HABI launches the Eloisa Hizon Gomez Abaca Competition to revive abaca weaving across the Philippines

Abaca weavers of all ages are invited to showcase their creations to get the chance to win P50,000

With the continued success of its Lourdes Montinola Piña Weaving Competition, HABI Philippine Textile Council is training the spotlight, through a new contest, on a textile material that’s deeply rooted in Filipino culture and history: abaca. For the first time, as part of its Likhang HABI Market Fair in October, HABI is introducing the Eloisa Hizon Gomez Abaca Competition, which is open to all local abaca weavers raring to showcase their artistry using this well-loved fiber.

Eloisa Hizon Gomez Abaca Competitio Large
Abaca continues to be a source of livelihood for many Filipinos, such as this community in Camarines Norte.
(Photo credits: Lisa Lorenzo-Uy)

The competition is inspired by its namesake—a prominent Kapampangan who actively encouraged the use of Filipino textiles, and is mother to popular haute couture ‘70s   fashion designer Gang Gomez, now known as Dom Martin Gomez, OSB. As the main man behind this competition, which is a fitting tribute to his mother’s advocacy, Gomez says the main goal of the event is to revive and encourage the weaving of abaca cloth, as practiced in Mindanao among the T’boli and other indigenous groups, the Visayas, and the Bicol region where the plant grows well. 

Eloisa Hizon Gomez Abaca Competition Abaca Large
(Photo credits: Lisa Lorenzo-Uy)

Even as a contemplative monk, Gomez still continues to work with local weavers to develop and innovate traditional textiles, while also designing church vestments. He approached HABI with the idea of holding a competition for abaca artisans, which is supported by his vision of upscaled and refined craftsmanship for the industry.

“There is nothing like competition to stimulate our artisans’ creativity to strengthen and grow that industry,“ adds Adelaida Lim, HABI president.

Aside from reviving and promoting the use of abaca, the competition also serves to remind us of the versatility of this fiber, which is also globally known as Manila hemp.

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“Abaca is the Philippines’ major export product.  We are known the world over for it.  In the maritime industry, ropes made of abaca are widely used. The Japanese yen incorporates abaca fibers in their paper currency,” Lim says. “We have even acquired new uses for it, such as in the manufacturing of automobiles.” 

Eloisa Hizon Gomez Abaca Competition Event Poster Prizes

To join the Eloisa Hizon Gomez Abaca Competition, participants must submit a panel measuring at least six meters long. There are no restrictions on the width; however, entries must be made of 100-percent abaca and based on a traditional pattern and/or weaving technique. 

Each entry must also have a title, a detailed description, and a photograph showing the weaver working on his/her entry. Entries must be packed with care and submitted to the HABI Office at 962 May Street, Mandaluyong City, Metro Manila. Deadline for submission is on Sept. 30, 2022. 

Three winners will be announced at the Likhang HABI Market Fair slated October 14 – 16 this year.  They will each receive a prize of P50,000.00. The entries will be exhibited as part of the fair and sold, should the contestants agree. These pieces will be displayed alongside entries of the Lourdes Montinola Piña Weaving Competition, making them officially part of a HABI Market Fair annual tradition.

As with its piña weaving competition, HABI hopes to inspire mainstream fashion retailers, through this abaca weaving contest, to patronize abaca just as they do the piña cloth, in order to keep alive local textile creations and the use of natural fibers. 

“The use of our textiles, whether commercial, through fashion retailers, or personal, is the only way our textile industry will survive and grow,” says Len Cabili, founder and creative director of Filip + Inna, and also a strong advocate of local textiles. “We are excited to see the excellent craftsmanship of weavers around the Philippines.”

In addition to inspiring more weavers to pass on a heritage tradition to the next generation, the competition would also contribute to the sustainability of the fashion industry, as abaca could cut the need to import polyester yarns created by the demand for fast fashion, which directly increases environmental pollution.

“Abaca is important because it is the genuine Filipino weaving fiber,” says Gomez. “Filipinos were already wearing clothes made from abaca weaves when the Spanish colonizers arrived. If we had only given abaca as much attention in its development as we have given to piña, can you imagine how much progress could have been attained by now? Hopefully, this annual competition will give the abaca weaving industry that much-needed push!”

Interested parties may call HABI: The Philippine Textile Council T: +63 921 849-6974 or send an e-mail to support@habiphilippinetextilecouncil.com for more information.

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