Philippines

Habing Maragondon: Heritage in our Hands

Souvenir shopping is one of the activities I always look forward to when I travel. I like keeping small items that remind me of that special place I visited. But because I live in a small apartment, I try to limit the items I buy to food, books, and local weaves.

Therine of Habing Maragondon

Why weaves? They are the best keepsakes because they can be very functional. They are also art forms and tangible parts of local culture.

Rowena working on her loom

Over the years, I have accumulated weaves from many different parts of the country – Ifugao tapis, T’nalak, Abel Iloco, Hablon, Binakol, Yakan weaves, etc. But one weave I do not have in my collection are the weaves of Cavite, the province where I grew up.

Rowena Nuesca with some of her (he)artworks

But let me defend myself a bit. Cavite is not really well-known for their weaves. I only learned about weaves from Cavite during the pandemic, thanks to the efforts of social entrepreneur Catherine “Therine” Diquit of Likhang Maragondon. Also, I only like buying weaves during my travels and not from their showrooms or displays in the city, except if they are made into something I can wear. And the bulk of my collection were gifts from friends and communities that we visited.

Rowena converted her garage into her work area and showroom
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I had a chance to meet Therine during the Tourism Promotions Board’s Philippine Tourism Influencers’ Program (PTIP) in CALABARZON, which I joined. Maragondon was the 6th town we visited during our 7-day tour of the region.

She welcomed the group in her showroom located at Garita-A, Maragondon, Cavite.

The shop features a variety of Habing Maragondon products including handwoven fabrics made into table runners, bags, clothes, scarfs, blankets, pillowcases, and face masks, plus items made of bamboo, accessories, paintings, and others.

More of Rowena’s weaves

Their tagline “Heritage in your hands. Crafted with purpose” is very apt. Therine’s group taps local artisans to support their livelihoods.

“Our aim is to empower our kababayans in Maragondon by giving them livelihood opportunities,” shares Therine.

The social enterprise started November 2019, three months before the pandemic, which added to the challenge of fulfilling their mission. Luckily, they were able to wear face masks and use bamboo alcohol dispensers.

Habing Maragondon’s display

Another goal of Therine’s group is to save the dying tradition of weaving in Maragondon. She said that Maragondon only had two weavers when they started, but now they have more.

One of them is Rowena Nuesca. Earlier that day we visited Rowena in her home, where she displays some of her works and where she demonstrates to those interested, a bit of how she transforms threads into wonderful works of art.

She uses cotton threads and her designs are mostly horizontal. According to Rowena, her choice of colors mostly depends on what customers are interested in.

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Rowena started weaving as her livelihood in 2017. She was trained by her mother at the age of 13 years old, when she was still in high school.

She shared that most of the weavers she has worked with are now in their senior years and have sadly not passed the skill onto their family members or relatives because of a lack of interest in the craft.

“Ako lang po ang pinaka-batang nagkaroon ng interes na ituloy ito. Halos lahat ng kabataan ayaw kasi sabi nila, ganyan na nga trabaho ng nanay ko nung araw, kami ganyan pa rin. (I am the youngest member of our community who had an interest in continuing this tradition. The kids are not interested. They say that their parents’ work is already weaving, so why would they do the same?)” lamented Rowena, who is already 43 years old.

Beautiful fabrics for sale

However, Rowena said she is willing to train anyone who wants to learn the craft.

I bought from Rowena a blue blanket for a really affordable price considering it took Rowena a day to finish it. Let me also add that the craftsmanship is really outstanding. For my van mates, I got small hand towels. It is my little way of supporting Rowena and hopefully, more will become interested, so that the youth of Maragondon will continue this age-old tradition.

Aside from Maragondon, Indang is also reviving their weaving tradition.

Bamboo products at Habing Maragondon
Bag for sale at Habing Maragondon’s showroom

The Mahabang Kahoy Weavers Association in Cerca, Indang was on our itinerary but sadly the weavers were not available.

The town of Indang was once a weaving center, but it slowly waned after the Second World War. It’s a good thing that some residents are reviving this with the help of the local government and some national agencies. Hopefully, they also get a Therine who has a flair for promoting.

More information about Likhang Maragondon is available on their website www.likhangmaragondon.com and on their Facebook page https://www.facebook.com/likhangmaragondon.

Rowena Nuesca may be reached through her Facebook page – https://www.facebook.com/rowena.nuesca.

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Kelly Austria

Kelly Austria is a public relations professional. She is managing partner of RubyComm-K.Austria, a public relations firm. Traveling fills her free time. What fills her soul is helping the children who live in the mountains and other isolated areas by supplying aid to them. Kelly literally treks the talk on the advocacies for kids' education and voluntourism. She is currently affiliated with various mountaineering clubs and co-founded a volunteer-based group helping children who live in mountainous areas called TRails To Empower Kids or TREK. As a writer, Kelly has contributed works to some of the country's major publications. She also keeps her own travel blog, Damn Good Travels and an advocacy site, Voluntourism Philippines.

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