Issue of February 3, 2019

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New breed of loom weavers to finish SLT training course
by Ofelia C. Empian

PASSING TRADITION -- Despite the laborious process involved in indigenous loom weaving, School of Living Tradition students finish the class held at the Provincial Tourism Office at the Benguet Capitol. Graduates of the SLT class, funded by the National Commission on Culture and the Arts, are expected to pass the tradition to other interested individuals as well to preserve the traditional skill. -- Ofelia Empian

The schools of living tradition (SLT) continue to thrive in Benguet as a new breed of learners devoted their time to learn age-old valuable skills that they would later pass on to the community and next generation.

Heather Gate-Dizon of the Benguet Provincial Tourism Office, whose office oversees the SLT projects, said they are implementing the second year of the various programs funded by the National Commission on Culture and the Arts.

Dizon said a total of 25 people of various backgrounds and ages participated in the recently concluded program on loom weaving held from Jan. 16 to Feb. 1.

Cultural master Maxencia Pili of the Kabayan Weaving spearheaded the loom weaving class.

She said loom weaving is a laborious process, reason why the industry is slowly fading due to lack of interested weavers, especially from the younger generation.

That is why they have chosen to make loom weaving as part of the SLT program of the province, which is also in line with NCCA’s focus on indi-genous skills in crafts and trade.

“Once the participants learned the process, they are expected to transfer the knowledge to others,” Dizon said, adding this would encourage other individuals to venture into loom weaving.

She said the SLT program should have been implemented last year but most of the programs were delayed due to the typhoons that battered the region.

Early this year, 50 individuals also participated in the rice wine making and basket weaving.

Lucia Sacyat of Sinacbat, Bakun taught rice wine making while Minda Ciyano of Banayakeo, Poblacion, Atok taught basket making, particularly the Ibaloy’s traditional basket called kayabang.

The cultural masters were identified by the tourism office and NCCA as the elders or leaders in the communities who have been practicing their respective skills for decades and could transfer the knowledge to interested participants in the province.

The NCCA and Non-Timber Forest Products - Exchange Programme (NTFP-EP) started the five-year program of Benguet SLT in 2017.

Other SLTs that were implemented in the province last year were the cultural performing arts such as cultural dances and playing of indigenous musical instruments including gongs, and solibao, among other instruments. A total of 198 participants graduated from the first year of implementation of the SLT.

Dizon said the third year of the SLT program will be implemented on the second quarter of 2019.

“The response of the community to our SLT programs is good. Now, many are becoming aware of the SLT that we are conducting. Many are interested but their schedules won’t fit so they just refer the program to their friends who are available,” she said.

She said the schedules depend on the availability of the cultural master as well as the students. 

She said the youngest participant during the kayabang-making is seven years old and the oldest is 59 years old. The average age of participants is between 25 years old and 35 years old.

The SLT aims to preserve and promote rich cultural skills in various communities in the country for its preservation and recognition of the generations to come.

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