Art of the Loom: Weaving the Story That Is the Binakul

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byCassie Cheng

Now that most fabrics are mass produced with imported threads from overseas, textiles carefully handwoven with Philippine cotton are becoming increasingly difficult to find. One of these textiles is the abel of the Ilocos region in northern Philippines. Abel comes in many designs, but one of the most recognizable patterns is the binakul.

Examples of binakul are currently on display in a special exhibit at Yuchengco Museum entitled Art of the Loom: Weaving the Story That Is the Binakul. On view from December 9, 2013 to January 25, 2014, Art of the Loom features antique and modern binakul, in addition to contemporary uses of the fabric.

Binakul is a textile pattern handwoven on a small scale in Ilocos. Also known as binakel, binakael, or binakol, binakul (meaning “twill” in Ilocano) is a variation of the abel. Binakul was popular by the end of the 19th century; today, however, its weaving is considered a dwindling industry due to the nonavailability of local cotton and its price disadvantage compared to factory-woven alternatives. Binakul can be easily recognized by its uniform, interlocked geometric patterns that result in psychedelic optical art designs, which are said to represent the waves of the sea and, among indigenous peoples of the Cordilleras, protection against malevolent spirits. On display at Art of the Loom are examples of antique and modern binakul. Designs range from whirlwinds and stars to fans, cat’s pawprints, and capiz windows.

Binakul is traditionally used as blankets but, most recently, designers have explored its use in contemporary fashion and personal accessories. Part of Art of the Loom is a showcase of modern-day applications of binakul, such as binakul and snakeskin clutches fashioned by couturier Pepito Albert, a modern lamp by designer Olivia d’Aboville, boleros by Violeta de Borja, flats by Ruby Diaz Roa, and creations by fashion designer Jojie Lloren especially made for the exhibit.

Art of the Loom: Weaving the Story That Is the Binakul is on view at Yuchengco Museum from December 9, 2013 to January 25, 2014. The museum is located at RCBC Plaza, corner Ayala and Sen. Gil J. Puyat Avenues, Makati. Museum hours are Monday to Saturday, 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. For more information, call (632) 889-1234 or visit


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