Knowing how eager my colleague and I were to visit the abel weaving studio, our Laoag hostesses patiently inquired en-route and willingly drove down narrow lanes until we arrived in the tiny town of Pinili. Even though it was early evening, the open-aire studio still was active. A framed poster indicated that we indeed were at the correct place. This was the weaving studio of Magdalena Gamayo, designated as a National Living Treasure. Through the tutelage of Magdalena, the complex, high-quality abel weaving techniques have been preserved for the next generation.
Amongst the weavers was a diminutive figure - none other than Magdalena Gamayo herself. Through the translation of our Laoag hostess, I learned that Magdalena, now aged 93, no longer weaves but still is teaching. She learned weaving from her aunt around the age of 16. Magdalena continued to refine her skills, learning new abel weaving techniques and even developing new designs. Her dedication to the craft, renowned quality, and passion for preserving the traditional abel technique prompted the national honor. What a treat to meet her.
Weaving designs of a high quality were seen at the different looms. A woman with grey hair demonstrated the abel weaving process. Magdalena explained that it may take five days to warp the loom. Both warping and weaving must be done precisely, as an error preventing the intended pattern to emerge might not be immediately noticeable. A skilled weaver could achieve about 2-3 yards in eight hours.
She also took a few spins for us on the humble-looking spinning wheel. I was surprised that such a rickety-looking contraption could work, but it did.
With the sun quickly disappearing, it was time to leave this little village and check into our hotel in Vigan.