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Philippines honours two craftsmen

Recognises their efforts in promoting traditional art

Gulf News

Manila: President Benigno Aquino extended “national living treasures award to two traditional craftsmen from northern Luzon, for their efforts of continuing age-old tradition of cloth weaving and gourd-headgear production, a statement from Malacanang, the presidential palace, said.

Given the National Living Treasures Award were Magdalena Gamayo, 88, a weaver of inabel, a traditional blanket known among residents of northern Luzon; and Teofilo Garcia, 55, maker of tabungao, a traditional head gear made of local gourd (upo).

“Having calloused fingers, tired eyes, hands, and legs due to weaving do not bother Manay (aunt) Magdalena. Seven decades have passed and residents of Ilocos continue admiring and patronizing the Ilokano blankets that she still weaves,” said Aquino, referring to Gamayo who started weaving inabel in her hometown in Lumbaan in Pinili, Ilocos Norte, at 16 in 1940.

“After 55 years, he seems to be the only remaining maker of tabungaw, a gourd head-gear, in his hometown in San Quintin, Abra. He plants and reaps the upo (plant) whose gourd he uses for the traditional head-gear. He also plans and designs rattan and bamboo as ornaments on his head-gear,” said Aquino, in reference to Garcia, who started making tabungaw in his hometown in San Quintin, Abra, when he was 15 in 1972.

“Without their dedication at traditional craftsmanship, and without passing on the tradition of such craftsmanship, their products would vanish and would no longer be appreciated by the next tradition,” warned Aquino who called the two awardees as “national living treasures”.

The awardees were given specially designed gold medallion, an initial grant of P100,000 (Dh 8,333), a P10,000 (Dh 833) monthly stipend for life, additional monthly personal allowance of P14,000 (Dh 1,166), and a maximum cumulative amount of P750,000 (Dh62,500) of annual medical and hospitalization benefits. Upon death, they will receive state funeral tributes and other funeral assistance.

The national award gives recognition to Filipino traditional craftsmen or artisans whose skills have reached a high level of technical and artistic excellence, explained National Commission for Culture and the Arts (NCCA) Chairman Felipe de Leon Jr.

Awardees are also tasked to pass on to the present generation their knowledge of their craft that s threatened with extinction, said de Leon.

The award is given to those who excel in the traditional fields of folk architecture, maritime transport, weaving, carving, performing arts, literature, graphic and plastic arts, ornament, textile or fiber art, pottery and other artistic expressions of traditional culture, said de Leon who spearheaded the institutionalisation of the award.

The award, the government’s highest tribute to traditional artists, is managed by NCCA, a government agency established with congressional approval in 1992.