The nutty aroma of dark coffee filled the air as I brushed aside the curtain that acted as our door. When I stepped outside, I heard the cry of roosters in the distance. Beneath the wooden roof, my grandmother was weaving. Every day, she would wake up at 5 am to feed the chickens and then weave in the shade of the nipa hut.
“Good morning, Nina,” Apong Cora said. She removed her feet from the treadles of the wooden apparatus and offered her hand. I walked briskly towards her, took her hand, and pressed my forehead against it to show respect. “Sit there,” she said while pointing at a white plastic chair in the corner. I sat and played on my phone.
The small nipa hut, with its four acacia columns, had no walls. My grandfather, Toribio, built it in the 1950s as a gift to Apong Cora. She grew up with the tradition of weaving in Ilocos and, after moving here to Maitum, had my grandfather build the handloom.
“Nina, stop playing with your phone. Your dad will be picking you up tomorrow, so enjoy your remaining time here in the province,” she said as she maneuvered the heddle stick and pulled on the breast beam.
I nodded. After watching her weave for ten more minutes, I said, “Can I ask you a question?”
“Why do you weave? You kept on displaying some of your work in the front yard, but nobody is buying it. It’s cheaper to buy blankets made out of artificial fiber in the night market.”
She smiled. “Nina, weaving is not about the money. When my mother taught me how to weave, she emphasized our role in our community. Every morning, we would weave for hours, repeating chromatic patterns. She used to say, ‘While the laborers provide what the body needs, the weavers provide what the heart longs for.'”
“But no other hearts are filled when nobody buys them.”
“Maybe, but if at least it gets to fill mine, then that matters. Some have forgotten the art of traditional weaving. Urbanization is the poison that kills tradition. Many would say that our practices are dirty and irrelevant. To that, I ask, ‘Is it not the modern life that tortures our common home?’ It’s the synthetic fibers that the generation of today wear that pollute the waters.”
“When I weave, I embrace every single moment of it. Each blanket and the patterns they show is a product of love, care, and the hope that someday, we remember our roots,” she continued.
I remained silent. She then pointed to the chest beside me. “Can you give me a loom from the chest, Nina?”
When I opened the antique chest, there was only one loom of pineapple fiber left. “There’s only one left,” I said.
“I see.” She paused from weaving and said, “That’s fine.”
I gave her the loom, and she continued weaving. I went back to my seat and continued playing.
Karl Kirby Costales is a BS Pharmacy student at the University of the Immaculate Conception. Apong Cora was among the winning short stories of the ASEAN Weaving Tales Short Story Competition. The list of winning entries may be viewed at the Facebook announcement page.