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Mindanao lawmaker urges the preservation of traditional art’s heritage 

MANILA  – A lawmaker representing the Anak Mindanao (AMIN) party-list has underscored giving value to traditional art by way of respecting its heritage including giving recognition to its origin and the local community from where it came from.

In a privilege speech at the House of Representatives on January 23, Rep. Sitti Djalia Turabin-Hataman said it is unfair for Basilan, her home province, to be always mentioned for something bad, negative and ugly but does not get proper credit for its beautiful and precious art.

Rep. Turabin-Hataman was referring to an event dubbed Mindanao Tapestry held on January 19 in Davao City where 28 Miss Universe candidates wore dresses made from Mindanao’s traditional fabrics. Even as she praised the pre-pageant event for showcasing the best in Mindanao’s ethnic communities, specifically their colorful yet diverse fabrics, she noted an error with respect to the background information given on the Yakan cloth.

“We are, however, very much disheartened to take notice of the fact that our very own Yakan tennun, popularly known as Yakan weave or cloth, was presented as a fabric from Region IX (Zamboanga Peninsula) instead of from the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM),” she said.

Members of the Yakan tribe, who are known for their colorful hand-woven clothes, are traditional inhabitants of the province of Basilan, which is part of the ARMM.

“We recognize the presence of a Yakan Village in Zamboanga City promoted as a popular tourist destination producing Yakan tennun and we are sincerely grateful for this support to our traditional art,” said Rep. Turabin-Hataman. Based on available data, some Yakans migrated to Zamboanga City only in the 1970s to escape armed conflicts in Basilan.

The Yakan tennun, Rep. Turabin-Hataman further explained, is not just a product but represents a priceless traditional art of weaving along with the Landap of the Maranaos, the Inaul of the Maguindanawons, the Pis siyabit of the Tausugs, which are all traditional arts that survived for centuries.

“While those who fail to appreciate culture may perhaps see just a piece of cloth in our weave… to us, the wisdom, the values, the very spirit of our forebears live in every single strand of every piece of cloth,” she said noting those weaves represent the people of Basilan’s identity and being.

The colors, patterns and techniques of the Yakan tennun, she added, are the same colors, patterns and techniques, created in Basilan centuries ago. Thus, the issue is not just the Yakan cloth but the centuries-old tradition attached to a community. Still, Rep. Turabin-Hataman said people from Basilan support the use and promotion of their products. “Our only appeal is for our traditional arts to be recognized as having originated from us; that it is our own distinct contribution,” she said.

“As a people, so much has already been taken away from us. We thus call upon everyone, to take on a conscious effort in ensuring that nothing more is taken away, because no people and community must be denied of their rightful heritage.” (Bureau of Public Information)

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