which to me is his way of embracing the negative stereotypes against older Philippine cultures with the word “primitive” and juxtaposing it with the word “revival.” Especially since they are wearing these items with pride as opposed to as a joke.
In another form of Pinoy youth empowerment, 8,000 miles away Filipino-Americans are also in tune with classic Philippine traditions and cultures. Pnoy Apparel, a Filipino-inspired clothing company renowned for their “Know History, Know Self” slogan released a “Bahag print” on black v-necks and tank tops years ago. “Bahag” refers to the “loincloth commonly used throughout the Philippines” before the arrival of the Spanish (wiki).
I have never visited the Cordillera, but upon my discovery of this, now I really have to go. Especially since i’ve spent the last few years dreaming of when i’d visit the infamous Banaue Rice Terraces, also located in the province of the Ifugao. The Ifugao not only weaved intricately designed clothing, but they also weaved and sustained 4,000 square miles of rice terraces for 2,000 years (wiki).
Until then, my arm-chair observations of Philippine fashion and creativity both contemporary and traditional will have to be from clicks on my computer.
Be sure to check out my post listing the 15 illustrations of “pre-colonial Filipinos” found in the 400-year-old document “The Boxer Codex.”
*Although the Ifugao province is technically a part of the Cordillera region, according to this highly-biased wiki the Ifugao differentiate themselves as a group separate from the Igorots. If this is true, whether this is because the Ifugao are an entirely different ethnic group altogether or if the negative stereotypes against the Igorot have caused dismay among the Ifugao (Igorot Blogger) I could not find the exact reason for the differentiation online. I need books lol.