Leaf Fiber

"Abaca" thread is sometimes referred to as Manila Hemp, but it is not hemp. It is actually from a species of banana that is native to the Philippines. More specifically, it is from the leaves of the female abaca tree called musa textilis,. The plant bears no fruit but must be four years old before its leaves are harvested. The leaves are scraped to separate the pulp from the fibers beneath. The fibers are then separated according to thickness. The finest is called "gamay" and the coarsest and thickest is "bahoa." Once washed and dried, they are tied together to form thread. Durable yet light, it was actually used as rigging material on ships in the 19th century. Traditional colors were red (dyed form roots and bark of the "loko" tree) and black (dyed from leaves of the "kinarum" tree). The term "ikat" describes a type of resist dye procedure. To create a beautiful luster to the handwoven abaca, it is polished with in repetitive sweeping movements with a seashell, cuttlefish bone, or other such hard material under pressure. Beeswax may be added to provide a shinier finish.

The Bagobo, B'laan and T'boli are all in the South of Mindanao in the Davao and Cotobato areas.

There are four pieces of abaca in the collection from the following tribes in Mindanao: Bagobo, B'laan, and T'boli. As you can see from the map, they are all from the southeast part of the island.