Frida Dei T. Inolino
In the heartland of Aklan, rows of Red Spanish pineapple bathe in the tropical sun. There, beholding the carpet of grayish green sword-like leaves, one can hardly imagine what continent these plants — their finished product, to be exact — will reach, whose waists they will gird and whose eyes they will awe. But to Aklanons and to the pineapple growers in particular, the potential of this plant is promising.
Piña fiber produced from the leaves of the plant has a delicate consistency, the luster of silk, and the ease of holding fabric colorants fast – indeed, qualities that make for a fiber perfect for hand weaving.
The Red Spanish variety is generally cultivated for its leaves that grow from one meter to one-and-a-half meter long. Weaving piña fabric using crops available in their environs was a cottage industry of the natives of the archipelago even before the Spaniards came. Earlier varieties of the plant were introduced by Chinese, Arab and Portuguese traders who came to these shores.
There are also accounts that the group of Miguel Lopez de Legazpi brought pineapple for their consumption when they settled on Panay Island, unknowingly propagating a species that would one day make the island world-renowned. Some research states that the piña cloth weaving industry took place during the Spanish period.
The triumph of piña cloth will not be possible without the passion and perseverance of the workforce behind it. It takes twenty-four months after planting before the leaves are harvested. Production involves an arduous and lengthy process all done by hand. From the farmers who cultivate, scrapers who harvest and extract the fibers from the leaves, the knotters who join loose ends of the fiber, the weavers, the artists and embroiderers who enhance the fabric’s natural beauty and the traders who take it to the market.
Every undertaking in each step of the process is commendable for it helps turn out the magnificent product that outshines the sophisticated laces and lavish fabrics of other countries by being simply beautiful. The piña cloth has become one of the most desired hand-woven materials globally, showing the Filipinos’ pure elegance and character.
The center of excellent piña cloth in the Philippines is the province of Aklan. The cloth was once called “calivo” or “kalibo”, named after the province’s capital town that remains the center of piña weaving. Aklan showcases a wide array of piña fiber such as “sinuksok” or “pinili” –piña cloth with inlaid design – and the so-called piña seda, which is blended with silk and several other first-class fibers. Here in Aklan, homes serve as factories were the hand-scraped fibers from the Red Spanish pineapple leaves are hand-woven into fabric then designed intricately into one of the world’s finest textiles.
So, how can being tough and seductive go together? Amazingly, those qualities are imbedded in the sheer but strong fibers of piña fabric. This organic grace that can last through the years is made into the legendary barong Tagalog, Filipiniana gowns, kimonas, and other fashion creations worn by Filipinos and other nationalities.
Local and foreign couturiers and designers such as Patis Tesoro, PJ Arañador, Inno Sotto, Rajo Laurel, Josie Nattori, Nono Palmos and Linda Row use piña fabric for their haute couture collections. The piña still radiates when transformed into handbags, shawls, accessories, pouches, fans, table runners and various ornaments.
As clothing, it used to be just for gatherings of the of the rich and the famous. But now, with its chic modern twist and relaxing style on the international fashion ramps, it gives everyone a hint that its next stop will be our closets. Then it will soon be the key item on our smart wear when attending different functions; formal or laid-back.
This indigenous fabric has a global charm, as seen at the local and international trade fairs and exhibits. It creates noise and grabs attention from buyers and investors, thus increasing the industry’s revenue. Japan, Europe, the ASEAN region and the United States are its major export markets.
The piña fabric industry is being sustained and thrives through the evolution and advancement of the product’s assortment, design and style as it continuously ascends greatness.
Pineapple, you are gorgeously delicious!