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The Hablon Industry of Argao: Breathing Life Into a Once-Dying Art

Traditional art meets modern techniques in Dexter Alazas’ fashion line.

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The art of Hablon is a long-standing tradition of Argao, with textiles handmade using these looms

When you ask a Cebuano what they know about Argao, their thoughts will immediately jump to one of two things: torta (a sweet, sort of sponge cupcake) or tablea (pure chocolate tablets). But unknown to many, there exists a weaving industry that still thrives today: Hablon.

Hablon is a traditional weaving process that makes use of a handloom, and materials such as abaca fibers, polyester, tingkal (cotton strands), and other local materials.

The finished products are usually in the form of mats, scarves or blankets. The art was considered to be dying out years ago, until Cebuano fashion designer Dexter Alazas found a way to breathe life back into it.

In his early days in fashion, Dexter had already heard about the weaving industry in Argao, and had hoped to use the material during MEGA Magazine’s Young Designers Competition in Manila back in 2000. However, research took up too much time, and he ended up not pursuing it.

Years later, he found hope when he started designing for Cebu’s Vice Governor Agnes Magpale, to whom he’d mentioned wanting to work on his dream. He shares that one day, she called him up out of the blue and broke the news that he would finally get the chance. He met with then Argao Vice Mayor Stanley Caminero and the rest, as they always say, is history.

Dexter developed the material and worked with different patterns and textures, mixing it all to come up with a beautiful fabric. He’s worked with women weavers of Argao, learning straight from the source of the tradition. By playing with graduated hues of color, he made bigger and bolder patterns that are modern takes to this traditional look.

With his Amano Collection, designer Dexter Alazas is able to use the traditional technique to create modern, chic silhouettes

“Practically anything can be woven, that’s how versatile the process can be,” he says.

Versatile indeed, considering how he’s used it in his garments—from casuals to formals, and particularly in resort silhouettes for a collection that includes shoes, sandals, bags and even a bridal gown.

When asked what sets the process apart, Dexter says, “You use fibers. Basically you can create your own original material, be it in color or texture.”

Dexter advocates for sustainable fashion using local materials. His Amano collection proved how Hablon, a once-dying art, could be married with contemporary techniques in fashion. This year, he plans to introduce Hablonuevo, his attempt to rebrand the Cebuano-made material in its own distinct identity.

Dexter hopes that his fashion-forward take on fabric innovation using local materials will serve as a way to sustain his advocacy. It would encourage not just designers, but also the local government units and non-government organizations to help and invest in the Hablon industry.

For orders and inquiries, you can reach Dexter Alazas through his official Facebook page, or at +63 999 301 8691.

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Culture

Cebuano Musicians

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The Queen City of The South, Cebu, is truly a wonderful island, with wonderful people, rich culture, and of course, scrumptuos food. Cebu also happens to be the land of many talented artists and musicians. Check them out with this list!

  1. Sepia Times

Sepia Time is composed of lovers — Elisha Ang, popularly known as Icy, and Luigi Balazo. These artists have produced and written songs ever since 2016. Their music is widely influenced by international artists like Paramore and Oh Wonder. Listeners would definitley feel the chill vibe Sepia Times gives off through their songs. Despite being described as sad, their songs are the type of songs that you listen to on a chilly Saturday or when you just want to hang around the park and contemplate. Their songs “Kofi”, “The Art of”, “Let Me Let Go”, “1238” are some of the songs they released.

5 Cebuano Musical Acts

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2. Wonggoys

The pop folk group, Wonggoys, is composed of a band of brothers — Gabe, Bill, and Kyle Wong. The Wonggoys drew enthusiastic applause with their pop rock with a little bit of jazz and blues compositions. They first began with singing cover songs in harmony and eventually progressed to a trip to the recording studio, and after months of writing and recording, their efforts eventually paid off and produced an album. Several live performances and one more album later, they garnered a considerable following. Their song “Wa’y Blema”, is light-hearted and focuses on enjoying the good things.

5 Cebuano Musical Acts

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3. Mandaue Nights

Mandaue Nights is an 80’s synth-pop group based in Cebu composed of — filmmaker and singer-songwriter Karl Lucente, and music producer and arranger Gino Rosales. What makes them different from the other Cebuano acts is their 80’s vibe , this group will totally leave you feeling nostalgic. Their first single, You and I, was selected as the original soundtrack for a locally produced film, Magbuwag Ta Kay, which was shown in cinemas nationwide.

5 Cebuano Musical Acts

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4. Three Legged Men PH

Three Legged Men PH started off when Micmic Kindica, the band’s vocalist, got invited to play for UP Cookout. Amazed by the opportunity to perform again, he formed a temporary band, composed of high school and college friends, to go on stage with him in the said event, and since then every member just kind of stuck to each other to play more music. Their music is mainly pop with hints of jazz, blues, R&B, and funk.  “Spur of the Moment”, “Keep”, and “Tibok” are some of the songs everyone needs to listen to!

5 Cebuano Musical Acts

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5. Thinking Chair

Thinking Chair first started off in church, eventually took a break from that scene, and started a band. The band’s lineup is actually new — they wanted to revive the old Thinking Chair, but some of them already moved to Canada. Their music is described as indie, soul, revolutionary, and “raw”, and is widely influenced by a lot, most especially by The 1975, Coldplay, and Private Island. “Mirage”, a song they’ve written, is said to be the most memorable song they’ve written since they have so many renditions of it and is fun to play.

5 Cebuano Musical Acts

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Culture

A Leap into the Literary Experience in Cebu

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Cebu is being constantly brought in the limelight when it comes to its beaches, delicacies, tourist spots, and its culture in general. A lot of tourists and locals spend their vacation in the province doing most common activities you can easily find in the Internet (i.e. island hopping, sightseeing, and food trip). But, if you are looking for other ways to experience Cebu, then setting foot in its literary space might be one of the unique directions to take.

Paying a visit to Cebu’s libraries

LRC_A Leap into a Literary Experience in Cebu

Image Source: University of San Carlos Library System Facebook

From learning one’s history to reading just any book that sparks your interest, there are a variety of libraries Cebu has to offer.

Just like any other place, the province has a dwelling for archives, books, journals and other publications that trace back from the early ages to the modern times. The Cebuano Studies Center, for example, is a special library that houses source materials, research, and other literary works covering Cebu and its culture. The center is located inside Josef Baumgartner Learning Resource Center of the University of San Carlos, Talamban Campus, which is the largest library in the Philippines by size. As soon as you walk right inside the Cebuano Studies Center, the hinting scent of antiquity will almost lure you to read every record of history stored in the shelves.

Another notable library in the province you might also want to check out is the Cebu City Public Library or also known as Rizal Memorial Library and Museum, which is widely recognized as the first public library in the country that opens 24/7 (read more about it here). The building has a neoclassical structure which makes it feel nostalgic especially for older generations. The ride of history and culture will not only come from the shelf route, but will also drift you to a room of ancient artifacts, sculptures, painting, and other archaeological finds in the museum that dates back to the old-fashioned lifestyle Cebuanos used to have before and during the colonization period in the Philippines.

Books and Brews_A Leap into the Literary Exprience in Cebu

Image Source: Books and Brews Cafè Facebook

If you’re the type that wants a more intimate or comfortable area to enjoy your nooks and books instead, you can check out Books and Brews Cafè located at G/F Mango Square Mall, Juana Osmeña Street, Cebu City. The place is a cafè with an extensive library perfect for bibliophiles who enjoy a scent of coffee while being taken deep into their reading experiences. This might just be your modern mini-library of choice that you’re hoping to have around the corner. [Visit Facebook]

Attending literary events and exhibitions

BBW_A Leap into the Literary Experience in Cebu

Image Source: Big Bad Wolf Books Facebook

Cebuanos love marking their calendars for special occasions like annual literary festivals or events in Cebu, which usually happens between the 1st to the 3rd quarter of the year. The Big Bad Wolf, known as the world’s largest book sale, recently came to town and had their sale at the IEC Convention Center Cebu from August 16 to 26. What makes this event stand out among the rest every year is that majority of the bookworms in Cebu never dare to miss this as it’s the perfect opportunity for them to hoard a vast number of books that have the biggest discounts you could not imagine! Quite unfair if we leave some people out of this once in a lifetime opportunity right? So, whether you are a tourist or a local, make sure to include this in your plans soon. [See updates here]

Aside from smart shopping, stopping by at literary and art exhibitions is also a different kind of “sightseeing” experience. Cebu Zine Fest, for example, runs in a showcase room at 856 G Gallery that includes displays of art, illustrations, comics, books, poetry, photography, and self-produced merchandises set up by diverse artists from different parts of the country. The artists themselves also have their own booths and tables placed in the same area of their displays, so it’s the perfect setting for a curious mind to explore another’s. What makes this exhibition different from what people usually expect in a local exhibition is that the works showcased here are unique, uncensored, peculiar, and interesting—a manifestation of young yet sophisticated minds.

[See also future literary events and activities here]

ZineFest_A Leap into the Literary Experience in Cebu

Image Source: 856 G Gallery Facebook

Literature and art entice the heart of many Cebuanos. These two disciplines altogether is about expressing an idea, concept, or message in an artistic, intellectual, and creative way. The beauty and impact of its nature is the reason why many are driven to involve and contribute to its growth and recognition.

Because the people in the province are constantly putting life into their literary activities and celebrations, it has become part of Cebu’s beautiful culture that is worth to experience and appreciate.

Be it a huge event or spoken word juncture, the creative scene becomes a whole different experience if it’s in Cebu. Trying something new is also one adventure to take that is worth telling.

So, what’s not to like?

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