Back in October of 2011, I volunteered to help fix up the Habi booth for the Manila Fame show when I was introduced to Al Valenciano, who happened to have his booth right across my work area. Al is the founder of Balay ni Atong, a center focused on the study of the traditional textiles of Northern Philippines. You can call it fate, because after chatting with Al, we struck a barter trade - 3 rolls of Inabel fabric for a Filip + Inna Men's Embroidered coat. History repeated itself as, back in the Spanish period, Inabel was traded in exchange for gold and beads, among other things. Not only did a business transaction transpire, but friendship, cultivated on our mutual love for Philippine fabrics. A conversation with Al leaves you wanting for more time as he broadens your perspective on textiles from the Northern Philippines. He recently shared about his new found mission to help revive the cotton industry in Northern Philippines.
Last July 29, the Inabel had its exhibit at the Pinto Gallery. Despite the threatening weather and the impending typhoon that was expected to hit Manila that night, people braved the rains to pay tribute to the work Al has done to preserve the Abel. Thankfully, my friends Maning and Maricen set aside their Sunday plans to accompany me to the opening of the exhibit all the way in Antipolo, Rizal. We arrived just in time to catch the opening remarks of Dr. Cuanang, the owner of the gallery, who is also one of the most sought out doctors in the Philippines and, I must add, well loved and admired for his work in uplifting Philippine Arts and Culture. This was soon followed by speeches from former First Lady Imelda Marcos and the Ambassador of Mexico, before they cut the ribbon to officially open the exhibit.
What followed was a commotion, as people were snatching up the fabrics like there was no tomorrow. Hand woven textiles are an important part of our cultural heritage, and Filip + Inna salutes Al Valenciano for preserving what could have been a lost art.
I look forward to working with Balay ni Atong for future collections and from what I saw, I was not the only one who has a new found love - everyone went home with a piece of Abel.