One Weave, One Product: The Filipino Pride and Efforts in Making Abaca Bags

One good product the Philippines can boast is the Abaca Bags. Made from pure hard work and creative hands of the people, these products are definitely sought for by everyone and are made sure that each comes in its finest form. If you are still wondering how these bags are made from “nothing” to “something’, here are the ways on how to make the main part of an Abaca Bag:


Step 1: Kendungon (To Harvest and Strip Abaca Plants)


Of course, all production begins by gathering the needed materials. In making the abaca bag, materials used in weaving from the abaca plant are collected in large masses. The harvesting includes physical drawn and is usually done by the T’boli. In the traditional manner, a prayer is prepared before harvesting and is started by a diagonal slashing of the tree just a few inches above the ground. And for a single cloth to be completed typically termed “t’nalak”, six abaca plants that are two to three years old with 14-18 inches diameter must be harvested.


Steps 2, 3 and 4:

Tembong (To Segregate and Connect the Fibers from End to End)

Semdang (Preparing the Fibers)

Mebed (Designing the Fibers by Knotting)


Once the fibers are already air-dried for at least 24 hours, they are segregated into wrist-size bundles. The women take part in softening the abaca strands through squeezing or hand-rubbing, like the motion in washing clothes. It then creates a zigzag pattern for easy identification and segregation. The fine fibers are for the lengthwise threads and thick ones are the crosswise threads. They are then connected from end to end through tiny knots and cut in such a way that the connections are invisible. Afterwards, they are bundled into three by winding the threads and are placed in baskets. The weaving typically takes two weeks before being completed.


Step 5: Temogo (Dyeing the Fibers through Natural Dyes)

Having the three traditional and first common color of abaca bag, black, red and white, this is used in coloring the abaca strands. However, this is not the typical coloring because the dyes are extracted just from the vegetation in the area. The resist-dyeing process is actually a shared method with the Indonesia and Thailand. For example, the Black Dye originated from the leaves of a k’nalum tree, where they are boiled, and as the color is fully extracted, the tied fibers are then soaked. They are air-dried for two days, washed in clear running water, and are air-dried again.


Step 6: Mewel (Weaving the Dried Fibers through a Back Strap Loom)

This is the process where a horizontal two-bar or two-beamed loom is connected in the upper part of the bamboo beam of the longhouse and a back strap is attached in the lower back of the weaver. The dried fibers are then weaved into the design that they want, following different guidelines and techniques depending on what form or design of abaca bag is desired.